Interiorssneak peeks

A Home in Rural Mississippi, Built Like An Art Gallery

by Erin Austen Abbott

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Nestled down a country road, past oak trees, off the road and out of view from anyone passing by, sits a home built from the ground up, for and by homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill. Also on the large, wooded property is the blacksmith studio of homeowner , a full chicken coop, and the art gallery that the Neill’s run together, .

“Always interested in the arts, we had early careers in the restaurant and plumbing businesses,” Vivian shares. “We married and settled in Oxford, MS in 1999 where we began our art careers and business in earnest. We are developing a sort of arts compound where we live, work and promote regional artists. We have taken our time reclaiming the acreage we acquired and look forward to the coming additions/evolution, including a sculpture garden in the field outside our home.” The arts compound she’s referring to is the rural art gallery she and Walter opened three years ago, sitting off the ground in a treehouse-like setting, aptly named , just 200 yards from their home. The gallery, as well as their home, houses a lot of their own art, too. Walter is an artist/blacksmith and Vivian is a painter and block printer.

On the process of building their home, Vivian said, “The construction only took about one and half years, but the house site and design decisions took much longer. In the meantime, we sold our [previous] home in Oxford, MS and renovated the basement of the home already on the property, into an apartment and lived onsite while we developed our ideas for our home. The gallery apartment now serves as guest quarters and an location. We finally settled on the old homestead site, but first had to remove dilapidated tenant shacks… Near the house is an old well that was hand dug by the first family on this property. One of the previous homeowners visits on occasion, and recently we learned he was a 12-year-old boy when he helped his grandfather hand dig the 30-foot well.”

Vivian continues, “We wanted a floor plan that opened to the outdoors as much as possible. A place to showcase the art we collect in an inviting, user/dog-friendly space. A place to casually entertain guests while we cook. We chose a Danish dining table/chairs to maximize our view of the fields behind our house that will one day include more sculptures.” The Neill’s worked with architect firm, to see their vision to fruition.

I hope you enjoy this peek into the art-inspired Neill home as much as I have. —

Photography by


Image above: Vivian and Walter’s photography display hallway. Photographers include Adam Shemper, Walter Neill, Mary Ellen Mark, Sebastiao Selgado.

The front foyer features reclaimed wood used to build a bench, with paintings by Jere Allen, Mildred Wolfe, Lynn Green-Root, Richard Kelso above.
Here, a view of the old cedars and front porch from the kitchen booth. Melanie Munns embroidery is seen under the cabinet.
The built-in breakfast nook, made from reclaimed cherry, feels so open next to the large window. A painting by Marie Hull of the Jackson, MS farmers market hangs above the nook.
"The cats and dogs take advantage of the low windows on the kitchen door and our soft hearts, constantly reminding us of mealtimes and their preference for the indoor bedding," Vivian shares.
The Danish dining set sits amongst paintings by Ron Lindsey, Vivian Neill, Michael Maxwell, Marta Ferris and Richard Kelso. Sculpture by Lewis West.
"This room opens to the north and south with an abundance of large windows and sliding doors," Vivian notes.
"Made by Walter, the shelves are made of reclaimed cherry. Sculptural pieces on top of shelves and metal fish by Walter. The wood stove may be our favorite component in the house."
"My small art studio with large north windows. I love seeing the fire in wood stove in the den when I walk down the hall," Vivian says.
"I love the huge oak outside the bathtub window and the moonlight at night. Art by Virginia Chavis, Andi Bedsworth and Mac Anderson."
"Daybed and side table made by Walter. Great napping spot!" Vivian says.
A view from the covered porch to the outdoor shower.
"Walter loves this spot after a long day in the blacksmith shop. I think the pool that should accompany an outdoor shower is missing," laughed Vivian.
Vivian and Walter Neill for Design*Droits-Humains
What the couple loves most about their home: "We love the ever-changing views out our windows, the rich colors inside and the skill that crafted such simplicity."
Homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill.
Vivian and Walter Neill for Design*Droits-Humains
The floor plan of Vivian and Walter Neill's home in Mississippi.

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