By: Sarah Raines
Perched on a hill in Wildbriar, a lake community branching off Sessums Road, sits a tumbled brick and cypress house that looks as natural to the environment as the trees in its backyard. Joe Couvillion and his family built the house hidden on the backroads not far from Mississippi State University’s campus, and the mountain lodge-like appeal gives it a secluded aura amongst the hustle and bustle of Starkville living.
Starkville boys, born and raised, Joe Couvillion and his brother, Neil Couvillion, work side-by-side with their company Couvillion Design + Build, helping create and renovate homes to suit the lifestyles and tastes of individual families in the area. The company also works on projects for the public, such as the splash pad in J.L. King Senior Memorial Park off of North Long Street, and the brothers manage a second business on Starkville’s Main Street, Nine-Twentynine Coffee Bar.
The brothers renovated Tokro’s salon early in their career together, and then the coffee shop when they opened it around six years ago when Tokro’s decided to focus its business on the upper level of the building, incorporating old pieces with new to create a distinctive environment for each business.
The Couvillion house was built on a lot that posed a challenge to its builders.
“In the line of neighborhoods, there’s always these lots that are hard to build on, we call them the ‘unbuildable lots’, so there’s usually two or three in a big development that are just challenging,” Joe Couvillion said. “That particular spot was on a hillside, with many established trees around it, so we had to design a house plan that worked with that.”
The Couvillion home is a longhouse with three stories. The backyard has a sheer hill and the builders used it to add a deck and the lowest level to the house.
The bottom floor serves as a place for the Couvillion’s three young children’s bedrooms, the main floor is the living and entertaining area, with a few bonus rooms on the uppermost level of the house. From their lookout atop the hill, the Couvillions can see the rolling landscape around their home.
“When you go on the back porch, what we like about it is, you go out there and it’s just old cattle land with a low bottom, and it’s really neat,” Couvillion said. “It’s like you’re in the mountains because it’s a 50- to 60-foot long dropoff and you just look at the top of the trees. It’s a really unique, really private location.”
The feeling of seclusion the house gives suits the Couvillions’ taste, though they are close enough to town to hear the roar of the crowds as game-day attendees cheer on their Bulldogs during football season.
Tastefully complementing the deep red and brown hues of the tumbled bricks, the house’s outside also displays grey-green siding and grey-brown shingles that allow the house to almost become a part of its environment.
Neil Couvillion, a landscape architect, designed the landscape to fit within the natural vernacular of the site, incorporating boxwoods, hydrangeas, tea olives, ferns, arborvitae and crab apple trees.
While creating homes, Joe Couvillion said he enjoys repurposing old architecture into new builds. For his family’s residence, lumber from a large oak which had to be cut down to make way for the house was used to create a mantle, benches, and furniture for the Couvillion abode, as well as a butcher block-style island and shelving for a neighboring house.
A grand, unique door bought from an antique store in West Point serves as the entryway to the spacious entry courtyard. Industrial iron windows from the brothers’ office space downtown has been given new glass and new life as room dividers and a shower-panel wall in the house, and heart pine and timber from a house built on Louisville Street in the 1850s and torn down in recent years was used to create the front door and beams for the house
“It’s real eclectic, and I think our furnishings and our lifestyle do not fit the traditional or modern mold, it’s just a little mix of everything,” Couvillion said. “I think that’s the trickery with this business, and for sure designing, is to incorporate these details and not make it look like you tried too hard. It‘s just real comfortable to us.”