The Cabin in the Woods

Betty and Jack Harpole traded in boardrooms and classrooms for serenity in the wilds of Webster County

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Matt Garner

When Betty and Jack Harpole began looking for a weekend getaway in 2006 near Eupora, Betty’s childhood home, they had no premonition of how their lives would soon evolve.

Betty, a retired school teacher, and Jack, the former CFO of South Mississippi Electric Co., were captivated by an unconventional candidate, a rustic contemporary design created by architect John Beard as his personal residence, in the rural community of Spring Hill.

Beard, a 1991 graduate of Mississippi State University and an avid preservationist, built the original structure, repurposing everything salvageable from an old dogtrot farmhouse on the property.

The idiosyncratic design was light years from the Harpoles’ traditional brick house back in Hattiesburg, but that was part of the enchantment of what Jack dubbed their “cabin in the woods.”

“John really had such a vibe going here,” said Betty, standing in the great room, under a rusted corrugated tin ceiling that crowns the connected living, dining and kitchen areas.

As eye-catching as the ceiling, a mono-slope roof soars upward from the front of the home to peak at the back atop a screened outdoor living/dining space ideal for relaxed entertaining — or wildlife watching, with that morning cup of coffee.

The outdoor room offers a wide vista of lush landscape and its centerpiece, a mature mulberry tree that draws a steady parade of birds, squirrels, raccoons, deer and fox.

Knowing they would need additional space when family and friends came to visit, the Harpoles enlisted Beard and his then newly-formed firm of Beard + Riser Architects PLLC in Greenwood to design it.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Photographed by Matt Garner.

The result won the firm the Best of Show Award from the Mississippi chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2010. And the expanded home won the hearts of the Harpoles, who uprooted from South Mississippi and made the Spring Hill house their full-time residence.

One design element important to Beard and the Harpoles was to incorporate generous views of the surrounding landscape via glass doors and ample windows in the house.

“It’s kind of like living in a treehouse,” laughed Betty, who enjoys working outdoors as much as her husband does.

When it came to the interior, Betty was her own decorator.

“My daughter told me, ‘Now Mother, you don’t need another Southern Living home,’” she shared, smiling. “So, I sold my rice bed and my French Country furniture, and we just took off where John had started.”

The “cabin in the woods,” in all its reclaimed heart pine, cypress and tin charm, has inspired more than a design award. The Harpoles have been repurposed in a way as well.

Since falling in love with their new home, Betty has taken up painting. Her expressive canvases hang in most rooms. And Jack is able to indulge in his favorite pastimes, hunting and fishing. That is, when he’s not following his muse in the workshop.

Five years ago, the active couple set out to find a weekend retreat and, in the process, seem to have discovered the genuine “getaway” they were destined for all along. 

Photographed by Matt Garner.

Photographed by Matt Garner.