A 'Stay-cation' Residence in Lake Charles

Chad Chenier
Overlooking a golf course

Inspired by the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford, this Lake Charles homeowner envisioned balmy evenings with soft breezes blowing in through open French doors, rippling across gauzy curtains in the house of her dreams. There would be views of a swimming pool from every room and the sound of trickling fountains from dawn to dusk.

The master suite would have the feel of a luxurious Parisian apartment jazzed up with the ultimate boudoir. She wanted a fireplace in the master bath accented with Calcutta marble, and an extensive walk-in closet featuring elegant sitting and dressing areas. The study in the master suite, which would take up an entire wing of the house, would flank a charming Parisian-style sitting room with a large fireplace. She imagined soft and seductive outdoor lighting for evening swims and lively soirées, and a loggia right off the utterly romantic master bedroom.

All of this dreaming was calculated with meticulous notes and stacks of interior design magazine clippings. An architect was never engaged for the project.

“The concept for building this house began when my husband and I spent two-and-a-half months in Europe after he finished his residency,” explains the owner. The wife of a prominent Lake Charles oncologist, she began gathering interior and architectural design ideas while they traveled throughout France.

“We were particularly enamored with Paris, so we spent more time there than anywhere else,” she reflects. “After we moved back to Lake Charles from New Orleans so that my husband could start his medical practice here, we decided that we wanted to build a home that had a large master suite inspired by Parisian décor.”

The couple initially purchased a small, two-bedroom house in downtown Lake Charles while getting settled and starting a family. “After our second child was born, we would put the children to sleep at night, go into the kitchen and draw up the plans for our new dream home,” she says.

“The main thing I wanted to create was a luxurious home that would feel like we were on a perpetual vacation and a master bath that had all the elements of a luxury hotel. I wanted to have a pool that would be a seamless extension of the house, like the outdoor area depicted in The Great Gatsby. We wanted all the rooms to be open, so that you could just open up all of those French doors for parties and have a nice flow from inside to outside. Now, you can step out of our French doors and you’re in the Jacuzzi!” she exclaims.

“We walk out of our back door, get on a golf cart and ride to the country club for lunch. My husband and I both love to play golf, and our two girls enjoy going to the club a lot,” she adds. “I rarely use our front entrance anymore.”

The couple built the sprawling new house in the small Turnberry neighborhood overlooking the Lake Charles Country Club. After hiring a European draftsman to manually draw up the plans for the 8,300-square-foot, five-bedroom, two-story residence, they engaged custom home builder Greg Richard to execute the various concepts.

“There were no architectural plans at all. Everything was pretty much designed from pictures that the owners had collected,” Richard points out. “The entire house was designed to wrap around the pool, so I built two wings that connect to a large foyer on the first floor. The master suite pretty much takes up the entire wing on the right, and the left wing incorporates the great room, dining and living rooms. We placed the other four bedrooms and four baths on the second floor. Everything was hand-done, from the trim work to the custom mantels, the iron work, and the arched beams in the cathedral-height great room.

“It took almost two years to build,” he continues. “There were a lot of unique details involved. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind house that is a combination of different European styles, but it has contemporary elements throughout including the kitchen,” he notes. “Although the indoor living space is 8,300 square feet, the home is actually 10,000 square feet in size with the inclusion of the loggia that is an extension of the living area.”

A tone of luxury is established the moment one steps into the dramatic entry hall, which provides a view of the pool and golf course through a series of contiguous eyebrow arches between the formal living and dining rooms.

A Yamaha Disklavier grand player piano resides near the entrance. An amazing instrument, it has Internet access and is programmed to stream in recordings and live broadcasts. Music from the Yamaha echoes throughout the house at all hours via an elaborate sound system that extends to the pool area, as well.

“I like to leave the music on all the time,” says the owner, who enjoys gleaning treasures from flea markets during shopping expeditions with her friends. One of her favorite finds was the opulent crystal chandelier that she purchased “for little to nothing” and restored, piece by piece. It is now the focal point of the elegantly appointed dining room, which has a built-in dessert niche. “I really take my time deciding on each and every piece that we purchase in this house,” she says.

“It took me several years to decide on the mantel for our master bedroom, so it was just installed in the spring,” she says. The circa-1750 Louis XV-style Aixoise mantel in the master suite features a prominent brow along the edge of the lintel with deep, concave carvings on the outer legs. “I went to Scalamandre in Houston to find the fabric for the pair of French chairs near the mantel,” she says. “I felt like the bedroom should be very formal, and I wanted the master bath to also be formal. I wanted it to feel like a five-star hotel. There is a little vent underneath my vanity that has a switch. It turns on heat to warm my toes!

“I totally fell in love with the king bed from the Natchez Collection by Henredon,” she continues. “I had it in my mind for years. Now, it’s in our master suite. I wait for things until something I really like becomes available.”

“The owners selected eyebrow arches in the master suite and throughout the house as a softening architectural element,” says Richard. “The eyebrow arches work especially well in the great room with its cathedral-height ceilings.” Eyebrow cornices were created to follow the shape of the wall of windows that slope downward. A mirror in the great room was designed to cleverly hide the television. Slip-covered sofas near the fireplace lend a shabby-chic, casual nuance to the space.

“I was really lucky to find craftsmen who respected my ideas and worked to make my dreams a reality,” says the owner. “I initially found this with Greg Richard and again with Jeff Hebert, who did my custom ironwork, and then just lately with Jay Barkley, my mason who laid the travertine around our pool and formed the fountain,” she concludes. “These guys all worked diligently and sought to make things as perfect as they could possibly be. Our vision of creating a stay-cation home was successfully executed, thanks to these extraordinary craftsmen.”