Mary Sanders Ferriss helped Gaby and Joel Fyke revitalize a family heirloom and turn it into a modern living space.
By Emily Moore | Photos by Michael Barrett
Built in the early 1920s and spanning four generations, Gaby and Joel Fyke’s home in Belhaven is more than just a house – it’s essentially a time-capsule packed with memories of the last century.
“This house is special to me because it was my great-grandparents’ house,” said Joel Fyke. “My siblings and I were very close to my grandparents, Otho and Dorothy.” So close, in fact, Joel named his daughter after Dorothy, and his sister’s son is the namesake of Otho.
“I’d heard lots of stories from my mother and my aunt about being in the house when they were children,” Joel continued. “With that in mind, our favorite part of this project was getting to bring this house back from something that was essentially unlivable and turning it into our home.”
Joel’s great-grandparents owned the house until 1957. When it came for sale in 2015, Joel and Gaby jumped at the opportunity to purchase the family heirloom. At that point, the home had been vacant for more than fifteen years, so the Fykes decided to call in the professionals.
“Mary Sanders Ferriss of Ferriss and Company was someone I had worked with on a commercial project,” said Joel. “She came into the project after Gaby and I had already made some decisions with our general contractor, David Turner.”
“I always admired this gem in the rough,” said David. He had known the Fyke family for years and actually lived down the street from the home a decade ago.
“There was an early desire by the Fykes to have a modern edge in this classical Belhaven cottage,” David explained. “The modern is seen developed well in the kitchen and master suites area, but the classical details are prevalent in the windows, mantels and moldings.”
Mary Sanders Ferriss, who is known for her creative and elegant work on projects such as Fine and Dandy and Babalu, was brought on as the designer. “This was such a special project, not only because it’s the story of a grandson’s family reliving in the home of his great-grandparents, but because it’s the story of a young, upwardly mobile couple making a serious investment in one of Jackson’s most prized neighborhoods,” said Mary Sanders.
Mary Sanders and David worked together to adapt this century-old home to fit the taste of a contemporary family, all while bending toward a modern aesthetic.
“My job in this project was to listen to Joel and Gaby and help them achieve their goals in renovating what will be their forever home,” said Mary Sanders. “That included looking at a lot of inspiration images and blending what he wanted with what she wanted in a way that was appropriate for the home, the neighborhood and their way of life.”
The team decided it would be best to gut the house and take it down to the studs. A great deal of focus went into the kitchen and ultimately the bar area that works as a transition zone from the dining room to the cooking area.
“A major part of making this house ours was figuring out a way to marry the kitchen with an informal living space across the main gallery,” explained Joel. “Mary Sanders was crucial in helping us flesh out our ideas on how to make these two spaces work across the central hallway, serving as an interpreter and intermediary with David.”
Joel described how Mary Sanders took the Fykes’ semi-developed ideas and creatively turned them into something that made sense for them and the home.
“The kitchen and den areas became obvious to me during the design, looking at the outside ridge of the back roof,” said David. “Vaulting them and putting them adjacent to one another added to the surprise element as you move through the house and this area opens up.”
Now that the Fykes are settled into the home, Joel says their favorite part is how connected everything is, especially how the kitchen and family room mirror each other and merge in the central hallway.
“That’s the most rewarding part of what I do,” said Mary Sanders, “to see people enjoy a space. It’s such a privilege to be part of adding something unique to the community and is so very satisfying.”