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With thoughtful renovations and eclectic decorative touches, the Z Bed & Breakfast offers guests a modern respite inside an Oxford historic district home.

Written by Eugene Stockstill | Photographed by Joe Worthem

Oxford exudes a charm that seems to intensify the farther away you live. Faulkner’s homeplace, the old university and the quaintness of the city draw visitors like water does a thirsty man.

Take the little place on Pierce Avenue in the historic district that goes by the name The Z Bed & Breakfast. The mint-green cottage sits on the edge of a huge, sloping hill in a quiet neighborhood that still puts you near the Grove, the Square and Rowan Oak. That may be why the folks who run it have little difficulty finding customers.

“We have people who come from out of the country, Australia, New Zealand,” Kelley Zeleskey said. “There’s a lot that people do when they’re here.”

Two of the Zeleskeys’ daughters came up with the idea in 2009 after the family bought the house at 1405 Pierce Avenue. Both of them graduated from Ole Miss the same year, and they pitched the transformation at just the right time.

The Z B&B opened the next year. It may go without saying that the place’s moniker comes from the family’s last name.

“We used to be the only one within walking distance to the Square,” Zeleskey said.

Before opening to guests, The Z underwent renovations that took about a year to finish. They were overseen by Zeleskey, an independent interior designer.

The green exterior of the cottage built in the late 1950s is the original color, but the porch was expanded to include wooden swings and chairs. One step through the front door, and years ago you found yourself in a tiny hallway adjoined to the living room.

That hallway is long gone, and the living area now includes bright-pink wallpaper, one of numerous unexpected flourishes that give the traditional home a jazzy, updated feel. Canvas-mounted photos that Zeleskey took of their daughters at Versailles and of a bridge in London, for example, grace the living room’s walls.

Other pretty surprises in the house? The lovely brick fireplaces in the front and back rooms were painted and sanded to give them a more weathered look. A table-and-chair set that belonged to Zeleskey’s in-laws now sits in the dining room. One small coffee table in the house has a fascinating topper, a gift to the family that looks like deer antlers, but “no animal life was lost with that,” Zeleskey said.

Sunlight streams through the family room out back, which serves as a cozy, fun gathering area for those who stay at The Z.

“I wanted to stay as true to the property as I could, with it feeling like a cottage, warm and homey, when you walked in,” Zeleskey said. “But I didn’t want it to feel like grandma’s house.”

Zeleskey tends to shop at out-of-the-way places, opts for antique pieces, and she delights in mixing old and new styles.

“I like to use the word eclectic,” she said. “I love to make rooms feel fresh and vibrant, but I try to keep them grounded and timeless.”

One of the coolest of all The Z’s garnishes: Mounted wire chicken coops used for kitchen storage.

Zeleskey said that they stay booked during football weekends and other high-attendance events at the university and in Oxford, while wintertime tends to be a bit slower. The Z, which has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, requires a minimum two-day rental.

Wondering if anyone famous ever stayed there? Lois Chiles, who played the character Holly Goodhead in the James Bond movie “Moonraker,” did one time.

The Z is much more than a business, Zeleskey said.

“We pride ourselves on customer service,” she said. “We are attentive. We check in all guests. We prepare homemade breakfast in the morning, not just a Pop-Tart. We also offer cookies and tea in the afternoon.”

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