Interiorssneak peeks

A Bungalow in Memphis, TN for an Artist, a Lawyer & a College Student

by Erin Austen Abbott

Mike and Lauren Prater have a great story. When they met, Lauren was in law school, living in the apartment above Mike. They would leave each other little things by the other’s door, like maybe a craft beer that Mike loved and wanted to share with Lauren or an album from a new band that Lauren heard and wanted Mike to hear. As they soon discovered, they had a very similar aesthetic, a love of travel, a fondness for the same music, and the list went on and on. They were married in Mike’s old apartment, with Lauren entering the space from the steps that connected the two apartments.

When they decided to buy their own home together, they were patient until they found just the right place. On their list was space for Mike, a Fed Ex driver and artist, to have an in-house painting studio, and a room for daughter Mallory when she comes home from college (where she’s a senior at Arizona State). Of utmost importance was a place for them to build on all the things they love together: books, music and art.

The couple knew they wanted to stay in the Mid-town neighborhood of Memphis, TN and that getting a fixer-upper was not out of the question. They settled on a 1931 bungalow, just blocks from the fast-growing Broad Street area of Mid-town. “Our home is a never-ending project,” Mike and Lauren tell us. “We’re far from finished, even though we’ve done so much to it over the past two years. When we moved in it had gold carpeting, gold walls, and gold linoleum. We ripped the carpet out first, then painted and eventually had the linoleum torn out and wood floor restored. We’ve filled the space with pieces that are personal to us — art created by family and friends, furniture we inherited, and treasures we’ve picked up while traveling. We also LOVE music and books, which are an important consideration in our design decisions.”

From the looks of it, what is complete is fully worth the effort. The kitchen, bathroom, and upstairs are still a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy this beautiful bungalow and all the love that has gone into the DIY renovations so far. —Erin

Photography by Reid Mitchell

Image above: Mike and Lauren’s living room is a blend of inherited pieces, treasures gathered together, and art. Mike shares, “The sofa was inherited from my grandparents and we had it reupholstered when we moved into this house. The sconces are from World Market and the coffee table is from Rip It Up, a little vintage shop in Water Valley, Mississippi. The aluminum chair is also vintage, from Flashback, here in Memphis. We found the cowhide at Tandy Leather Co. with a [stash] of found and inherited quilts stacked next to the chair. I painted the Ignuition painting and the blue hand painting is by Lauren’s sister.”

Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Mallory, Ramona the cat, Mike, and Lauren in their living room, on the sofa that once belonged to Mike's grandparents.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The rug is a Native American Indian blanket inherited from my grandparents. The coffee table is vintage Heywood-Wakefield, purchased at Flashback, a local Memphis vintage store. The collection on top consists of objects found at yard sales, boutique shops, and outdoors. The pillow covers are by Czech company Lavmi," Lauren shares.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge

“When we’re downstairs, we probably spend most of our time in this room — it’s where we listen to music and catch up on Game of Thrones. The sculpture and plinth are by Michael. The lamp is vintage and was purchased at Flashback,” Lauren says.

Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The sofa was a theatre prop bought in the 90s when Michael lived in New York (Michael and his friend Gene carried it for blocks!). The pink chair is inherited from Michael's grandparents, reupholstered when we moved into this house. The rug is a flea market find."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The chair is vintage, also purchased at Flashback. It's more comfortable than it looks," Lauren assures.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"We are always adding to our record collection. Music is part of what brought us together and it's a big part of our home. Michael built the shelves for us."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Lauren expresses, "We've never been able to figure out who designed the vintage chair (can anyone tell us?). The bar cart is a flea market find that I painted, and the metal tub belonged to [my] mother. The painting is by Sonny Ortolano."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Sharing more about their home, Lauren says, "We love this view from our bar area looking through the dining room and into the living room. The painting belonged to Lauren's grandparents, and the photo below is by Erin Austen Abbott."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The dining room table and chairs are flea market finds. The pendant lamp is West Elm. The sculpture is by Michael, and consists of stacked pieces called Tote 'Ems. You can stack them in whatever order you choose, so we change them around from time to time."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Having a place for Mallory to come home from college and feel at home was really important to the Praters. "This is Mallory's room, and a guest bedroom when she is not home. The bed is West Elm, the pendant lamp is from IKEA, and the nightstand is one we designed and built ourselves out of cinderblocks and wood. The pink rug is one Michael brought back from a trip to Morocco. The photographs are by Erin Austen Abbott."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The ikat pillow cover is from Pottery Barn, and the dotted sheets are from West Elm," Lauren says.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The dresser was inherited from my grandparents, and Mallory has arranged a collection of her cameras on top. The painting is by Michael," Lauren says.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
A sweet little area of the bedroom. Lauren shares more about the space, "The photograph was taken by Kerri Snead. The desk is antique and belonged to [my] mother. The pink chair is a Wegner knock-off found on Overstock."
A peek at the upstairs bedroom, not yet complete. Beautiful, vintage finds add to a cozy space, painted black, with lots of natural light spilling in.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"Between the house and Michael's studio is a covered patio. The table and benches are originally from an Austrian beer garden, found at a local antique mall," Lauren explains.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"The chairs are a flea market find, and the wood burning stove was found on Craigslist. We love to build a fire when the weather's right."
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Mike, a painter, works from his studio, a detached building, in the backyard. Previously, he had to work in the dining room of his former apartment. Being able to spread out has changed the way he produces art.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
Some of Mike's work in his backyard studio.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
The floor plan of the Prater Family's 1931 Memphis bungalow.
Mike and Lauren Prater on Design*Sponge
"What we love about our home - ignuition! Part ignorance, part intuition. That's how we create the environment - the sanctuary - that we live in. It's ours, and we love it, imperfections and all," Lauren shares.

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  • I love their style. A home full of art and color that does not take itself too seriously is my favorite kind.

  • Would you mind sharing the navy blue paint color in the living room? It’s so clean and classic. Thanks!

  • Um, can I come live there? This is my favorite of all time! The mix of materials and textures, the colors, scale, proportions and ratios (of variety vs. repetition, density vs. spare “negative space” ) show a painter’s eye! Such wonderful little touches — like the Frida and Diego in the window, I would never think to hang something like that there, and it is perfect. I love the sculpture in the room with the dining table and blue and white china planter too. I

  • I love the collection of found and new, the repurposed and reinvented alongside the created. You can see each person of this family in every room. What a wonderful collection of life! So many interesting pieces and colors and so much heart. I think when you are working on a fixer upper, the story that unfolds, like this one, is a true treasure.