Wilder home — featured on tour April 25 — mixes old and new for an eclectic look
By Patrice Stewart, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
If you are perplexed when deciding what furnishings and accessories you need, Arabelle Wilder has some advice.
“If you love it, buy it and find a place for it,” said Wilder.
That’s what she does, along with incorporating family heirlooms into the design of a room.
You can see this eclectic look next Sunday afternoon. Wilder’s home will be one of three open for touring during the Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes sponsored by the Decatur Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
Allow plenty of time so you can view all the art, pottery and accessories Wilder has collected, as well as the many updates made through the years to the house.
“I call it traditional with a little artsy flair,” said Wilder. “But it took years of collecting pieces and art — and I just love to go to art shows.”
When decorating, she said, you might start with “a sofa or a rug or something else you love, and then go from there. For me, it’s more interesting when things don’t match.”
In 2000, her family moved into the house at 2009 Penny Lane S.E. that had belonged to her parents, the late Paull and Arabelle Jernigan.
She and her husband, Dick, and sons Richard and Knox gave the house where she grew up their own touches while keeping reminders of her parents.
The green silk damask living room sofa, for example, was the Jernigans, and although Wilder elevated it, she did not reupholster the 1960s piece but simply added new decorative throw pillows.
In the den, Wilder kept the colorful oriental print drapes and matching fabric-covered cornice boards that her mother put up about 35 years ago, when those windows looked out onto a patio.
Today the windows give a glimpse into a sunroom created where the patio once was, and beyond to the new terrace with arbor, outdoor stone fireplace and rock waterfall feature.
“I’ve added things through the years, because your taste changes some, and colors change. But I stick with the same kinds of things so I can move them from room to room,” Wilder said.
Her father was an accountant for Pearce & Gresham Co., a construction firm, and this house, built in 1957 for attorney Russell Lynne, was the only residence built by the company, which did mostly commercial buildings.
Her parents bought the house in 1966 and later made some renovations, such as converting the garage into a playroom that features a pool table, a game table and comfortable seating. They added a half bath and laundry room and enlarged the master bedroom to include a sitting room with fireplace and walk-in closet.
After her mother died in 1998 and the Wilders took ownership, they added the sunroom with vaulted ceiling and brick floors and the terrace features. Over the years, they also renovated the kitchen with Corian countertops, stainless steel appliances and a piece of marble found at an antique store for the breakfast area.
“We did everything in stages,” she said.
The Wilders had some slate floors installed, and in some spots, such as the den, they ripped out the carpet to use concrete floors scored and stained brown. The renovated bathrooms have slate floors and countertops, showers and garden tub accents.
Her mother already had added the distinctive brown marble covering the brick hearth in the den (one of three fireplaces in the house) years ago.
Treasured items — like a marble-topped antique table that belonged to her grandmother and a pair of etched glass hurricane globes passed along by an aunt — anchor the rooms.
The heirloom antiques are supplemented by her own “finds,” like a hand-carved Venetian table with a faux finish that she found in an Atlanta antique shop. She displays it in her foyer, below a painting by Mississippi artist Patt Odom.
Paintings and groupings of art can be seen on every wall. Wilder has hung only a couple of her own paintings, while preferring instead to display pieces from local artists or those she finds at art shows and festivals.
Pottery “face jugs” by Jerry Brown in Hamilton join figurines, bowls and other pieces from potters in Oxford, New Albany and Peppertown, Miss., on her den mantel and bookshelves.
Wilder likes diversity. “I don’t stick with any certain potter or artist,” she said.
She has a collection of works by Decatur artists, including Rickie Higgins, Scott Willis, Johanna Littleton, Trina Hunter, Joyce Lowery, Judy Seymore, Patsy Roby, Susan Estes, Robin Roberts, Glenda Sartain, Lucinda Burchel, Sloane Bibb, Lee Nabors, Matt Welch, Linda Livingston, Lori Clark, the late Shirley Perry and others.
Some are sentimental in nature. The sunroom has a corner of art created by son Richard, now a student at The University of Alabama, when he took art lessons at ages 6-8. Wilder also treasures a painting by a neighbor, the late Barbara Baugh, that she was given by a daughter.
For Wilder, a bathroom is another place to display some of her art collection. Hanging in the hall bath are 22 pieces of colorful folk art such as alligators, while the master bath artwork features angels and crosses.
Stained-glass pieces hang here and there, and the sunroom has, in addition to skylights, an antique fixture that holds candles.
And if you look high in the sunroom, that’s where she agreed to let her husband display the mounted heads of three deer he shot in Canada. She wouldn’t allow them inside the house, but she owed him a little space for his collection, probably because he is handy around the house.
Wilder’s art collection spills out of the house, too. The terrace and nearby yard and fence are sprinkled liberally with folk art and birdhouses that add a touch of whimsy.
“I pick up stuff everywhere — especially if it’s funny and makes me laugh,” said Wilder, pointing out a wooden pig attached to a fence that she got at a Junior League auction. Friends also look for things they know she will like, such as the cigar-smoking fish on a stake beside the terrace.
A born decorator
Wilder is a born decorator, and many people request her help with interior design and accessorizing, but you won’t find her name on a business directory of registered designers. While she has taken art classes as a child and an adult and minored in art, her college majors were psychology and sociology.
When hired to assist, she tries to work with what people already have and with local businesses that can supply other items.
“I’ll help them pick out colors and furniture and help them decide how to move things around,” she said.
Scott Willis, instructor for Wilder’s evening painting class, recognizes that talent in fellow artists and designers.
“Arabelle was fortunate to be born with this innate ability to put things together, and she has a good eye for color,” said the Willis Gray Gallery owner. “It comes naturally to her, and people call on her for assistance.”
He describes the Wilder home as a “comfortably casual, transitional style” where she mixes her family pieces with other antique finds and handcrafted items she finds at art festivals.
“Her palette is very warm and earthy,” said Willis, “and you won’t see anything very light or white or bright.”
He mentioned her floor treatments, including colored, scored concrete, “which is a more up-to-date floor treatment to mix with antiques, plus rugs to soften everything.”
Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes
On April 25, you can tour three homes in Southeast Decatur and then drop by a garden party for treats.
The Decatur Women’s Chamber of Commerce sponsors this Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes as a fundraiser for local projects.
From 1 until 4 p.m. April 25, these homes will be open:
•Carol and Ken Hamilton, 2206 Country Club Road S.E.
•Pam and John Howell, 2500 Meadowbrook Road S.E.
•Arabelle and Richard Wilder, 2009 Penny Lane S.E.
Afterward, head for the spring garden party at Decatur Country Club for refreshments made using recipes from cookbooks published by the Women’s Chamber.
Advance tickets are available for $10 at Jimmy Smith Jewelers, Tammy Eddy Antiques, Family Security Credit Union (Sixth Avenue and behind Decatur Mall) and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
On tour day, tickets will be $15 at all tour homes and the country club.
Proceeds will benefit Hospice of the Valley, Meals on Wheels, Decatur Public Library, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and a Calhoun Community College scholarship.