Story by Emily Williams • Photos by Lee Walls Jr.
When Deanna Pizitz married her husband, Jeff, 3 1/2 years ago, she said “I do” to more than a man. She said yes to his home on Southwood Road, as well as his devotion to Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
With her kids well into adulthood, Deanna said the addition of their spaniel, Kingston, has made the transition into her husband’s more than 5,000-square-foot home all the better.
“When we got married, I thought, let’s just sell this house and get a smaller house, because it’s just the two of us,” she said.
Her husband’s love of the home he had owned for more than 15 years prevailed, and the couple reached a temporary treaty that involved redecorating much of the house. Deanna has given into her newfound love of Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
“I guess since my children are grown, I picked up Kingston in San Diego and you would have thought I had birthed him. I was almost in tears when I picked him up,” she said.
He is now a sufficiently spoiled little dog, according to Deanna.
“He goes everywhere with us. He either goes to work with Jeff or he’ll go with me,” she said.
Now Kingston is emulating his people in another area. He tried his own paw at decorating by partnering with local artist Tom Findlay to create a painting as part of the Picasso Pets fundraiser.
Kingston has certainly seen enough redecorating work to have the basics down by now.
Shortly after settling in, the Pizitzes started making changes to the house, which had had little to no major work for years. The first project was a full renovation of the kitchen.
“We completely gutted it,” she said. “It is completely my style.”
The space is open and nearly every detail is white, from the marble countertops to the cabinetry.
Polar Opposite Tastes
Deanna said there were a few disagreements during the design process, since she and her husband have almost polar opposite tastes in interior design.
An avid collector of antiques and art, Jeff favors things that are dark and ornate and, according to Deanna, can recount the story of just about any item he has on display.
The colors and lines in the kitchen scream Deanna, but Kingston’s favorite addition is a “kennel cabinet” that Jeff suggested. The cabinet is fitted with a dog bed and the doors include a metal lattice that allows Kingston to keep an eye out for falling food.
While she won in the kitchen, Deanna said that each of the other rooms she has had her hands on became a marriage of the couple’s differing styles.
Having expert advice from an interior designer, Dana Holcombe of Homewood, made the difference for the couple.
In the den, light and neutral furnishings in a variety of textures were matched with a pair of antique pillars Jeff owned. The greenish hues of the old-world pieces complimented the muted teal of an oversized ottoman. A white stone wall panel that the couple purchased in Palm Beach hangs above a white, stone fireplace.
Minimal work was done in the home office, with Deanna bringing in updated upholstery and adding wood paneling to the walls over the grasscloth wallpaper.
“It completely changed the look of the room,” she said. “The paneling looks like it has always been there.”
The one room Deanna hasn’t left her mark on is the formal living room, which has remained fully in Jeff’s style. The space is reminiscent of a museum, with antique pieces and artwork at every turn.
“A lot of people love this room,” she said. “If I got my hands on it, I would change the color, take down the curtains … . It’s very formal, so it doesn’t get used very often.”
The space showcases Jeff’s passion for history. A green couch against one of the walls and a cloisonne vase by the fireplace belonged to his grandparents, who inspired his love of antiques as a young boy.
“When we got married, he said, ‘I’ll let you have the den and the kitchen and the bedroom and your sitting room.’ Then, I did take over the dining room, but I don’t think I’ll ever touch this room,” Pizitz said.
Just as Deanna makes her mark on their home, her husband has had influence on her.
She has taken an interest in learning more about art. Though she isn’t as much of a fan of 19th century realism as her better half, she’s discovering which artists she favors and has even purchased a piece for their home.
“He has taught me a lot about art and a lot about antiques. I really have a new appreciation for it,” she said.
A Cuddle With a Pup
In addition to helping hone her growing appreciation for art, Deanna’s husband introduced her to Hand in Paw. Jeff served on the board some time ago, she said, and had one of his Cavalier King Charles spaniels paint in the organization’s Picasso Pets event some years back.
Now, Deanna is serving on the board and has developed a passion for supporting the organization’s animal-therapy programs.
“What’s most important to me about Hand in Paw is what they do,” she said. “I’ve always known that dogs and animals, in general, are so calming to people.”
Her stepfather suffers from Lewy body dementia, and Deanna has seen firsthand the effect that Kingston has when she takes him for a visit.
“These animals don’t discriminate and they don’t act differently based on how you look, which makes them a calming force for everybody,” she said.
With Deanna’s new position on the Hand in Paw board, it’s Kingston’s turn to contribute. Proceeds from the painting Findlay will create with Kingston will benefit the organiza- tion’s mission to take animal-assisted therapy programs to the community, whether it’s taking therapy dogs into a hospital to meet with pediatric patients or visiting a nursing home to provide a sense of calm to memory loss patients.
“It’s so important for everyone to have that sense of calm from an animal,” Deanna said. “Even when I’m stressed out, I just cuddle with Kingston.”
The couple plans to hang Findlay and Kingston’s collaboration in their beach house, which is their favorite getaway. ❖
Hand in Paw’s Picasso Pets
Throughout the summer local artists have teamed up with the pets of public figures and Hand in Paw supporters to create unique works of art for the organization’s annual fundraiser Picasso Pets.
Mountain Brook residents Donna Jernigan, left with Sampson, and Deanna Piztiz, above with Kingston, are two of the pet owners who have commissioned paintings their dogs have helped paint. In this issue, we take you inside their elegant homes to see where Kingston and Sampson must surely draw artistic inspiration from. See stories beginning on page 21.
In addition to funds from their purchases supporting the organization’s training and animal therapy programs, the participants gain a unique work of art to add to the walls of their home.
The participants will end the summer by celebrating at Hand in Paw’s 17th annual Picasso Pets event, beginning at 6 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Harbert Center.
For more information, visit handinpaw.org.