The Delights of Downsizing

A talented designer makes a peach of a home in Trezevant Manor.

After living for 46 years in a large home in Central Gardens, Mrs. Jessie “Petie” Williams recently made the decision to move into a 1,450-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the Trezevant Manor retirement community on North Highland. She’s now relocated in “Trezevant Place,” the newest of the several residence buildings in this warm and inviting complex. A number of different floorplans were offered, and Williams selected “The Aspen” model as the one most suited to her lifestyle.

Williams needed all the help she could get in making this major transition, and Jeremy McNutt, a designer with Lisa Mallory Interior Design, was just the person for the job. They were first introduced by Barry Hudson, a well-known window treatment specialist and drapery installer about town, and from the get-go, Williams says, “Jeremy read me completely.”

For his part, McNutt says his mission (which he chose to accept with great enthusiasm) was to “re-use, re-purpose, and condense Mrs. Williams’ houseful of beautiful possessions” to create a wonderful new space that would perfectly reflect her personality. He also helped her tremendously with facing the principal challenge of moving from a large house to a smaller place: deciding what to keep and what to give away to children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren . . . and what to give to Goodwill.

When we stopped by to photograph her apartment, Williams had just settled in two weeks previously, although McNutt had been working with her for three months to get everything shipshape. The place has a light and leafy view overlooking Waynoka Avenue and features an elegant entry foyer that leads to an open living/dining room. Just off the latter is a small but convenient and perfectly functional kitchen. The master bedroom is spacious and beautifully appointed, and Williams uses the second bedroom as her study/studio. 

It didn’t take long for us to get the message that Williams’ favorite color is peach. We were told her former house had a pale peach stucco exterior, and her new apartment features this color lavishly in its wallpaper, oriental carpets, upholstery, and various accessories. The furnishings are traditional and somewhat formal, but far from “fusty.” Williams had announced to McNutt she “didn’t want anything that looks like an old lady,” so the result is elegant, sophisticated, and fresh. 

The foyer is done in peach-colored, hand-blocked wallpaper by Schumacher — a “Jeremy favorite,” we were told. The classic living room décor features wingback chairs, a Chippendale-style sofa, and an antique secretary. The place has a warm glow from its chandeliers, beautiful mirrors, and many decorative artworks. Gorgeous arrangements of peach-colored flowers (of course!) by Kevin Lawrence, co-owner of Posh on Union Avenue, were the perfect accents.



An elegant entry foyer leads to an open living/dining room.

McNutt has lots of little tricks of the trade up his sleeve, such as rubbing the entrance-hall chandelier with black paint, so it would look less shiny and “Vegas-like.” Rather than discarding a well-loved old leather recliner, he opted to re-cover it in a soft green Colefax and Fowler chenille. He also reused a classic chintz fabric from the garden room in Williams’ old house to make a dust ruffle and drapes for her new bedroom. She especially loves the two stools at the foot of the bed, which McNutt himself re-upholstered in handsome, high-end Nancy Corzine silk-velvet fabric. 

Williams is from New Orleans originally, and received her BFA there from Sophie Newcomb College in drawing and painting. She has painted a number of pastel portraits of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which dot the walls throughout her apartment. She also has collected a number of artworks with scenes of her native Louisiana. In this connection is a superb example of Newcomb pottery from the 1920s, a blue vase with a stylized iris design that was inherited from her parents. If you are an Antiques Roadshow fan, then you will know that Newcomb pottery is very special indeed.

Williams and her late husband owned a family business, Williams Equipment and Supply, where her two sons-in-law now work. She often helped her husband in his work, and in their spare time, they loved to travel. Many of her paintings and prints depict memorable places they traveled to as a couple and, as such, provide constant, wonderful memories.

Williams is charming and hospitable, and there’s no question but she is a welcome addition to the Trezevant community. She already has a number of friends there, and we are sure she has made many more. 

She seemed so happy and comfortable in her new abode that we couldn’t help asking what advice she would offer to others thinking about making the move to a retirement home. First and foremost, she says, “Do not wait too long.” She suggests going ahead and making that move “when you are in good health, and well able to deal with all the decisions that arise.” 

She adds, too, that, of course, it’s “a huge help to have someone like Jeremy McNutt envision how the new place will look.” She insists that she could not have done it without him. Of course, the added plus in the entire project is that client and designer became good friends, and had a lot of fun in the bargain. In this case at least, McNutt and Williams proved to be a Dream Team. 

A second bedroom doubles as a light-filled studio.


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