A Colorful, Art-Filled Home in Mississippi





“My style is grandpa chic,” says writer and photographer Erin Austen Abbott. She lives in Water Valley, Mississippi, with her husband, their son, two dogs, and a cat. Here, Erin shares their art-filled home, family travel tips, and ideas for movie nights…


Mississippi house tour

Paint: Sherwin Williams Pure White. Sofa: West Elm, similar. Coffee table: “a kid’s table from Anthropologie many years ago.” Curtains: Pottery Barn,similar. Cat pillow: Areaware, similar. Everything else: vintage.

On the travel bug: I was raised by a single mom, and she often took me on her work trips. I grew up in Mississippi and then Florida, and she’d take me to California and New York. I loved it and, later on, I started traveling with bands, handling their merch. I got hooked.


Paint: Sherwin Williams Pure White. Gallery wall, top to bottom, left to right: Hollie Chastain, Kate Donovan, Laura Roebuck, Michael Doyle, Yellow Owl Workshop, Frances Berry, Lamar Sorrento, Joel Meyerowitz, Kate Roebuck, Heather Sunquist Hall, Ashleigh Coleman. The rabbits in the middle were done by Daniel Long, birds by Kate Roebuck, portrait by Stephen Borasch. To the right of the rabbits: Ashleigh Coleman, Hollie Chastain, Adrienne Brown-David, Kate Roebuck. Yellow Owl Workshop, Ashleigh Coleman, Kate Donovan, Adrienne Brown-David, Ashleigh Coleman, Heather Sunquist Hall.

On a beloved piece: I see art as this magical thing we’re so lucky to look at every day in our house! One favorite is a portrait [the woman looking into the distance] by my friend Stephen Borasch in Los Angeles. It pulls me in like a great song.


Art on the bookcase, left to right: Julianna Swaney, Kate Roebuck, Reid Mitchell, Tom (Erin’s son), Julianna Swaney, and Kathryn Hunter. Art on ledges above the couch: Frances Berry, on top, and Ashleigh Coleman, below.

On making connections: Social media can be a lot, but one beautiful thing is how that it connects you to people you might never have met. I follow artists and galleries online, and I’ve bought pieces directly from artists all over the world. There’s something magical about coming across a piece that stops you in your tracks.


Coatrack: Eames Hang-It-All, “two together to make one long one.” Rooftop beekeeper photograph: Erin Austen Abbott. Dresser: vintage, similar. Bike: Linus. Art on upper mantel: “Photo of Evan Dando by Chrissy Piper, two pieces by Britt Bass, Shepard Fairey, then another Britt Bass.” Art on the lower level of the mantel: Erin Austen Abbott print, “old family photos, and a tintype of my son by Michael Foster.”

On growing into a place: I was single when I bought this 1,700-square-foot house, and I felt like I’d bought a mansion. These days, with two more people and three pets, the house feels smaller. We have no drawers in the kitchen, there are only 2.5 closets in the whole place, and we have only one bathroom. But it works!



Paint: Martha Stewart “Silhouette,” discontinued. Art from top to bottom: “lo-fi, Butch Anthony, Heather Sunquist Hall, Lamar Sorrento.”

On living in Mississippi: People have so many ideas of what they think Mississippi is, so I love how surprised people are when they visit. We love how green it is — we’re surrounded by trees and rivers and lakes everywhere we go. I also love the affordability of life here; creative people are drawn here, since we can afford to take risks within our work. We also love our community. Mississippi is a state that encourages you to stay socially and politically engaged to try to make changes for a better future.


Chair: Eames.

On family movies: We have a strong tradition of movie nights. I’ve kept a running tally of every movie we’ve watched together since our son Tom was five. He’s now 11. One movie I loved as a child that still holds up is Never Cry Wolf. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is great, and Rabbit-Proof Fence is an extraordinary true story that my son loved. Selma is hard to watch but essential for kids to see. We use historical movies to spark discussion. And don’t skip documentaries! For example, The Summer of Soul is wonderful.



Paint: Sherwin Williams Mint Condition. Colorful pots on shelf above stove: Dansk via Schoolhouse Electric. Coffee mugs: Paper & Clay.

On bringing cultures home: The app Radiooooo lets you listen to music from different countries and time periods. For example, you can hear what they were listening to in Cuba in the ’40s. And if we’re cooking food from Thailand, we’ll play Thai radio.




Paint: Martha Stewart’s “Artesian Well.” Desk: Anthropologie, similar. Lamp: Anthropologie, similar. Chair: Anthropologie. Art, left to right, top to bottom: Coulter Fussel, lo-fi, Jonathan Kent Adams, Heather Sunquist Hall, Frances Berry, Erin Austen Abbott, lo-fi (all three from top to bottom), Kate Roebuck, Noah Saterstrom, Erin Austen Abbott, Megan Patton.

On arranging art: Hanging art is an art in itself! I try to make groupings — like works with dots or shades of pink. In the office, I like how the reds above my desk pop against the blue wall.


On staging an art show in a motel: Back in 2006, I was just driving around and taking pictures, when I pulled into a roadside motel. It had blue doors with red hearts for numbers. An idea popped into my mind: this would be a great place to bounce from room to room for a one-night-only art show, using the rooms as mini-galleries. Over the next few months, I gathered friends who wanted to show their work — and I’ve been doing it ever since! More than 150 artists have shown at One Night Stand at the Ole Miss Motel over the years, and more than 2,000 people have attended.



Paint: Benjamin Moore Gray Timber Wolf. Curtains: Pottery Barn, similar. Bed Frame: Overstock, similar. Bedside lamp: Schoolhouse. Bedding: Schoolhouse. Art above bedside table: Karina Bania. Bench at foot of bed: vintage German beer hall style bench.

On trip itineraries: When we travel as a family, we try to find a great hike, then eat local food that we can’t easily get at home. My son loves oysters, so we always look for new-to-us oysters. We also stop int every bookstore and record store.


Paint: Benjamin Moore “Gray Timber Wolf.” Curtains: Pottery Barn, similar. Bed Frame: Overstock, similar. Bedside lamp: Schoolhouse. Bedding: Schoolhouse. Quilt at foot of bed: “found in India.” Art above bedside table: Karina Bania. Bench at foot of bed: vintage German beer hall style bench. Dresser and globes: vintage. Desk chair: Overstock, similar. Desk: vintage, similar. Overhead light: Sazerac Stitches.

On collections: I collect globes and travel mementos, like a menu from a restaurant we loved or a pressed penny from a national park. I have a section in my book, Family Field Trip that encourages parents to set up a travel center at home, like how you would for an art area. I keep our travel books together, plus maps and souvenirs. My son will sit down and read about places he hopes to go.



Paint: Benjamin Moore Sweatshirt Grey. Desk: Ikea. Chair: vintage, similar. Bed: Article. Curtains: vintage. Side table: Kartell. Curtains: vintage, similar.

On living in a small town: Our town has only around 3,400 people. We just give our son a walkie talkie when he goes out to play with his friends. He loves living that independent life.


Furniture: vintage, including vintage German beer hall style table. Metal bins: Anthropolgoie, similar. Art: vintage map surrounded by “Tom’s baby shower invite by Kate Roebuck, and other works by Sally King Benedict and Kate Roebuck.” Quilted Pillow: Katherine Montague. Kid’s guitar and stand: Loog.

On having one child: Tom was only two weeks old when people started asking, ‘When is he going to get a sibling?’ But I’d had a hard time getting pregnant, and I was 37 when I had Tom. I knew he wasn’t going to get a sibling. People still ask all the time, even though it’s inappropriate to ask a stranger at the grocery store such an invasive question. I started being very blunt. I’d answer by going into detail about how hard it was to get pregnant with my son. They’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ It’s like, Yeah, let that be a lesson.



Paint: Sherwin Williams Pure White and Benjamin Moore Hale Navy. Furniture and rug: vintage. Art: Kate Roebuck and Tom (Erin’s son). Overhead light: West Elm.

On staying put: We’ve spent so much time in this home as a family. I go into my son’s room or our bathroom and am instantly flooded with memories of when he was a baby.



On bird calls: We have a pretty wild backyard! I sit on our deck early in the morning and listen to the bird calls. My neighbor is also a birder, so we text each other about different ones we hear or see. The Merlin Bird ID app helps me recognize those in my backyard. We also join in the yearly eagle count with the local state park. When our son was born, we planted blueberry bushes — we get so many berries every summer!

Thank you so much, Erin!

P.S. More house tours, including a colorful Connecticut home and a family’s dream home in Sacramento.

(Photos by Erin Austen Abbott.)


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