Where Bayou Meets City Chic
Couple fuses love of the outdoors with vintage glam
Rarely do haute couture, glamour and outdoor organic stylishly meet; high fashion chic and eco-friendly are unlikely friends; and seldom do Mississippi Delta and New York runway successfully pair. Yet Tia and Jempy Neyman have fused these elements magnificently in their home on a bayou.
Touring the Neyman home is an unforgettable experience. The couple bought and renovated the home with a clear vision in mind: fusing their love of nature with the important elements of their life as a couple as well as their individual personalities. Tia is a former high-fashion model whose business required numerous trips a year to the Dallas and New York markets for personal appearances, trunk shows and high-end specialty stores that carry Tia Mia, her jewelry line. She continues to design elegant jewelry and in addition practices ballet and Pilates. Jempy is an Air Force Academy alum from the Mississippi Delta and is semi-retired from his career as CFO of an energy company. He now consults in the oil and gas industry and studies martial arts, a life-long practice. Their desire to have their home reflect their passions was the driving force behind acquiring this property and the changes they made to it. What they achieved is a sophisticated renovation that might be called “Cosmopolitan Chic.”
Highlighting the property’s beautiful, natural elements and blending them with vintage glamour was an important facet of the new design. Evidence of this is found throughout the home. Upon entry into the foyer, the tone is set with an atrium filled with exotic plants visible to both the living room and the dining room downstairs. Stained glass windows original to the house were encased in glass to help protect them. Black textural pots filled with bamboo, pineapple plants and hydrangea frame the doorway.
On one side of the atrium, the dining room opens into a lovely New Orleans courtyard featuring flowering plants, ferns and other assorted greenery. Three fountains run continually, providing a restful morning retreat. Old carriage lights were replaced with modern exterior lights better suiting the contemporary architectural feel of the house. Glossy black double doors provide drama. Both natural settings, the atrium and courtyard, are reflected in mirrors that define the formal dining space — one large mirror on the wall and a mirrored sideboard displaying Jempy’s vintage decanters that include Baccarat, Lalique, Val St Lambert, some of which are more than 100 years old. They sit on a Grande Baroque by Wallace sterling silver tray, a family treasure. The vintage Italian Art Deco table with silver foiled squares under glass was acquired from a local antique dealer. Mercury glass accessories add sparkle. The entire room is filled with light-reflecting surfaces, and overhead is one of the chandeliers in Tia’s collection — this one with a crown on top. “I had to have it when I saw the crown,” she said, “as my grandsons call me ‘Duchess.’ ”
On the opposite side of the atrium, the living room blends comfort and elegance with modern lines accentuated by unexpected nods to Jempy’s Southern roots. It has an urban, Art Deco feeling with comfortable seating and luxurious but comfortable fabrics, which make it a nice place to simply lounge, something that few rooms with this level of glamour provide. For example, it has a sprawling lavender mid-century curving sofa with a fox fur throw opposite cowhide chairs and a mirrored coffee table. Two black mirrors with beveled glass are hung “just so” as to allow anyone seated in the chairs a view of the atrium. “Never does anyone miss a view of the outdoors,” said Tia.
More natural light and a bigger outdoor view are available from the den, where more vintage glamour takes center stage, most obviously in the form of the mannequin who sits fashionably among the collection of books on the fashion designers Dior, Jacques Fath, Jacque Heim, Charles James, Lanvin and Charles Parnham, of the early Tiffany years. Tia said, “The mannequins are my delight — a form of artwork by me if you chose to see it that way. They wear my fabulous vintage gowns. By dressing my mannequins, I’m able to keep the gowns ever present instead of housed in closets. They even get to wear beautiful designer lingerie, stockings and shoes.” If kept naked, they get the benefit of wearing Tia’s jewelry designs. The couple kept the original paneled wood throughout but painted it a soft, greige tone. An Evin Thayer portrait of Tia sits in front of a silver leaf, beveled glass mirror above the fireplace. A charcoal rendition of a national fur ad in which she once was featured is on the right.
Also in the bookshelf are Jempy’s emblem from ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, photographs of Jempy ringing the Exchange bell and photos of him, Tia and his board at the Exchange — all mementos that mean a great deal to the couple and symbolize Jempy’s business success.
From the den as well as the breakfast room, these nature lovers enjoy an uninterrupted view of the bayou and the wildlife. The breakfast room was designed to replicate the outdoor view without detracting from it. The table base is a silver-coated tree trunk with a glass top and Lucite “ghost” chairs. Two-hundred-year-old columns from India frame the art, and another of Tia’s chandeliers beautifully catches and reflects the light.
Every room on the back side of the house overlooks the landscaped yard, tree-lined bayou and all the splendor nature allows, including daily visits from wild ducks who Tia feeds. Flocks of migratory ducks and birds, including blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, wrens and more, visit daily to dine at the multiple feeders. “It is literally a birder’s paradise,” said Tia. “We even see alligators swim the bayou, along with badgers, jumping fish and the occasional deer who wanders up.”
The kitchen, which was formerly painted avocado green, pink and yellow, now boasts a functional and stunning remodel. The couple added a glass door to the existing cabinetry that display Tia’s family crystal. Tia also selected stacked marble for the walls in the kitchen to add some luxury and change the overall aesthetic. She loves the transformation and said, “Cooking is relaxing for me and is something I really enjoy doing for Jempy. This house gave me the opportunity to finally have a Viking cook top, baking ovens and my ultimate favorite — a warming drawer!”
The kitchen floors are now a warm wood, and a window was added to allow for more natural light and provide another view to the back property. The backsplash and wall color were selected to mimic the pearl-like inside of an oyster. The dark countertops provide a contrast and a little more shine as the granite is infused with strands of pyrite or “fool’s gold.” To tie the kitchen in with the other downstairs spaces, the same granite as the fireplace surround in the den was used. Lucite barstools are cohesive with the ghost chairs in the breakfast room.
Atop the staircase is an art and photo gallery where another mannequin is dressed to the nines in vintage fashion. Also on display are more of Tia’s collections of Barbies (“we were built in the same year”), vintage mirrors, vintage compacts and family pictures.
The master suite overlooks the bayou, and the atrium and is punctuated with plush comfort on the bed, mercury glass accessories atop mid-century modern furniture and a faux alligator bureau finished with rhinestone drawer pulls. His and her dressing areas and bathrooms allow the couple ample room and privacy. The ceiling fans here and in Tia’s salon are reminiscent of propellers, an homage to Jempy’s Air Force Academy education and service in Vietnam.
Two small rooms were converted into a huge closet and dressing room and a lady’s salon. The style is all Art Deco and, along with the clothing and jewelry collection that Tia began accumulating in high school, the space is adorned with huge mirrors, glass closet doors, beautiful lighting and a large dressing ottoman.
The production office is where Tia Mia jewelry is created. Her original designs are on display in lighted cases along with vintage pieces, while works-in-progress sit atop the work tables. “This is my favorite part of the house,” said Tia. “Everything in these rooms speaks to my passion.” Other rooms were converted as well, such as an office space for Jempy and workout space to accommodate their love for ballet, Pilates and martial arts.
Tia shared, “After being away from each other, it is nice to come home to a place we appreciate inside and out. We have beautiful art work and mementos of our life together inside. And outside, we can listen to the frog symphony by our back fountains and the bayou at night.”
The Neymans have successfully incorporated each other’s tastes and personalities throughout the home. The result is an elegant, comfortable home that is truly one-of-a-kind.
Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by J Pamela Photography
Interiors by Melinda Lacy, Unexpected Interiors
Renovations by Carl Kraft, Carl Kraft Construction
Floral design by Michelle Kellett, Haute Flowers
Top Image: Light is drawn into the elegantly styled dining room via tall windows that look onto the New Orleans-style courtyard and plant-filled atrium. In spring with the doors open, the terrace takes on the air of a leafy conservatory. Modernist stainless steel sculptures in the atrium let visitors know upon entering that this house is both haven and gallery.