A creative couple took a modest 1950s ranch house and converted it into a tasteful Contemporary European home in the peaceful Jefferson Place/Bocage neighborhood located in Baton Rouge. Green building was a priority in the project. A canopy of live oaks and 40 fig trees on the lot served as an attraction to the property. Solid construction, terrazzo floors in excellent condition, brick veneer, and an adaptable floor plan were among the enticing elements of the existing structure. Along with the major renovation, a free-standing outdoor building designed to function as a combination art and music studio/guest house was constructed.
Natural light infuses the elegant home, adding drama to the large contemporary paintings throughout the open floor plan. In addition to the artwork, the furnishings have been collected over the past 18 years on trips to Europe.
“One of the best things about being in our businesses as a contractor and an art dealer is the ability to work with other creative people,” says art dealer Ann Connelly. Her husband, Paul, is a contractor. “The interior space was a very important part of the design process and was a collaborative effort between us and our good friend, Carol LaCour. She helped with the interior space planning, such as having the kitchen oriented to the back of the yard.”
A neutral palette was selected as a blank canvas for Ann’s collection. “The artwork followed the project,” Ann points out. “My art has always followed me. I work in terms of scale and proportion.” Using off-white walls as a backdrop, she embellished the interior with works by contemporary Louisiana artists and antique European master drawings. Ann offers a similar blend of art at her new 3,400-square-foot gallery in the Southdown Shopping Center on Perkins Road.
“My philosophy is to provide tasteful, progressive work that we mix with antiquity,” she says. Ann is among the most skilled and successful art dealers in the region and over the years she has worked with top-flight designers, collaborating with them on corporate and residential projects.
Green building considerations devised by Paul included opting for a renovation versus a tear-down. Concrete block construction was incorporated into the project. Reclaimed solid wood doors were used as well as double-insulated glass on the windows and doors. All new insulation included cellulose fill and fiberglass batts. “Paul has always been fairly green in his renovating procedures,” says Ann of her husband. “That is part of his philosophy.”
“The biggest green benefit was in the planning stage of the project when considering the impact of the canopy provided by live oak trees,” Paul states. “The design orientation is incredibly efficient in terms of the cost of energy bills.” The orientation of large windows to the southern exposure of the home provides diffused sunlight in the summer and direct sunlight in the winter. The lack of windows on the western exposure keeps the summer afternoon heat to a minimum. “The large panels of light coming from the northern exposure provide a great blend of light, especially for the art collection,” he says.
Lafayette architect Kevin Gossen applied his design expertise to develop the correctly proportioned exterior elevations. An old carport was converted into a garage, widening and extending it forward with World Stone architectural concrete blocks to support the second story children’s area.
“Creating a gable on the opposite end of the front elevation balances the mass of the second story over the garage,” Paul points out. “The existing roof line was shortened at the front wall and a lower-pitch standing seam metal roof creates an improved line across the front of the house.”
Large custom-made wooden door panels with center pivots on the side of the garage allow ventilation in warm months while still providing privacy and can be securely closed in the winter to keep the garage warm. “We put the children’s rooms upstairs over the garage in order to give them their own space and also allow us separation while hosting dinner parties,” Ann explains.
The airy, open ambience of the home is conducive to entertaining. “Our design strategy for the interior was to showcase art and create an atmosphere for casual entertaining of family and friends,” Ann remarks. “We also wanted plenty of natural light, high ceilings, and master and guest bedroom suites. We planned intimate spaces for family and small gatherings with the flexibility to open up and accommodate large sit-down dinners and even larger open house parties.”
A large, light-filled kitchen is where most of the gatherings begin. “Then we move into the dining room and this large entertainment area,” says Ann. The kitchen/keeping area is open to the patio and has caterer-friendly access from the service side. The open living room, which has a lovely view of the back yard, is an entertainment venue with its dining room table. “We can go from eight to 16 easily,” she remarks. “I have an Asian aunt who loves to cook and she spoils us with incredible food that we share with many of our friends. My husband often does the main course. We also do a lot of pot luck parties.”
The living room is furnished sparingly, and is accented with two large architectural sofas, an Italian harp table, and an antelope rug that ties into a similar rug in the foyer. The limestone fireplace stretches to the ceiling. “We wanted that to be an architectural component that was left alone,” Ann reveals.
The front door opens into a grand but welcoming foyer with an 18th-century tabernacle topped with a contemporary painting. “It’s a nice mix,” Ann states. A large abstract nature-based painting by Louisiana artist Meredith Pardue is opposite the tabernacle. “It complements the whole house. You can view the painting from all angles, from the entrance to the living room fireplace,” she remarks. The terrazzo floor showcases the 23-foot-long antelope carpet in the foyer. “It makes the space look cohesive,” Ann explains.
French doors lead into the master bedroom suite, which has two large casement windows and an intimate seating area. The fig orchard can be seen from the front door through the master bedroom. A brick pattern made of Jerusalem limestone and travertine was created for the floors and walls in the master bath. “It has the feeling of a spa,” Ann remarks. The recessed lighting, small antique chandelier, antique drawings, and nine panels of antique mirror glass set in a metal frame evokes the philosophy of old and new.
“This is a most happy house,” Ann exclaims. “It is excellent for entertaining. The views of the large yard and trees and beautiful, and the artwork brings personality to the interior,” Ann says. “The artwork is what brings the project over the top.”