The Phillipses knew right away they found the perfect home site

Beth and Bobby Phillips were driving through Jefferson Place four years ago when they saw a Realtor planting a “for sale” sign on a vacant lot, a rarity in the subdivision.

It was love at first sight.

“We literally had him take the sign up,” Bobby Phillips said.

For some time, the Phillipses had been searching for the perfect spot to build a smaller home. They had lived for years in Stanford Place in a 5,000-square-foot house on a large lot with a tennis court. Their son was grown with three sons of his own.

“We loved our house, but it outgrew us,” Beth Phillips said. “We wanted a smaller house, but we wanted the character, personality and essence of the old house.”

So they gave the plans from their Stanford Place house to architect Andy McDonald, of Mandeville, to use as the basic layout for their new home, with the bedrooms at the front and the living area in the back.

“Not everybody likes that,” Beth Phillips said. “We wanted to be able to sit in the living room and look outside,” Bobby Phillips said.

What McDonald came up with was a more casual, open plan with no formal living and dining rooms, but with a large family room that opens to a kitchen large enough to accommodate the family’s dining room table. The living room and kitchen both overlook the large backyard.

To instill their new home with character and style, the couple opted to utilize reclaimed materials.

Most notably, some 80,000 bricks used in the home and surrounding wall were salvaged from the Biloxi, Miss., area, from buildings destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Acadian Custom Cabinets used cypress from an 1880s-vintage house in French Settlement for the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen ceiling is bead board from the old Live Oak School, and large wooden beams in the kitchen and family room once graced a New York train station.

Bobby Phillips supervised the entire project. However, when the home was near completion, he was unhappy with one thing — there was just too much backyard.

“After a year of construction, he called in the brick man and bricked in the whole backyard,” Beth Phillips said with a laugh.

What resulted is a gigantic brick patio surrounded by small, easy-to-maintain beds.

For Beth Phillips, the must-have for her new home was a screen porch off her kitchen.

“He fought me tooth and toenail about that porch,” she said with a laugh. “And now he loves it more than I do.”

The home was designed with lots of storage. There’s a sports closet and a wonderful pantry Beth Phillips calls the “starring room of the house.” Concealed in a closet at the center of the home is an electric lift that takes you straight to the attic, where Christmas decorations, luggage, files and a few pieces of furniture are easily accessible. The house is filled with family furniture, paintings, photos and collectibles.

“Everything has a story,” said Beth Phillips, who only bought three new pieces for the new house.

Most of the paintings were done by her great-grandfather. She especially cherishes two pieces of art ­— a framed quilt made by her fourth great-grandmother and a painting of North Broadway Street in her hometown of Fountain City, Tenn. The painting, a housewarming gift from her brother and two sisters, shows their father’s drug store.

The Phillipses are a devout couple who see their new home as a blessing.

“The way it all worked out, it was the hand of the Lord,” Beth Phillips said.