“I’ve seen alligators in the river while sitting at my dining table,” reveals Tanya Kilpatrick, who designed a three-story glass house overlooking the scenic Tangipahoa River on Fletcher Isle. Wild turkeys and deer have wandered through Kilpatrick’s yard, and a black panther was once spotted by neighbors. “She is probably hunting the multitudes of rabbit in these woods,” she says.
A talented designer and an avid gardener, Kilpatrick moved to Fletcher Isle from Mandeville and was a former resident of Beau Chene. “I love the place where my life’s journey has brought me,” she says. “Life for me here is like a meditation filled with nature, music, art, gardens, friends, adventures, and challenges. I am so blessed to find paradise flowing right in front of my life every day.”
Kilpatrick’s three-story, single gable home has an exterior stain in addition to interior paint tones that are matched to the color of the river. “I used different values that graduate up. It is a transparent olive green up to the third floor, which is almost chartreuse,” she explains. “I designed a series of decks and steps and pathways that cascade all the way down to the river, creating outdoor living spaces which are like an extension of the glassed interiors.”
Kilpatrick’s objective when designing her “empty nest” home and landscape was to maximize the view. Located within a forest on the edge of a secluded river, much of the property surrounding the home remains untouched. River oaks, holly trees, wild magnolias, wild asparagus, honey suckle, blackberry bushes, and snow bell trees enhance the lush terrain.
“The snow bell trees blossom with tiny white hanging ornaments that you can almost hear ringing,” she says. “The sandy grounds are subtly landscaped with native irises, giant elephant ears, banana trees, aspidistra, rice paper plants, and Chinese fan palms. The planted elements blend naturally with the river birch, silver maple, and magnolias. Impatiens and caladiums run with the leriope around the decks and walkways.”
In the summer, when the river runs shallow, exotic chanterelle mushrooms punctuate the forest floor. Lightening bugs and the hooting of owls mark the spring season. In autumn, the trees turn golden, enhancing the splendid view. Winter brings swift currents and high waters conducive to “boat riding adventures more thrilling than Disney’s,” according to Kilpatrick. Strings of colorful glass globes reflect on the water at night, and an occasional party barge drifts by. “Watching Mother Nature at work from the sofa is awesome entertainment throughout the year,” she says. “Each morning I open my eyes to a view of the river and forest that brims over with allure and elegance,” she says.
The outdoor elements are easily escaped inside the glass walls that create a feeling of being outdoors. All three floors facing the Tangipahoa are glass set into a post and beam construction, according to Kilpatrick, who has designed prior homes in the area. “From the river, one can see all the way through the house. At times, one can even get a moon bath through the loft window,” she remarks.
The open floor plan has a combination living room, dining room, and kitchen on the first level. Each floor has a “river room” in front of the bedrooms, and the third floor is at tree top level. “From this room, which faces northwest, sky colors are repeated below in the river waters,” Kilpatrick states. “The adjoining sun deck here is a warm place on bright winter days.” Kilpatrick’s screen room “towers up 15 feet on the river side to reach the view from the tree top to the river bedroom,” she explains. “This room literally is our living room. When the sun’s setting provides its glorious colors, we have a spectacular view form the river room on the third floor.”
Kilpatrick is not an architect; however, she drew the scale drawings for the home, contracted the subs, and supervised the project. “I did all the painting myself,” she adds. Built to endure storms, Kilpatrick’s residence is nine-feet off the ground, on concrete pilings and footers, and it has survived formidable weather. “We were here for the hurricane,” she says. “All the houses I did survived the hurricane. My partner trained in Florida, so he knew all the codes and he made sure everything was up to code. We used tempered glass, for example,” she explains. “Bruce Varnado is a master carpenter and he made the cypress staircase, which looks like a stack of boxes that lead to a loft with an exterior glass wall.”
The staircase, painted pearl essence, was designed so as not to obstruct the river view. “I created a string of ‘pearls’ showcased on a piece of drift wood on the pearl essence mantle which is custom made from the one small cypress tree we had to remove,” Kilpatrick explains. “All of the paint colors are taken from the river itself.” The painting effect in the powder room on the first floor was created by Kilpatrick. “I used tissue paper, the kind you wrap gifts in. I kind of wiggled it with my hands so that it had a few wrinkles in it, then I used several colors of paint. It creates an effect of stucco. I just made it up,” she exclaims.
The home is furnished with an intriguing, eclectic blend of old and new. Contemporary pieces are juxtaposed with antiques and rustic elements that further enhance the earthy setting near the Tangipahoa. Kilpatrick poetically displays her collection gleaned from local artists and craftsman throughout the residence. “I am comfortable here with my eclectic furnishings, art, antiques, and music,’ she says, referring to her décor style as “earthy elegant.”
“This place and I blend right in with nature,” Kilpatrick asserts. “The controlled interior lighting along with the tree lights set the house aglow at night, creating a luminous surprise for boaters traveling the lonely, dark waters.”
Inspired by nature, Kilpatrick has created a home that mirrors her love of a peaceful, secluded existence on the water’s edge. “In looking back over this river life experience, I realize that it took some amount of courage to get here,” she reflects. “Somehow I overcame my fears and met the challenges and learned to listen to my heart. I have learned to rely on myself and to be myself. Above all things, I have learned gratitude. I feel it as I gaze upon this lovely landscape.”