By SHERRY LUCAS • Photography by RORY DOYLE
Airy comfort prevails in new downsized Cleveland home
In a downsizing move from a 4,500-square-foot home to one with a footprint less than half that size, Dr. Bob Ragan left behind a ton of living space but, with the help of designer Judy Wilson, none of the airy comfort and welcoming appeal he loves.
His newly built transitional Tudor home in the Mockingtrail Square development was custom-designed by architect Michael Hogstrom of Onsite Design in Baton Rouge and built by BUCO LLC, a partnership of Chris Collins and Kim Buehring, with interior design and finishes by Judy Wilson Interiors.
Smaller lots with less landscape to maintain are prime characteristics of houses in this new neighborhood, as are twelve-foot ceilings in the main areas and custom finishes, Buehring says. “Everything in this home…was done to his liking.”
“It was a nice collaboration between the architect, construction team, interior designer, and homeowner, that resulted in a beautiful residence,” Collins says.
Ragan, a dentist who still works three and a half days each week, has lived in Cleveland all his life, save for time away at school and service in the U.S. Air Force.
This is his third house to tap Wilson’s design talents. The first two involved his late wife, Marilyn. With this one, the widower’s biggest challenge lay in deciding which of the many beautiful furnishings would make the move with him.
By adapting favorite pieces to new purpose, Wilson has designed living spaces that are more uniquely and recognizably Ragan’s own. The result is more masculine and less formal, with an easy flow and details that touch on his career, art collection, treasured gifts and family memories.
Aside from the bedding and headboard in the master suite, custom window treatments throughout the home, and a few light fixtures, “Everything in this house was in his previous houses,” Wilson says. “We had to pick and choose what we would use in this house, and yet make it very comfortable.” Her primarily goal is always an environment that suits and reflects the person at home there. “I like for it to look like they live there, not like I live there.”
“Kudos to Judy, I did not have to buy a single bit of new furniture,” Ragan says. He chuckled to recall the friendly ribbing he’d give her, about trimming his possessions by half or more to fit the new residence. “I quickly realized she knew a lot more about decorating than I did.
“To her credit, she always gave me a choice. So, I did have some input,” he says. Furnishings that didn’t make the move were passed along to the next generations, many settling in with his grandchildren.
The new home’s spacious feel is evident right inside the door, where the foyer’s beautiful coffered ceiling and crystal chandelier offer dramatic impact, backed up by fellow furnishings that catch and reflect the light.
Wilson designs mirrors for Greenwood-based John-Richard and a standout—the Equinox Mirror—holds court in the foyer, its circular shapes echoed in the glass-topped entryway table just beneath. The subtle graphic of the wallpaper and original art of flowers and botanicals contribute to the elegant welcome, and key accents in the powder room—the beautiful Venetian mirror, Thibaut Willow Tree shower curtain—support the scene.
The continuous flow of the living areas and a generous use of glass and mirrors put a fresh, contemporary light on the traditional furnishings, and enhance the home’s spacious feel.
“It’s large to look at, but it’s small in square footage,” Ragan says of the interior. “It’s open, and with the twelve-foot ceilings that I have, you don’t feel claustrophobic at all. … Everything is finished beautifully.”
In the living room, Wilson pulled together furniture from several different rooms in his previous house, fitting them together anew. “We used it in a totally different way,” she says of the game table and chairs under one window, desk under another, antique linen press along the wall, and the convivial arrangement of sofa, chairs and cocktail table at its heart.
The rust-colored sofa and chairs, cut velvet accent pillows and taupe-and-white-striped linen drapes convey a crisp, comfortable, masculine air. Celadon jars and a saucer in that hue add a pleasing pop of color to the arrangement and a rug that was in the master bedroom in a previous life, now anchors the living room. The limestone fireplace surround and hearth were custom-designed and made by Christie Cut Stone of Memphis.
Artwork, arranged to perfection, brings in a touch of nature in beautifully rendered landscapes and florals. Ragan’s art collection, displayed throughout the home, is a celebration of Mississippi creativity with a distinct Delta touch, with works by Sammy Britt, Lallah Perry, Bill Lester, Richard Kelso, Nan Sanders, and more.
The lovely wooden desk, a gift from his late wife to mark a previous move, holds an alabaster lamp that lights up a trove of treasures—antique dental cabinet, mother of pearl opera glasses, a snapshot of Ragan as the Charity Ball King, vintage handkerchief box, and more. On the game table, a small, intricately carved wooden bird charms with its remarkable detail and lifelike stance.
A large Dud Collier portrait of Ragan’s children—Rob, Richard, Melissa, and Jay—is the focal point of the dining room, holding a place of honor and pulling in a warm sense of family. On the opposite wall, an abstract painting by Stuart Ware of Hernando (Wilson’s daughter) provides a contemporary counterpoint, and its touches of gold leaf gleam in the light. Antique apothecary bottles grouped on the console table below (a twin of the one in the foyer) were handed down from his late wife’s grandfather’s pharmacy in Brooksville.
Rattan chairs and the large glass and iron dining table suit the space with attractive aplomb. Ragan is particularly fond of his grandfather clock, custom-built by a Madison cabinetmaker. Originally made for an entryway space two houses ago, this serendipitous timekeeper has stuck with him through a couple of moves. “Now, I have a space in this house that’s perfect for the clock. It just fits beautifully.”
Quartz countertops and high-end Thermador appliances are right at home in the kitchen, as is a cheeky nod to Ragan’s profession. The giant white cookie jar shaped like a tooth was a gift from a patient, and it just might hold a stash of Ragan’s favorite cookie, oatmeal raisin. A silver tray of crystal decanters shines with the promise of cocktail hour.
Soothing neutrals reign in the master bedroom. The mushroom hue of the upholstered headboard is picked up in the drapery’s grosgrain ribbon trim, and the bench’s linen leopard print adds a stylish pattern to the mix. The marble-topped bedside table is a cherished heirloom from Ragan’s mother, as is a miniature dresser in his guest bedroom.
In the master bath, cork wallpaper. porcelain tile, and polished nickel fixtures are timeless touches, and the tall, built-in cabinet is a practical addition. The cabinet was not part of the home’s original plan, but was added for more storage for Ragan. “Downsizing everything else, he had to downsize his closets, too, and we thought that extra storage in the bathroom would help,” Wilson says. A wooden clock handed down from his grandfather to his father, and now to Ragan “is one of my most prized possessions,” he says, and now hangs in his exercise room. A silk-screened golfing poster from North Korea—”Such a unique thing, the only one I know of outside North Korea”—was a gift from his son Richard, who headed the U.N. World Food Program there for two years. Photos of Ole Miss baseball teams from 1959 and 1960 commemorate their back-to-back SEC championships when Ragan was a player.
The back porch and patio are prime pleasers. The windows’ custom motorized screens offer remote-controlled wind, sun, and bug protection when the occasion demands, and an infrared heater assures outside comfort even through the winter. The custom grill station with a honed granite countertop, wall-mounted television, and views of live golf on the adjacent Cleveland Country Club Golf Course make this an outdoor oasis. Dragonflies flit through bamboo in stained-glass artwork hanging in the window.
“I got that at Crosstie (Arts & Jazz Festival) probably forty years ago, and I’ve had it hanging in different locations as I have moved since,” Ragan says of the art piece. Tiny prisms in the dragonflies’ eyes are its greatest feature, catching the rays of the setting sun to magical effect. “They light up! It’s quite striking, really.”
Ragan likes to entertain, and hosting Calvary Episcopal Church’s Christmas party shortly after move-in was an early test of the function and flow of his lovely new abode, “We had about seventy people, and the house accommodated them admirably,” he reports. “I was very pleased.”