The latest conveniences mix with traces of Louisiana's heritage at this fabulous Country French retreat.
Our Louisiana Idea House is just a few months old, but it's built of aged cypress, copper, and brick. These materials give
strength and permanence to every aspect of the design by architect Ben Patterson. Its brick archways, columns, and stucco
exterior recall some of the state's time-honored building traditions. With 4,544 square feet of living areas, Emerson Hill
easily accommodates the activities of today's busy family.
Squire Creek, a residential community in Choudrant (near Ruston) is home to Emerson Hill. For years, it has been James Davison's dream to give the growing area its own golf club surrounded by beautiful wooded home sites. Bringing the project to life has been a family affair, with James; wife Dianne; daughter Catherine; and sons Steve, Mark, Todd, and Jim involved in all aspects of the development.
To accentuate the French Country character of the house, landscape architects Jeffrey Carbo and Kevin Neal placed a parterre garden for herbs, vegetables, and flowers in front. Kevin says, "Farther away from the house, the plantings are more naturalistic, blending with the wooded surroundings." Evergreens provide screening at the sides of the property. Landscape contractor Billy Warren softened the stacked stone front wall with lantana, 'Victoria Blue' salvia, and other perennials. "Nature looks good when it has a nice clean edge to it," says Jeffrey. "The lawn borders make the wooded areas all the more interesting."
The foyer, with its pine ceiling, chandelier, and interior brick arch, underscores the house's charming regional character.
Designer Connie Smith Howard and assistant Jessica Gilmore achieved a wonderful balance of comfort and style. "The building
materials dictated a warm palette," says Connie. "The golds in the pine floors, the green of the window frames, and the reds
in the brick are where we started."
Ben incorporated some of the architectural elements that homeowners love most about his designs. "It's always a nice feature to open the front door and see all the way through the house," he explains. "I like to avoid narrow hallways, use taller door openings, and try to get windows on two walls of a room to let in more light."
In the adjacent family room, the inviting seating group focuses on the fireplace. The plush sofa and armchairs flank an oversize
coffee table. A game table and chairs are angled in a corner near French doors that open to a back porch. This area is furnished
with lounge chairs and a compact dining table and chairs.
Just steps away from the dining room and kitchen, in the butler's pantry, drawers and cabinets accommodate china, silver,
linens, and other essentials for entertaining. A built-in wine rack and wine cooler as well as a cabinet fitted with wooden
bars for storing pressed tablecloths and other linens maximize storage.
Another wide brick arch frames the opening to the dining room, a generous space with light gold walls enhanced by artwork
and richly upholstered dining chairs. Connie says, "The shirred red silk window treatments are almost like ballgowns, with
asymmetrical gold overlays cut like butterfly wings."
To give the dining room its own masterpiece, Connie designed a painted "rug" that lets the color and grain of the wood floor shine through. By applying wood stain and paint to the bare pine boards, decorative painters Marsha Nealy and Shelley Edgerton created an ornate center medallion surrounded by trailing vines and a scalloped border. To create your own version of this rug, use stencils from a crafts store. Apply color with acrylic paints.
The family room's built-in shelves on one side of the fireplace contain a television cabinet made of reclaimed cypress. Its
finish gives the appearance of a vintage free-standing armoire. Open shelves painted to match the trimwork provide a nice
contrast and keep decorative items on display.
Builder Robert Stone used aged cypress, salvaged from an old mill, to construct the kitchen cabinets and for facing some of
the appliances, such as the ice-maker and refrigerator. The reclaimed wood was cut, planed, and then made into cabinetry.
A light finish lets the natural grain remain visible.
Wire-brushed black granite forms the countertops, and tumbled beige stone creates the backsplash. A brick arch, built to house the 48-inch stainless steel gas stove, mimics the arches that connect the kitchen and keeping room. Access to the parterre garden is through the friends' entry, just off the kitchen.
In addition to adorning the walls with artwork, Connie arranged decorative accessories on them. Above the table in the keeping
room, shimmering green plates seem to float across a red wall, dividing a pair of framed prints. In the foyer, a collection
of small mirrors hangs from a metal rod, brightening the wall area above the wooden bench.
Several well-designed areas bridge the space between the keeping room and garage. The office, fitted with cabinets given a
distressed finish, provides two computer stations. Complete with a farmhouse sink and marble countertop, the laundry room
has the appearance of a 1930s washroom but is equipped with modern conveniences. The friends' entry, with cypress cabinets
to hide family members' gear, connects all of these areas like a spacious hallway.
To create a parterre, brick paths surround four square beds located at the front of the house. These spaces are convenient
for growing herbs for cooking and flowers for cutting. Create your own by planting a few pots outside your door.
Near the garage, there's a small workroom for arranging flowers and potting plants. The countertop consists of poured concrete
that is tinted with vivid green colorants. Given a rock-face edge, this thick work surface looks decades old. The slender
stainless steel trough-shaped sink is perfect for both conditioning freshly cut flowers and cleaning golf clubs.
As alternatives to window boxes, the landscape architects designed wooden plant shelves. The bracketed supports attach to the house at the base of the windowsills. To anchor the terra-cotta pots and allow for drainage, pieces of 1-inch-diameter pipe are attached with epoxy into holes cut in the wood. Then the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots are set onto the pipes.
A dramatic red-striped wallpaper enriches the master bedroom, which is softened with creamy bed linens and floral print window
treatments. Flanked by a small sitting area, the oversize window overlooks a portion of the community's golf course.
The bathroom features a stuccoed arch and double vanities. Tilework in this adjoining space was designed to resemble marble.
A glass shower and whirlpool tub impart a luxurious feel. Two large closets fitted with drawers and double tiers of hanging
rods make it easy to keep this entire area well-organized.
Instead of hanging continuous mirrors above vanities, a 1⁄2-inch-thick piece of plate glass mirror was cut into 12- x 18-inch diamond shapes. The pieces were glued to the walls within wood frames; small rosettes were attached at the diamond points. On top of each surface hangs a framed mirror.
The study is a restful retreat with built-in bookshelves and chocolate brown walls. For a cooling contrast, window panels
and valances are an aqua print trimmed in brown silk. Chocolate-and-aqua silk pillows highlight the camelback love seat; a
velvet rectangular pillow glistens with decorative aqua-and-taupe fringe. With a large writing desk, as well as a comfortable
chair and ottoman resting in a sunny corner, this is the perfect spot to do a little work or to just read and relax. Shimmering
glass tile and faux-finished walls in the adjoining bath pick up the watery blue-green of the study.
The children's rooms are located on the second floor. Apple green, chosen for walls in the girl's room, makes a yummy background for fabrics boldly printed in citrus and berry shades.
In the boy's room, pale olive trimwork edges the greenish-gray walls. Rich suede cloth dresses the twin beds. The beaded-board
ceiling is antiqued with a faint green stain.
Beyond the backyard lie a rustic wooded area and a golf cart path that border the course. Developer Steve Davison says, "The creek at the rear of the lot provides a natural boundary, helping to retain privacy and preserve the beautiful view."
Instead of using a typical vanity cabinet for the powder room, the designer had a rustic cypress table built to hold the old tin pan that serves as the bathroom sink; a basket rests on the base. With its distressed finish, the window frame mirror brightens the space.
The second-floor playroom opens to a deep porch. Wooden daybeds, treated to withstand outdoor use and outfitted with pillows,
let this open-air area function as a sleeping porch. Fabric shades sewn from a weather-resistant fabric can be raised or lowered
between the porch posts.
And to make activities mosquito free, this porch and all outdoor entertaining areas are equipped with tiny spray heads mounted in the ceiling. The system dispenses a mist of nontoxic chemicals that repels insects. Tubing that runs through attic connects the spray heads to a chemical storage tank housed behind the garage.