This Louisiana Homecoming, Years in the Making, Proves That Every House Has a Story

At 15, Cassie Condrey never imagined life would lead her back to Lake Providence, Louisiana—until one summer it did.

In a childhood scrapbook, there's a photograph that was taken at Ms. Martha's day care; my husband, Pete, and I are both in it. Nearly three decades later, we decided to make a life together. Our daughter, who's now 3, is about how old we were in that picture and reminds me of those two children, familiar in every way.

The pull to return home to Lake Providence, Louisiana, was at first gentle. Pete was in Denver then, and I was in New Orleans; we both loved where we lived. Yet the pull was there. We'd had beautiful childhoods with loving families who were close friends. We'd grown up with horses, our grandfathers' gardens, and a lake in our backyards. We had each spent a decade traveling and searching for lives that made sense to us, and the ones that were beginning to take shape would've seemed impossible at 15.

1950s Mid-Century House in Lake Providence, LA
Hector Manuel Sanchez

One Fourth of July, Pete and I were both home, and Mullady Crigler, our high school English teacher and still a dear friend, was also in town. We went for a drive, and she asked me to go down a road I'd nearly forgotten existed. Then she said, "Why don't you pull into that driveway?" There was ivy hanging from live oaks and the coolest carport attached to an untouched 1952 mid-century house. I remembered it from childhood as being full of bookshelves—it was the Hester house. Ms. Mullady grew up with the Hesters' middle daughter; I was close to the mother's great-niece. She said, "This looks like a writer's home." It wasn't the first time she had provided some light for my path. Pete proposed a month later in its backyard.

While selling us their parents' home, the three Hester daughters seemed to travel back in time to the girls they'd been when they were growing up here. Their stories were still very much with them. I couldn't help but hope that one day my children would feel as these women did—with an attachment so tangible that I felt it too. I still catch myself calling it the Hester house. When Pete and I were tasked with naming the three live oaks, listed in the Registry of the Live Oak Society, we both said, "After the daughters." One Carol, one Edna, and one Val.

Someone once told me that home is memory. Yes, but it's also everything. Just this evening, I cut camellias from a bush and drove down country roads to lay them on my grandmother's grave. Her namesake—Mildred, our daughter, Milly—came home to this house. We lost my grandmother to COVID-19. Home for us has been a return to the values that shaped us, as well as a place of solace. It's been the backdrop for the loss as much as it has been for the joys, and that is as it should be.

1950s Mid-Century House Front Entry
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

Welcome Local Touches

One of the first design decisions I made here was this cypress door, custom built by The Woodwright Shop in Covington. The reeded-glass sidelight is original to the house and keeps the area bright. The brick wall is carried from the exterior and provides continuity with the interior.

1950s Mid-Century House Library
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

Make Books Beautiful Accessories

Pete and I are both voracious readers, so bookshelves were a requirement. Our local cabinetmaker designed these for us, and my brother made the metal supports beneath the wood. This is one of the first things you see after walking in our front door, and it says a lot about who we are. The original walls, made of cottonwood milled down the road, were stained darker to hide imperfections that have come with time.

Hold onto Storied Pieces

When we landed on our renovation plan, there was no place for these mahogany doors, which were original to the house but no longer worked with our changes. Instead of parting with them, I walked around the empty home until it just clicked: They must go here. Val, one of the Hesters' daughters, later told me that was where the doors had initially been.

1950s Mid-Century House Open Living Room and Dining Room
In the living room the painting by Louisianan Rebecca Rebouché was one of my first purchases. Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

Let Nature Be a Great Neighbor

Milly and I spend the first minutes of every morning in living room chairs, talking about all of the animals on the lake bank and in the cypress trees—the squirrels, blue herons, cardinals, egrets, ducks, and pelicans. During the warm summer months, she loves to help me feed the orioles and hummingbirds.

1950s Mid-Century House Updated Kitchen
This painting by Louisianan Rebecca Rebouché was one of my first purchases.

Maximize Your Space

The Hesters' daughters said that every time their father visited with the architect before finalizing the house plans, he would return with even smaller dimensions for the kitchen, much to their mother's dismay. People ask me all the time if I wish I had more space here. Well, I actually believe the galley is the greatest layout possible because everything is within reach. This was the darkest room in the house, but adding the skylights really changed that. Now we have plenty of beautiful natural light whenever the sun shines.

Incorporate Meaningful Elements

We wake up and take in the lake and the magnolia tree, reminders that we're home. I like to tell people that I found this Doorman Designs bed before it was famous. I spotted the white antique piece while in Portland, Maine, with my parents who were visiting me when I lived in Boston. I'll never forget the look on my dad's face when I insisted we had to figure out a way to get it in the rental car.

Put the View First

New Orleans architect Lee Ledbetter helped with our renovation, and the bath was the only addition that we made to the floor plan. I really wanted the huge window behind the tub to have a perfect view of the Edna oak. I found the wood accents lying around my dad's barn.

Paint Picks

Interior living spaces: China White (OC-141) by Benjamin Moore
Kitchen walls/upper cabinets and bath: White Dove (OC-17) by Benjamin Moore
Kitchen lower cabinets: Platinum Gray (HC-179) by Benjamin Moore
Interior and exterior beams: Mopboard Black (CW-680) by Benjamin Moore
Interior and exterior brick: Pewter Cast (SW 7673) by Sherwin-Williams
Exterior siding: Peppercorn (SW 7674) by Sherwin-Williams

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