Photographed by Matt Garner.

Collective Soul

Less is more? Not in this Starkville couple’s home, where a lifetime of collecting is celebrated every day

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Matt Garner

“ … Saves everything attractive to her, pretty leaves, colored paper, boxes … ”

Those words penned in neat, prophetic cursive by Wanda Thorne’s mother in her daughter’s baby book could hardly have been more prescient. Like a Delphic oracle, they foretold  the future.

Wanda and Mike Thorne collect. Or, as this Starkville couple from the world of academia might genially inform you, Wanda collects and Mike indulges her.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Since moving to their quiet neighborhood in 1970, the Thornes have built five additions to their house, expanding the original footprint from 1,570 to 2,850 square feet — almost enough space to hold their beloved books and assembled treasures that tell of roads traveled and passions pursued.

“I’m a hopeless romantic,” Wanda admitted, touching here a delicate ivory cameo, or there a painting by Navajo artist R.C. Gorman. Every space is filled with more than the eye can behold on merely one excursion. Eclectic collections of china, Italian mosaics, miniature porcelain English cottages, millefiori paperweights, teapots — even model cars and Teddy bears — all have stories to tell.

In this wondrous warren, each space exudes its own personality, from a handsome family room devoted, in part, to hunt prints, British royals and long-ago saints, to a fiesta of a screened porch that invites evening hors d’oeuvres and intimate conversation.

Wanda, who retired as publications editor in Mississippi State University’s Office of Agricultural Communications, is a fan of the late architect A. Hays Town.

“He believed each room is separate, an entity to itself that could stand alone. I think that’s my philosophy, too,” she said. That penchant extends even to the garden, where sitting areas or, “secret rooms,” and fanciful outbuildings intrigue visitors.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

The Thornes’ interest in art and lifelong learning is apparent throughout their home. In true salon style, artwork covers every wall. Bookcases, many built by Mike, are prominent.

All five additions have been carried out according to Wanda’s vision and drawn plans.

“I have very strong opinions about my tastes,” said the soft-spoken community volunteer, who delights in adding a touch of playfulness or whimsy to each room.

And Mike?

On the subject of additions, the professor emeritus of psychology at MSU offered with dry wit, “I often start out by saying ‘over my dead body.’ And then, when it becomes obvious it’s going to go ahead and happen anyway, I’ll get on board.”

Wanda concedes their style may be unusual, considered a bit quirky by some.

“I know if a minimalist came in here, he’d probably have an anxiety attack, but for us, it’s very personalized,” she said. “It makes me feel cozy.”

When asked, the two generally agree that their days of additions and renovations are done, at least for now.

“But,” noted Wanda, with an amused smile in Mike’s direction, “there are those three outbuildings in the garden … .”

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Photographed by Matt Garner.