Within These Walls

Within These Walls

Carol Mockbee’s home is full of architectural history

Words by Lyndy Berryhill
Photos by Andrew Welch

Room by room, Carol Mockbee is transforming a 1930s Classical Revival into her forever home.

Bringing the sprawling space to life is her dream—and a huge undertaking. Carol and her husband, Drew Maddox, bought the house in September 2020. In between working remotely, starting her design firm, and raising two young children, Carol is devoting herself to bringing out every ounce of character. "It's a creative process," Carol says, sipping a fizzy LaCroix.

Carol is the daughter of architect Samuel Mockbee and his wife, Jackie. She graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor's in interior design in 2003.

The Judge Jolly House, as it is known in the Belhaven neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi, was finished on March 1, 1930. Its facade is colonial-esque and brick. French windows frame the first- and second-floor rooms. They are topped off with fanlight windows and a clay tile roof. But don't let the stately front fool you—a 1980s addition overlooks a Mediterranean-style pool.

The modern addition added similar windows across the back. Throughout the home, all windows can open to let the natural breeze chill the air. "In the front of the house, it's more formal and bold," she says. "The farther you walk toward the back, it's going to have more of a Mediterranean, bohemian party feel. It's just really fluid and comfortable."

Although Carol grew up in a modern home, she is drawn to the house's unique character. The eclectic combination of architectural styles mirrors Carol's penchant for striking colors and patterns. "It's gorgeous and beautiful, and I love it," she says.

Carol's enthusiasm for her new home is emblematic of the Belhaven neighborhood, one of the most architecturally diverse places in the state.

"Belhaven is an amazing neighborhood because it has really good examples of every major architectural style from the early 20th century through the 70s and 80s," said Todd Sanders, the resident architectural historian for the state archives and transportation agencies.

Belhaven was a growing middle-class suburb of downtown Jackson when the Mockbee-Maddox house was initially built. He said increased architecture publications or travels could have inspired the original home's Colonial Revival features. "Back in the early 20th century, you found a good architect and told him what you wanted. There were a lot of different styles competing for attention," he says.

But Sanders discovered Belhaven was unique in another aspect when he taught community architecture classes on Belhaven. His pupils often taught him more about the area at each meeting. "They had a real personal interest," he says. "I always learned more about the families and the people who lived there."

Sanders said Belhaven residents are synonymous with community. 

Carol's passion for her new abode is something she shares with her neighbors. 

Her heels click on the natural wood as she steps through the front door into the foyer. 

She points out home improvement projects in progress and relays ideas to come.

The home has two sets of stairs. The front staircase leads to a large master bedroom with twin walk-in closets, a full bath, and a skylight. The two front windows ensconce her children's bedrooms on either side. The second set of stairs in the kitchen leads to an ample storage space with a washroom and offers access to the pool room and guest room. The basement is unfinished, with primarily bare wood walls and four brightly painted doors in pink, blue, yellow, and green. On the way down, the underside of the front staircase is visible through a storage cubby. The original builders signed their names under the front steps in the 1930s, and Carol will also make her mark.

Drew and Carol's son, Sam, turned four in November. Their daughter, Bee, turned two in October. When she was a teenager, her parents allowed her to roller-skate through the halls with her sisters and to paint her bedroom shades of purple. The back door of the pantry records their heights the day they moved in.  

She wants the home to be more than a visual experience. She wants to capture an emotional connection within the walls. "There are a lot of homes that you walk into that are beautiful, but it feels like you're walking into a showroom," she says. "I want it to be a comfortable house that is thoughtful and lived-in. Interesting and unexpected." 

When the inspiration for a space strikes, Carol renders it as she goes. "There will always be continuous tweaking happening," she said.

A room is more than a space to eat, sleep or relax. To Carol, it is an opportunity to weave her memories and style into the finer details of the decor. 

Carol plans to update the dining room's lighting and juxtapose the family China displayed with modern lighting and more ergonomic tables and chairs. The connecting kitchen and addition are still conceptualized, but Carol sees expressive art bringing the walls to life. The first floor is a circular layout. Walking from the den area of the addition, guests enter a "bar room" where dark green bookshelves emulate an academic swagger. She plans to finish the entertaining space by installing a window seat with a bubble chandelier overhead. It will also function as a reading nook for her family.

Returning toward the front of the home, Mockbee enters her Blue Room.

Inspired by the stoic matriarch Mockbee was named after, the room melds together bold statement pieces into a functional space dripping with coded nostalgia.

Sweet Tea, as her great-grandmother was called, was a nurse. She became the first female hospital administrator in Memphis. "She was a redhead and not to be reckoned with," Carol says.

She builds the room's critical pieces around that legacy. Sweet Tea's antique buffet lingers against the back wall. Four Lionel Barrymore foil etchings, a gift to Sweet Tea from the Peabody Hotel, hang close by. 

Once the velvet couch was delivered, Carol chose a dark cerulean color to enhance the tiles bordering the fireplace. The carpet and accents throughout exhibit a variety of balanced blues. "The blues are just speaking to each other," Carol explains. 

Carol keeps notes on patterns and fixtures to keep in mind. Paint swatches wait on her desk underneath a framed family tree.

Over the years, she sees the space evolving to fit her style and her family's needs.

Despite her professional experience, she has never had the opportunity to design her own space before. "This is my first personal project, which is why it will always be a labor of love," Carol says. "This is my work of art."