ART AND APPRECIATION: Fagan home blends the historical and sentimental

Published 3:05 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Nestled in a quiet corner of Vicksburg’s Lakewood subdivision is the home of Dr. David and Lori Fagan.

The Greek Revival stunner, designed by local architect Skippy Tuminello and perfected by David Fagan himself, holds within it one of Vicksburg’s finest collections of artwork, antique rugs and 19th-Century furnishings. Although the home was constructed long after the Greek Revival style was at the height of its popularity, it retains a sense of timeless Americana that beckons all who enter to gaze in wonder.

Swathed in a classic palette of sandy neutrals and star-spangled banner blue, what makes the home truly remarkable is the artwork on each wall — and underfoot. The Fagans both agree their favorite part of the home is sharing these treasures with their guests.

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“We had people over that had never been to our house before, and there was this one young man who kept saying, ‘Tell me about this painting, tell me about that painting.’ And David was in heaven,” Lori said. “He’ll take them through the house and he’ll tell them every single detail — where he got it, the artist, that kind of stuff. But it’s mainly Mississippi artists that he collects.”

Artistic highlights of the home include paintings by local artists Jean Blue and Kennith Humphreys, as well as the most recent addition to the dining room walls: a painting by renowned Vicksburg photographer Melody Golding. David made it clear that he doesn’t relegate his collection to one particular style, as evidenced by the pieces he’s collected over the decades. Examples of abstract, photorealist, acrylic, watercolor, oil and mixed media artwork can be found throughout the home, and it doesn’t stop there.

However, David said, he doesn’t play favorites.

“They’re all favorites, or they wouldn’t be on the wall,” he said. “I started my 33rd year in Vicksburg (in July), so I’ve been collecting and going to auctions in New Orleans for 33 years. New Orleans is generally where a lot of this stuff comes from.”

That’s where the other piece of the puzzle that is the Fagan home comes in: when one collects anything for 33 years, each item becomes tied to a memory or season of life.

Lori is the first to admit she’s no art collector on her own, but what she values is based on sentimental attachment. That being said, there are several pieces she holds near and dear to her heart, ranging from small to rather grand.

“My little touches (to the house) have been … I’m sentimental. I have my mother’s thimble when she smocked my dresses as a little girl. When she died, I said that was the only thing of hers I wanted,” Lori said, gesturing to a glass case on her nightstand that holds her mother’s thimble, her daughter’s first pointe shoe, and an embroidered handkerchief.

“My daughter got married on April 30. She gave this to me, and that was her favorite children’s book that I read to her every night: ‘I’ll Love you Forever,'” Lori added. “She said, ‘I embroidered it myself.’ And then I boohooed for the rest of the night.”

Each of Lori’s favorite furniture pieces in the house is tied back to a memory. The four-poster Duncan Phyfe bed in the master bedroom was a wedding present from David. The matching mirror in the bedroom was purchased at an estate sale in Natchez, while the two traveled there for their anniversary.

A light and airy abstract in Lori’s powder room was commissioned by David for her birthday. Even the chandeliers in the home — including the Lalique in the entryway — hold memories of past trips to auctions in New Orleans.

“I’m definitely not an artist by any means, but it’s art appreciation on my part,” Lori said. “Living in this house, you learn to appreciate everybody else’s work.”

David isn’t immune to sentimentality, either, as evidenced by the antique mantel looming in the formal living room.

It’s this piece, he said, that holds significance in both Vicksburg’s history and his own.

“This mantel was apparently on Cherry Street in a house, and then it was in a warehouse downtown,” David said. “I bought it from the Hull family and Kenny Boone redid a column for me and it’s so good you can’t tell which one is the new one and which one is the original. So, that’s a piece of Vicksburg history.

“I had a house that burned, and the mantel was right underneath the source (of the fire) — but it survived,” he added. “So when I bought this house, I had them redo the wall so I could install the mantel here.”

In addition to the mantel, other notable pieces in the home include an exceptional-rated double-dome Baltimore bookcase from the 1810s and a Duncan Phyfe console table that, through a feat of engineering, converts into a rather large banquet table.

“It’s got leaves that you can use to make it a banquet table, or you can store the leaves and use it as a console table so it doesn’t take up room in your flat in New York,” he said. “It’s really cool for the 1800s because you split the top, it pivots and then it goes to this larger piece.”

While most of the home sticks with a neutral color palette that relies on the art pieces to bring color to the walls, the dining room is a bold exception. With its deep royal blue walls and bold decor choices, Lori said the sunlight that streams through the ceiling-height windows each morning makes the room look like a painting itself.

Although it’s simply beautiful to look at, Lori said the room gets plenty of opportunities to serve its intended purpose.

“Our favorite thing to do is have a dinner party. We can have six to eight people at (the dining room table), and the conversations that take place there, once you get people together over a meal, I get to know people that way,” she said. “When they’re in your home, it never fails. When you sit down and have a meal, that’s my favorite thing to do in this house.”

Each meal begins in the Tuscan-style kitchen, with its oversized island and uplit upper cabinets. Above the wine cellar, one will find yet another of David’s collections: his antique glassware, which includes a set of hollow-stemmed champagne glasses Lori said is reserved for special occasions.

Also in the kitchen, much of the time is the good doctor himself. After a day of treating patients, Lori said David still manages to make home-cooked meals nearly every night.

“My mother suffered from dementia, but every now and then she’d have a lucid moment,” Lori said. “When I was first telling her about David, I told her ‘Yes, Mom, he cooks dinner every night.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Oh honey, don’t let him go.'”

It doesn’t appear that the Fagans will be letting go of their home any time soon. Lori said David once suggested they move elsewhere and she quipped, “There’s no other place that has the wall space for us to put up all the art.”

It’s that, along with the timelessness of each aspect of the Fagan home, that makes it a jewel.

“It’s a matter of taste. When you have a traditional home, it’s timeless. It can be 40 years from now and you won’t know exactly when it was built,” Lori said. “I think we’re both drawn to that, over and over again. We are drawn to the same things: floor-to-ceiling windows and chandeliers. The lighting is a big deal as well, for the placement of the art. His rugs are even art.

“I’ve learned that our antiques and paintings, they’re all works of art; we’re just living among it — but it needs to be a day-to-day house, too.”