The Healing Home
One family’s journey
It was the house she had wanted since 1972. He knew it. She loved the neighborhood, the street and believed it was the perfect setting for a family home. He knew that, too. When the original owners finally put it on the market, decades after both families had raised their children, she told him the house was for sale. He promptly told her brother, “The house your sister has always wanted is for sale – you should buy it.” So her brother did.
That was a decision Bobby Shanklin regretted. In his final days in mid-July five years ago he made it known that he wished he had given his wife, Nancy, “the house of her dreams.” A few days after that discussion he passed away, peacefully, at the house in which they lived instead.
If you are from Piggott, Arkansas, it is hard to celebrate the 4th of July and not think of your family home, right? After all, a home is where memories are made with both friends and family. For this Piggott couple, that included big 4th of July gatherings, Rook parties, the PHS Junior Play cast party for their daughter, a wedding for her niece, countless milestone birthday parties, wedding showers, baby showers and anniversary parties. There were also many great memories sitting on the front porch in the rocking chairs, sipping lemonade, watching their young grandsons delight in tooling around the yard in their golf cart.
Things were different now. He was gone. The house was not the same. It was time for a change for the entire family. Time to fulfill Bobby’s dying wish of getting Nancy into a house she could enjoy. Time for a new chapter.
Over a lovely, mother-daughter dinner in Southern Ireland the following July, Nancy laid out her desires for a new home. She longed for interiors with a calming and comforting neutral palette…but “with a just a little splash of color here and there.” She craved a peaceful outdoor living area with lush landscaping. And what she really wanted was a more traditional, southern home with plenty of storage space! (Suffice it to say Nancy has been known to accumulate a few holiday decorations and necessities for entertaining.)
As Nancy and her kids began to discuss the possibilities of building, she and her brother resolved to close their store on Main Street, Feather Your Nest. As a result, he decided to unload his part-time Piggott home and reside full-time in Dallas with his wife. That was a godsend; her dream home was available once again. It was perfect timing! The deal was sealed in a matter of minutes over burgers at Sugar Creek Country Club.
Then the project commenced. The 1960’s ranch-style house was in need of a substantial update – inside and out – to achieve the entire dream. Nancy turned the project over to her daughter, Allison, with the sweet encouragement, “You can do it. You know exactly what I want, don’t you?”
As daunting as the task was for Allison, she was driven by her desire to accomplish two goals: giving her mom a new “happy place” and fulfilling a last promise to her Dad. She started with the front exterior by Googling “ranch-style, split-level remodels” and endlessly searching the Web for ideas. Once she settled on the vision, and Nancy approved it, she hired a Memphis-based architect to draw up the plans. Next, they turned to the inside.
The house was rock solid, very well-built, making it easy to work with. Additionally, Nancy’s brother and sister-in-law had already remodeled the kitchen and family room – another plus. The bathrooms, however, were seriously outdated. They had to go. Nancy, Allison and her husband, Brian, visited home shows and newly constructed homes in Memphis for ideas on fixtures. Allison scoured Houzz.com for cabinetry ideas and provided detailed photographs to her cabinetmaker, a local, talented artisan.
Then the transformation began to become a reality. The tile ceilings were smoothed, every square inch was painted (inside and outside), carpets were ripped up and replaced with hardwoods or new, fresher coverings, and new light fixtures replaced dated ones. The front porch was expanded to accommodate those memory-filled rocking chairs, a new master wing was added to provide a bedroom on the main floor and a generous outdoor living space was created, linking the new master to the lower level. Local, skilled craftsmen worked for eight months on the extensive renovation and landscaping. a
While they were hammering away, the mother and daughter duo enjoyed focusing on the softer side – the interior design. New furniture was needed for the additional square footage Nancy was gaining. The two of them shopped vigorously and sensibly selected a gorgeous antique sideboard (found in a consignment store!) for the new dining room, but then splurged on new, gorgeous Lillian August dining chairs. They invested wisely.
The furniture that now adorns Nancy’s new home came from everywhere – her grandmother’s house, her daughter’s attic, Ebay, and several upscale home interiors shops throughout the South. Nancy and Allison spent countless hours poring over every detail from the fabrics and trims for the custom window treatments and bedding to the sentimental bric-a-brac that graces the bookcases and side tables, believing wholeheartedly that heirlooms, antiques, and curated finds – especially those hunted and gathered during travel – evoke the soul and make a house a home.
Finally, they sagely acquired artwork from a charitable art show benefiting the private high school attended by Nancy’s two grandsons, Andrew and William. (The premier artist was a fellow native Arkansan who had trained at the University of Arkansas.) The large painting of the nest in the living room is a nod to Nancy’s former business establishment and is one of her favorites.
The move and the remodel was an immense project for a retired grandmother and her full-time employed daughter and son-in-law. It was trying and hard yet at the same time, uplifting and freeing. Throughout the entire project, the family was committed to respecting tradition and to creating a relaxing, comforting and “healing” Southern home.
In the end, it was well worth all of the fret and hassle. Nancy now has a home that her entire extended family and close friends truly enjoy visiting. She is making new memories – a fact proven by how often one can find friends gathered, enjoying some competitive card playing or an outdoor cookout on weekends. As an added bonus, her brother and sister-in-law decided to call Piggott home, instead of Dallas – and they moved in next door! The whole family knows Nancy’s new home would make Bobby exceedingly happy.