Old Flame: A Couple Brings A Bungalow Back To Life

The Dezelans make a habit of spending Friday evenings on their front patio, chatting with people walking to nearby restaurants and bars. If the first show at the Jazz Kitchen gets rave reviews, it’s common for them to pack up and pop over for the second act.

Photo by Tony Valainis

Oh, you’ve got to see my muumuu!” Anne-Marie Dezelan says as she runs to her closet and returns to the kitchen with a floor-length, Thai batik dress that once belonged to her missionary mother. With the addition of new elastic at the waist and repairs to holes, she now jokes about having Muumuu Mondays around her personality-packed SoBro bungalow.

Items like this exist all over the three-bedroom, three-bath, 2,200-square-foot house where she lives with her husband, Marty. Not muumuus, exactly, but masks and hats and crosses and vinyl records. And, like the muumuu, each one has a story—just like the house itself.

In the summer of 2016, Anne-Marie and her husband were living in Meridian Park in a beautiful, old, gable-front house—three floors, double lot, two stories of covered back porches like in the South, where Anne-Marie grew up. It was unusual for the couple to be home at 4 p.m. on a weekday. But on that particular stormy afternoon, the now-retired event planner was changing to work out and Marty was stopping by to check emails in between client visits for his insurance business.

Designed for entertaining, the main floor is alive with personal touches such as signs and a paint-splattered baking sheet on the wall that Anne-Marie’s grandmother, an artist, used as her palette; she painted the piece above the mantel.

Shortly after they walked in the door, an ill-fated lightning strike destroyed their home. Firefighters would save some key possessions, such as vinyl records and Anne-Marie’s grandmother’s paintings, so they could have some of the old when they rebuilt new.

That was the plan. Blueprints were drawn up. And then Anne-Marie stumbled upon a house in SoBro that tugged them in a new direction.

The Dezelans were familiar with the house—it was across the street from their first-ever home together. In 1998, Anne-Marie, a Floridian who followed love to the Circle City, moved into a house on Carrollton Avenue with Marty.

Call it fate. Or good timing. But, almost 20 years later, the couple found themselves halting the planned rebuild of their beloved, grand home and returning to Broad Ripple bungalow life near the “best corner in the world,” 54th Street and College Avenue.

The couple saw the dining room chandelier in a bar in Vermont and offered to buy it.

With direction from Jodi Dezelan Perdue, a designer in Dallas and Marty’s sister, Indy’s Custom Living contractors took the house down to the studs, added eight feet to the front, and made it the couple’s (smaller) dream home.

In 2018, after months of living in a hotel and then a rental house and then a tiny house in the backyard, Anne-Marie and Marty finally moved back to the SoBro corner they so love. Being steps from Fresh Market—the doors on their newly built garage open to the smells of fried chicken and baked goods drifting into the alley—and within a two-block radius of nearly 20 locally owned restaurants and coffee shops comes with a change in square footage, but they say they aren’t missing a thing.

“Our old house was just putting lipstick on a pig. Here, we have everything we need, exactly how we want it, without all the upkeep,” Anne-Marie says of their move to downsize.

“We like to entertain. We like to party,” says the homeowner. “We like to entertain and party.”

The character—and smart layout—of the home makes it feel anything but small. You’re immediately invited into their gregarious life, greeted by an open-concept floor plan of dining, living, and kitchen at the front of the house. A built-in bench doubles as dining room seating, and by moving furniture around, they have managed to fit more than 30 people for holiday dinners between the dining room, living room, study, and kitchen island. At the back, the couple’s bedroom and a same-sized bathroom are tucked away to the side, shrouded in warm, romantic hues and pattern-mixing. Both a back door and a sliding door in the owners’ suite lead to a hardscaped, pandemic-designed outdoor oasis, created by Adam Garvey at Artisan Landscapes. (With several firepits spaced apart, it allowed the Dezelans to have people over at an appropriate social distance last year.) Downstairs, black-and-white striped wallpaper draws guests into a luxurious hotel-like suite, where they pass a full-service beverage bar on the way to a fluffy bed and blackout curtains.

The main suite breaks with convention by devoting equal space to the bedroom and bathroom, separated by sliding doors.

It’s a home purposefully designed for a life of entertaining. And if you know the Dezelans, or know someone who knows them, you know that’s exactly the life they live. As Anne-Marie puts it, “We like to entertain. We like to party. We like to entertain and party.” A symbol of this—a 1910 Steinway piano—sits just inside the front door. It belonged to the Settle family of the Red Key Tavern, a SoBro landmark. The Dezelans are so close to the owners, they have spent many Christmas Eves at the bar with the Red Key’s extended family. The piano is fully restored, and although neither of the Dezelans play, they know it’s a must in a party house. “Every house should have a piano for the time at a Christmas party when someone starts playing and everyone gathers around and breaks out in song.” That kind of thing actually happens in the Dezelans’ life. The kitchen also has two of everything—two ovens, two cooktops, two sinks, two refrigerators (one a bar size).

The home office.

The lively, chatty decor—note signs that start outside on the porch (“Love Grows Best in Little Houses”) and extend to the foyer wall (“Quit Your Meanness”) and a giant “Sweet Tea” placard above the stove—captures the couple’s personality in a real way, but it almost didn’t happen. As Anne-Marie sits in a leopard-print chair, topped with a hodgepodge of tribal-print pillows, next to a cowhide side table flanking a coffee table made from gifted chicken crates, you’d never guess that she considered going “full-blown Joanna Gaines” with the house—lots of white, subway tile, farmhouse finishes.
Ryan Paris at Solomon Paris Antiques and Interior Design helped her find her way. He said, “Did your masks burn? Did your crosses burn? Did your hats burn? No, so what are you doing?”

The Dezelans hardscaped the backyard because they have enough work to do tending a 73-acre property in Tennessee.

Instead of shiplap, you see Anne-Marie and Marty—and all the things they love—quite literally, covering the walls of their home.

“It’s kind of a spoof, but it also isn’t,” she says of the guest bath, where Jesus statues sit next to Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson saint candles and the walls are decorated with plaques of the Ten Commandments and scripture, in a way that doesn’t take itself too seriously. “It’s all so silly, but it also all has meaning.”

Anne-Marie and Marty are full of life, and their home is just the same. Although tragic circumstances led them here, it’s poetic that this little corner of SoBro, where they got their start as newlyweds, is now where they will happily spend the rest of their years.