By SHERRY LUCAS • Photography by RORY DOYLE
With respect for their Indianola home’s 1975 design, the Zepponi family has seamlessly blended old and new with carefully curated geometric designs, bold textures, and muted tones
Fresh livability meets the best of retro in the home of Corri and Tory Zepponi. There, a ’70s vibe, tamed by contemporary tastes and touches, results in comfortable charm with unique, enduring highlights.
Both Corri and Tory are Mississippi Delta natives, hailing from Moorhead and Holly Ridge, respectively. He farms, and she and her sister, Leah MacNealy, own the popular downtown boutique Lavender Lane, which they opened two and a half years ago.
The Zepponi’s 1975 house on Morningside Drive, theirs for nearly a decade, wasn’t even on the couple’s radar at first. They were checking out a house nearby when the realtor urged them to give this one a look. Vacant for a year, the six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath house had likely intimidated many others on the front end. But, there was an extra draw for the Zepponis to look at this particular property. The classic ‘70s home was built by the late Dr. Guy and Juliette “Sis” Robinson, and once the beloved and busy home to their five children—three daughters and two sons. Serendipitously, their daughter, Katherine, is married to Tory’s uncle, Courtney Phillips.
But even with the family connection, it seemed overwhelming at first. “No, it’s just too big, too much,” Corri said at the start. “Then, we came in, and I loved it.”
The details and layout are what won her over. “Everything was built so well, construction-wise.” Details-wise, the original hand-painted wallpaper in the dining room—an elegant Asian-inspired trail of birds, blossoms, and branches by Duncan Baird—was a true winner. Cool touches battling for a close second included the room’s ceiling medallion, decorative corners, and chandelier, the breakfast area’s bamboo crown molding, and the Chippendale railing to upstairs. Practical touches, such as the laundry room and wet bar, were welcome sights, too.
The Zepponis updated the kitchen (“very orange and yellow, and it threw me a little bit,” Corri recalls) but kept the home’s basic layout intact. Other updates included enlarging a few entryways, revamping wood floors, paint finishes, and—except for the dining room—wall coverings. In all, it took nine months to complete the process before they moved in from across town.
“I loved the character of the house. I didn’t want to just completely change everything,” Corri says. “So, we just went with it.” And took inspiration from it. She likes the way the original dining room chandelier pops in that space, as a traditional focal point but not one stuck in time. That quality guided other choices.
“It was a beautiful home but very dated,” recalls Joy Fratesi of White Leopard Interior Design in Greenville, who helped at the outset. “She wanted to marry the old with the new more contemporary style, and that’s what we tried to accomplish.”
Pervasive yellow hues gave way to more muted bluish-gray and neutral tones and fabrics. Corri took her cue from the hand-painted wallpaper with its subtle, slate-gray shimmer and occasional pops of coral blossoms. “I loved it, and I knew I didn’t want to change it, so we kind of went from there.”
The dining room weds the welcome of a French country feel with the artful elegance of the stunning wallpaper and an Oriental rug underfoot. The dining room table, painted in a powdery gray, allows place settings—Lenox Eternal china, Joan of Arc silverware, gold leaf-edged agate and acrylic napkin rings from locally owned Love Blue Designs, to shine. Coral silk drapes frame the front picture window.
The breakfast area embraces its everyday, catch-all function with a fresh, fun feel via the beaded wagon wheel chandelier, a pair of customized abstract paintings, and a rug of muted grays with a bloom of peach— “a kind of modern twist on a traditional Oushak rug” that Corri just loved, says designer Mary Clair Cumbaa, who had a role in more recent updates.
In the family room, a large, a natural linen sectional invites hangout comfort for family and friends. The addition of a built-in entertainment center and French doors to the screened-in porch are functional updates, and the palette of dove grays and neutrals is anything but dull. The window treatments’ geometric design echoes in the ottoman’s octagonal, aged brass base, and a bit of metallic in the abstract rug catches the barest glint of light. Texture shines softly, too, in the ottoman’s shagreen finish and the chairs’ smoky gray velvet. “Very nice and subtle, not over the top,” Cumbaa says.
“I wanted something neutral that I could keep, even if I changed out things in here,” Corri says. “I’m just not a big floral person,” but a fondness for geometrics translates into plenty of visual appeal throughout the house. A close look reveals a nod to the sea, too, in clamshells, oyster shell art, and a pair of coral lamps.
An antelope print rug lays down a cozy foundation in the living room. Though more formal, “We use it a ton,” Corri says, particularly in the winter when the fireplace is a magnet. The settee’s Greek key and nailhead trim caught her eye, and she had the nailhead detail repeated on a tufted ottoman to go with it. A cylindrical side table of round mirrors adds a mod touch that tips a hat to the ‘70s. “I was looking for something that size to go right there and thought, oh, that’s perfect!”
The dining room wallpaper stayed, but the rest? “Corri definitely has an affinity for wall coverings. We both do,” says Lorie Baird, owner of Love Blue Designs, who, in addition to designing jewelry and home accessories, also helped Zepponi with some of the recent interior design. “We’ve joked that if anything held still long enough, we’d wallpaper it.” A recent foyer redo is evidence enough with Thibaut grasscloth in the richest tones of gray—“just so warm and pretty,” Baird says. It plays well with the herringbone hide rug and signals the warm hues and hospitality found inside. “All that living space is the heart of their home.”
In its previous life, the house was much more formal, Corri says. But with two growing children—son Lawson, 15, and daughter Laura Chappel, 11— “We wanted to make it more casual and family friendly because we always have a ton of kids over here,” from both school and the neighborhood.
And, as longtime friend Baird notes, “She lets them live in every square inch.”
Even when the kids aren’t physically present, black-and-white photographs of Lawson and Laura Chappel keep the two always in view. A collection of them by Miki Turner McCurdy hangs in the stairway, and another suite of photos, by Jade Lott, graces a hallway. Susan Woodard watercolor portraits on the wall and tabletops capture other family members.
Upstairs is the kids’ domain, with a den on the landing and a playroom-turned-guest-room ready to host pals. Her daughter’s bedroom, recently redone for her eleventh birthday, is a sweet retreat for the preteen. Cumbaa’s and Baird’s input and Laura Chappel’s selections result in a fresh take, highlighted by pink geometrics and a green dot print (ever so slightly fawn-like) by Erika M. Powell Textiles.
The big brass pulls on the chest of drawers add a touch of glam, as does the strand of white twinkly lights framing the door to her bath. It was a Jack and Jill bathroom back in the day, but they closed it off for her very own two years ago (teenager Lawson has his own off the hallway).
A double-sink marble countertop and custom shower curtain are set off by the distinctive Thibaut wallpaper of perfume bottles in fresh spring green and hot pink (a favorite of Fratesi’s and a colorful cue for the bedroom update). “I wanted something that would grow with her, that we could keep, but that didn’t look too grown-up when we moved in,” Corri says of the pretty design.
Family and connection continue to be part of the story of this house, and the Zepponi family of four easily fills the spacious home, with room to spread out and spaces to come together—happily at home in a style that’s both sophisticated and practical, lovely and livable.