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A Novel Upgrade

An old Tupelo home shows what creative thinking and careful design can yield.

Written by Eugene Stockstill | Photographed by Joe Worthem

Every address in every city, town and hamlet in the world has a story or two to tell, and 635 North Madison Street in Tupelo is no exception.

Since its construction in 1928, the two-story residence in the city’s Highland Circle neighborhood has had only three owners: First the Grimes family, then the Spicers, and since 1986, Sandy and Guy Lipscomb from Virginia.

The red brick structure welcomes you to this quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with an arched entranceway and off-white trim and shutters. Once inside, you discover more than a few surprises.

For example, a piano painted a unique shade of rich, dark brown sits in a corner room off the kitchen. If you nose around upstairs, you find not one but two secret compartments. A small bookshelf in one wall opens to reveal a full hunting room, in what was once nothing but empty attic space. On an adjacent wall, a door opens into a small but fully functional wet bar. Next to that door, framed and mounted, hang the house’s original blueprints.

But the biggest reveal comes at the far end of the upstairs area: a bedroom converted into a small library.

Sandy Lipscomb had the idea because of all the books scattered around the house. “A library?” her incredulous husband asked, but his wife made a believer out of him.

“I won’t call it a man cave,” he said, “But it makes for a nice place to watch football or whatever.”

In the late 1940s, the room housing the library served as a kitchen. The owners at that time had redesigned the upstairs portion of the house as a separate apartment with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a separate entrance out back.

When the Lipscombs moved in, the upstairs apartment needed more work than they could tackle, so they closed off the back entrance, tore out the kitchen, saved the cabinets and repurposed some of the area into a third bedroom.

“Fast forward to late 2019,” Guy Lipscomb said, “Which is when we began planning to renovate the upstairs, primarily the bathroom. We initially started in the spring of 2020, with plans to finish in six months or less. That turned out to be laughable, as we finally got things wrapped up in early fall of 2021.”

The result: a cozy extra living space.

General contractor Clay Bowen (who has since died from pancreatic cancer) made the striking wooden ceilings and trim by hand, Guy Lipscomb said.

“He became a dear friend during the time that he and his crew worked with us,” he said. “Sandy found the specific design she wanted online.”

With the help of designers at Staggs Interiors, including Connie Morgan and owner and back-door neighbor Kelly Holcomb, painter Wayne Rhudy, as well as Bowen and crew, the vision became reality. Holcomb said he takes special delight in making improvements to old houses like the Lipscombs’ home.

“You can’t duplicate these houses,” Holcomb said. “These houses (in Highland Circle) are unique. They all have their own personality.”

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