The Homestead: Return to the Mountain

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Sheila Vizzinia has found her ideal haven in a cabin near Desoto State Park.

story by ELIZABETH MANNING | photos by ANSLEY GRIDER and OLIVIA GRIDER

Sheila Vizzinia grew up on Lookout Mountain and had always longed to build her own home there. The opportunity arose when Vizzinia was looking for a small cabin, and nine acres including a partially built cabin went up for sale near DeSoto State Park. Even though construction had already begun when Vizzinia bought the property, she was able to make it her own. “It was perfect because it’s right beside the park, and I spend so much time there anyway, with mountain biking and other outdoor activities,” Vizzinia says. “I wanted to create a cozy, shabby-chic cabin that I could retreat to, and the cabin that they had started building seemed perfect.”[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]Roy Wells, owner of Little River Enterprises, did the contract work, and Harold and Shawn Morgan did the construction. Vizzinia moved into the finished cabin in 2010.[s2If is_user_logged_in()]

The vision she had in mind turned into a comfortable, cedar-sided cabin set away from the road, with a circular driveway. Vizzinia altered the original house plans to include a detached garage, a porch and decking that wraps around most of the house.

“My current project is figuring out landscaping that the deer won’t eat,” Vizzinia says. “Everything I try, they seem to find an appetite for it.”

Vizzinia is careful to move her ferns, perched on either side of the front steps, in for the evening so they don’t fall victim to the deer as well. To keep her firewood dry, Vizzinia had a woodshed built behind the house. The only other detached building on the property is an old well house that was on the land before the cabin was built.

“They were going to bulldoze it over when they were building the cabin, but it was too pretty to demolish,” Vizzinia says.

Every detail of the home’s interior was specifically planned by Vizzinia to create the cozy, French-country, rustic look it presently possesses.

Entry through the front door opens up into a living room with a two-story oak ceiling and a large fireplace as a focal point. “I wanted the fireplace to look like an outdoor fireplace – with a bigger mantle and surrounding stone,” Vizzinia says.

The majority of the house is open; the living room flows into a large kitchen, and a doorway in the kitchen leads into a dining area. Another wall of the dining area is open to the other side of the living room, with a stairway to the open loft upstairs being the only divider. On either side of the main rooms of the house lie the two downstairs bedrooms and bathrooms. Vizzinia’s master bedroom is to the right through the dining area, and her daughter, Kelly, has a bedroom to the left. The upstairs loft houses a bed and small sitting area for guests. Vizzinia’s other two children, Nick and Raemi, and her two grandchildren stay upstairs or in the apartment over the garage when visiting.

A large island with stools around it runs the entire length of the kitchen. Vizzinia used three different finishes for the cabinets: black, natural wood and an olive green.

“When I told my contractor I wanted the kitchen to be three colors, he scoffed. It turned out pretty well, though,” Vizzinia says. Dobson Cabinets built the cabinets for the home.

Vizzinia knows what she wants, and is constantly thinking of ways to further customize the house. The entrance to the pantry is graced with a screen door that she commissioned her contractor to build. The door is painted a deep red, to pick up the undertones of the rocks in the fireplace.

Almost the entire front wall of the house is comprised of windows, all the way up to the pitched ceiling.

“I wanted as much natural light as possible,” Vizzinia says.

Vizzinia found the inspiration for her staircase railing, built to look like woven sticks, in a magazine. The makers of the railing were located in Wyoming, and it was going to be expensive to have the railing built and shipped to Alabama.

Vizzinia lucked up by finding a local artisan, Chris Hale, who could replicate it.

Hale, owner of Mountain Heritage Rustic, built the railing, the front porch swing and the bed in the master bedroom.

Two owl prints hang on the wall next to the fireplace, and on the table under the prints sits an owl figurine.

“I like owls,” Vizzinia says. “When we first moved in, we had these screech owls and a couple hoot owls that lived behind the house; they would call back and forth to each other.” Owls can still be heard on the property.

The home’s décor is a conglomeration of pieces Vizzinia has collected over the years. Antlers perch on an antique table that Vizzinia found years ago. An antique platter with a bluebird pattern sits next to framed photos of family.

“One of my favorite pieces is my dad’s pipe collection,” Vizzinia says. The pipes sit on a shelf in the dining room, which hosts a round table and four chairs. Vases of dried and fresh hydrangeas, Vizzinia’s favorite flower, are placed throughout the house.

The laundry room is tiled with slate and opens to the breezeway that leads to the detached garage. In the hallway leading to Kelly’s bedroom and the second bathroom sits an antique, marble-topped sideboard.

“I don’t usually shop with a purpose – especially antiquing – I usually just look for something that catches my eye,” Vizzinia says.

One such find, an antique table repurposed as a side table, once belonged to a friend. The friend was going to throw it out, Vizzinia said, when she asked if she could keep it instead.

“It sat in a basement for years, but it’s perfect for that spot,” Vizzinia says.

Vizzinia’s bedroom is a calming, breezy haven. White linens and a white, slipcovered chair give the room a light, airy feel.

Vizzinia stays busy as a fitness instructor at Wills Valley Recreational Center and as a “full-time mom.” She also takes care of the land around her home. The cabin sits adjacent to DeSoto State Park. Vizzinia, an avid mountain-biker and hiker, teaches a hiking class and helps maintain the park’s trails.

“I clear brush and debris out of the trails and notify the park crew if there are trees down,” Vizzinia said.

“I ride and hike the trials, and I helped build some of them, so it benefits both visitors to the park and myself.”
Her plans for the immediate future of the house are focused on landscaping.

“I planted a Camellia bush thinking the deer wouldn’t like it, but they ate it clean,” Vizzinia says. [/s2If]