Providence on the Island
Mechelle and Brad Terral’s Pittman-Houge Island Camp
article by Maré Brennan | photography by Martin G Meyers
Today is my lucky day as I meet with Mechelle Terral who’s offered to take me to “The Island,” also known as Pittman-Hogue Island, where she and her husband Brad have recently completed construction on their new hunting camp on an outlet of the Mississippi River.
Driving past newly harvested cropland, bare fields take on an earthy hue punctuated only by cotton modules, treelines and country churches with peeling whitewashed walls. Just past Panola Pepper company and acres of pecan orchards, we travel up and over a tall river levee with the windows down as the crunch of gravel under tires adds authenticity to the ruggedness of the experience. We pass “Camp City,” where all the older camps on the Island are located, navigating our way to the Terral’s Dan Tyree custom-designed camp. “We wanted it to look like a tugboat and have the feel of 1950’s camp house,” explains Mechelle as she cuts the engine as we park near the camp, which is raised on stilts to protect from the Mississippi’s high waters.
Underneath the structure, an outdoor kitchen is protected from the elements. Stone sourced from Arkansas Stone is used generously throughout the outdoor living areas, from the kitchen to the circular fire pit expertly crafted by stone mason Jerry Swafford.
Above the front door hangs a nameplate “Terral” made from cypress and large bullet casings by family friend Mark Scurria. The spacious front porch features Restoration Hardware’s anodized aluminum nautical sconces with cages to protect light bulbs and handcrafted rocking chairs.
Thomas Woods, Brad’s cousin, served as contractor for the project. “I gathered stuff for a year,” laughs Mechelle of the building process and her inspiration for this one-of-a-kind camp. “The first thing we ordered for the camp was a vintage looking turquoise stove and refrigerator. I knew these really bright appliances would set the tone for a different look for the camp.
The master bedroom, a study in contrasts, juxtaposes rustic hand-pieced walls of reclaimed wood with silvery metallic bedding and a dreamlike flokati rug from World Market and sequined pillows from Paul Michael Company. At bedside are a pair of gold leaf wheat lamps, heirlooms from Brad’s grandparents in Lake Providence, which up the glamour quotient in this stunning bedroom. Mirrored bedside tables, a Stein Mart find, emphasize the Hollywood Regency vibe. Monroe-based designer Clowe Wright designed the shimmery, metallic silver floor-to-ceiling curtains in the master. On one bedroom wall, Mechelle, a consummate artist with a propensity for using nature as a starting point for her creations, has hung a series of deer skulls and antlers which she has embellished with turquoise, crystals and even a Bicentennial belt buckle.
A custom designed, sliding barn door made of reclaimed wood separates the master bedroom from the luxurious, en suite bathroom. The contractor found an antique door track system and modified it to work for the homeowner. “Thomas Woods, let me tell you,” says Mechelle, “That man has a very artistic eye. We had so much fun – and we agreed on everything. And if I wanted something, he would find it and make it look damn good.” Woods and the homeowner would travel to Ruston’s Rustiques to find the antique beadboard found on all ceilings and porches throughout the home as well as the reclaimed wood found throughout the camp. Large plank flooring retains its beautiful patina, oiled but not finished. “I wanted the floors to feel like an old country store,” says Mechelle.
For the master bath, Mechelle chose rectangular oversized tiles with a metallic finish for flooring and to line walls of the generous shower which features floating glass doors, deep blue mosaic tile accents and a ceiling mounted rain showerhead that features LED lighting that indicates the temperature of your water. Blue jeweled hardware on custom vanity cabinets hand-finished by Vicky and Jimmy Jones with a soapstone countertop and his and hers square sinks create a rejuvenating oasis.
Custom Carpets was Mechelle’s source for tile throughout the camp. In the downstairs guest bathroom, Mechelle chose decorative Italian tiles which create a cheerful border above an elegant bath tiled with white subway tiles with a distinctive matte finish. An ikat shower curtain plays off the colors found in the Italian tiles. On the bathroom wall hangs a hand lettered sign framed in river birch bark for Mechelle’s nephew’s deer skinning service, Big Dave’s Skinning.
In the downstairs guest room, four enormous bucks taken in Kansas provide a focal point above the rustic bed, which was a purchase from Crazy Bob’s Furniture in Tallulah. Mechelle designed and created the gourd lamp, which she wired herself. Brad’s bow hangs on one wall as does a Mississippi River photo taken near Sondheimer when Brad and his friend and fellow adventurer, Skeeter Wilks, decided to go down the Mississippi in a john boat. “I took that photo the day they took off for New Orleans,” says Mechelle remembering how the men made their way to the Big Easy and how the wives had to go pick them up, dirty and victorious from their days as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Transoms over doorways, one of Brad’s many style contributions to the camp’s design, let valuable light permeate interior rooms. Says Mechelle of her husband, “Brad notices everything and is very detail oriented and had the great idea to add molding between sets of windows to make them look beefier.” Vintage-looking, porcelain doorknobs add an eclectic authenticity to the rooms.
In the camp’s foyer is a wall-sized map of “The Island” showing waterways, roads, trails and deer stand positions along with a built-in gun cabinet. Just beyond the gun cabinet, Mechelle gold leafed a European-mounted buck and hung it within a gilded, carved frame. “This was my “trophy” buck,” tells Mechelle of accidentally taking this buck which didn’t meet the strict requirements for harvesting which resulted in the loss of her hunting privileges for a year. Built-in’s under the stairs feature a prized gator head and family photos. An old International Harvester tractor hood from Mechelle’s daddy’s shed becomes industrial art and a conversation piece when placed on the camp’s wall. An extra large globe light illuminates the foyer and staircase which leads to upstairs guest rooms.
At the top of the stair landing, a set of mid-century twin beds which belonged Brad’s daddy provide ample room for younger guests. Mechelle stripped the beds of their honey-lacquered finish, giving them a more rustic, down-to-earth feel. “My boys used these beds, and now they are here.” Tailored coverlets from World Market and grain sack pillows from Paul Michael Company create a daybed look. A patriotic flag-painted lawn chair, red chalk painted chest and an Aztec kilim rug in rugged shades of red, white, blue, brown and tan pull the room together. It is in this space that windows are most often opened for a cross breeze that feels like you are really camping out of doors.
An upstairs hallway leads to a bathroom and bedroom which reveals a secret hideaway balcony that overlooks Bunch’s Chute. The upstairs balcony is floored with blue stone and lounge chairs offer a vantage point to view nature from above.
In the living room, the custom fireplace with hand-stacked stones by mason Jerry Swafford creates a perfect focal point for Brad’s trophy elk taken in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Says Mechelle of the unique fireplace, “Brad and I cut and pasted fireplaces we liked to reach the final design, which is wrapped in reclaimed planks that taper as it reaches to the ceiling. It’s a piece of art in itself.”
Mechelle’s inventive use of fabric choices allowed the family to recycle a beloved sofa. “I had this huge great neutral couch that we’d had since our kids were little. I went to Fabulous Fabric and started picking out fabrics.” The fabric used on the bottom cushions is a turquoise animal print; while the back cushions are covered in a multi-hued fabric reminiscent of a rag rug. Throughout the camp Mechelle determined ways to save on furnishings in order to splurge on a few key touches.
In the living room, Clowe Wright designed ikat panels to edge windows, adding color and softness to the room without compromising light. Seating arrangements around the fireplace are generous and include a linen sofa from Paul Michael Company, an extra wide leather chair with nailhead trim and a turquoise stool with cowhide top.
Light from a large plate glass window bathes the open concept Great Room which includes the kitchen, eating area and living room. With an abundance of windows in the kitchen and living room, art and objects find a home nestled above cabinets. New Orleans paintings, decorative plates from Mexico, old ice coolers and a cute crawfish find a home above the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen countertops are black granite with a soft matte finish. Two pendant lights, which began their “lives” at Paul Michael Company as candlesticks, were repurposed and wired by contractor Thomas Woods to accommodate Edison bulbs and hang above the kitchen island. It is here in the kitchen that the 50’s camp house feel comes to life. White subway tile with a matte, rougher surface serve as the backsplash as the Elmira Stove Works oven range and fridge add pops of color that set the tone for the space.
Near the dining table, the art that brought the whole camp project into focus for Mechelle is prominently featured. “Brad and I were in Santa Rosa, Florida, and I walked across the street after dinner to an art gallery where I found this painting of a finger pointing with a taut rubber band with the words, ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’ on it. I thought it summed up the whole 50’s/hunting camp vibe in one painting,” says Mechelle.
A generous back porch, complete with infrared space heaters as well as ceiling fans to use depending on the weather, has steps leading to the gentle sloping banks of Bunch’s Chute off the Mississippi River. A gathering spot for family and friends during hunting season and beyond, this outdoor living area features custom made Adirondack chairs are made all the more comfortable with bright orange pillows found at West Brothers in Delhi. Drinks are often served from the turquoise bar and counter stools while the Big Green Egg Cooker is called into service. Hand-hewn and notched, reclaimed beams throughout the porch and home were sourced at Rustiques.
A plantation bell from Rustiques was installed so that kids could start a new tradition of ringing the bell when they get a deer. First and foremost a hunting camp, Mechelle tells the story of how she first got hooked on the sporting life. “When my boys were younger, we left church one day. I remember I had on go-go boots and a long skirt. Brad was trying to get our oldest son to start hunting. He was probably about 10 years old. Well, we were going straight from church to get into a stand early. I would sit with them in a stand so they could hunt. That particular day, the boys were in the back fighting, as boys do, and I told Brad to ‘put me out.’ Nobody else wanted to hunt at that point. So I put on bibs and a jacket and got up in a stand by myself. I sat up there, and it was so peaceful and pretty. You are just anticipating what’s going to come out of the woods. From then on, I started loving the hunt.”
Of their new camp on the exclusive Pittman-Hogue Island, Mechelle says, “The Island is very family oriented. On any given weekend, you’ll find kids on four-wheelers, with wives and children everywhere. It’s just a neat community. Brad and I even started riding our bikes around the island. The other day we biked up on a doe and her baby. They just looked at us like, ‘What are y’all?’ They were so confused!”
One thing is for sure, this creative and innovative couple will never lack for adventurous spirit, fueling their passions for the outdoors and family in this island setting that serves as base camp for the best of memories.