Easygoing Élan

Photographed by Chad Chenier
Because of their casual style of entertaining

With the slightest hint of a drop in temperature, the stone fireplace is ablaze in the Hutchison home. Mirroring this effect, the outdoor kitchen’s fireplace crackles as well, filling the air with the sweet scent of burning logs enlivened by cool winds rustling through the trees.  It’s the family’s favorite time of the year. The winter weather brings a season filled with games and barbecues, elves and reindeer, and holiday celebrations leading up the onset of the Carnival season.

Family traditions abound at this stylish new home in the heart of Lafayette, threading a fabric of harmony and seasonal cheer. “The Elf on the Shelf watches over the children and reports to Santa, but every morning, he’s in a different place,” says Ashley Hutchinson, whose daughter, Riley, 12, and son Michael, 9, enjoy participating in the myriad celebrations culminating with festivities that come with the new year. “Sometimes, he may have gotten into the Monopoly game. Other times, the elf’s in the kitchen,” she continues.

 “Of course, Jim lights the fire as soon as it gets cool and it stays on. This is where the family connects, recounts their days and gathers,” Ashley says of the spacious family room with 14-foot ceilings, wide plank antique heart pine flooring, exposed beams and the beloved fireplace.

“During the holidays, my mom makes a recipe for cookies that dates back to when she was a child. It takes two days to make. Then we roll it out, and all the grandchildren come over and ice all the cookies. We make reindeer food with candies and cereals. On Christmas Eve, the whole family comes over and we do steaks outside on the grill, plus veggies and sausages. Then everyone jumps into the apple and pecan pies, followed by the opening of presents. The children play games upstairs, while we enjoy a little wine near the fire.”

Childhood sweethearts from Lafayette, Ashley and Jim Hutchison wanted to build their new house near the waterfront with the idea of bringing family together for casual gatherings. In devising the recipe for their dream home, the couple made sure that a spacious outdoor kitchen, a pool, a generous indoor kitchen and an abundance of cozy fireplaces were primary ingredients for their custom-built residence.

But a structural concern stopped them in their tracks.

“Two-and-a-half years before we began building, we bought a lot on the river, because we wanted to live on the river,” Ashley explains. “But later, we realized that it probably would not support a pool, so we sold the river lot and bought one two doors down. This is where we ended up building.”  The conceptualizing process took approximately a year from start to finish.



Top left The rustic master bedroom features exposed beams and a king bed from Restoration Hardware. It’s adjoined to an elegant master bath with a delicate chandelier and hand-cut travertine tiles originally destined for the kitchen.
Top right The family gathers around the island and grill in the well-equipped outdoor kitchen. It’s protected by a “mosquito system,” says Ashley. “It surrounds the parameter and goes off automatically in the morning and at night,” making it possible to linger outdoors.
Bottom Right The family room offers a splendid view of the pool and outdoor kitchen, and is centered by a fireplace topped with a mirror from Fireside Antiques. To the left is a built-in antique cypress custom cabinet faux-finished by Brooke Wilke Hoogendoorn.
Bottom Left The spacious kitchen flows seamlessly into the outdoor kitchen and family room. Elements include antique pine ceiling beams and lights from Bevelo, travertine flooring and a travertine hood, seating at the custom island and a separate dining area.

Architect Edson Davis and builder Stephen Gauthier assisted in the design collaboration, along with decorator Mindy Bernard, who helped Ashley fashion the interior design. “We had an idea for the bones of the house, but they were all so helpful in walking us through everything,” Ashley adds. “We knew we wanted to use natural materials and incorporate a European style of architecture. We wanted something casual, not stuffy, to complement our lifestyle. Jim loves the wide plank flooring and cypress beams, and we agreed on a neutral palette,” she recalls. “At first, he didn’t want a dining room but the architect said it would work beautifully with the design of the house. We have a very casual style of entertaining, and often using the outdoor grill for school night fajitas and burgers.”

Visual connection of interior and exterior spaces was important, as was the easy flow of people between inside and outside during gatherings. A large amount of natural light was desired, although minimizing heat gain was required.  The owners wanted a sleek, serene environment devoid of clutter. The living areas were to exhibit exposed bricks, rustic wooden beams, antique cypress custom cabinets and natural stone elements. After a neutral color palette was selected, subtle variations of soft colors were added for visual interest.

A modern aesthetic prevails in the new 4,700-square-foot home, which exemplifies Jim and Ashley’s laid-back style of living. A seamless integration of natural light and materials, rich textures and muted colors makes the living areas utterly inviting and cozy. There are intriguing architectural and design flourishes throughout. A clever wine nook in the kitchen contains all the necessities within a diminutive corner space flanking the large kitchen, designed with travertine flooring, a custom island and a spacious breakfast area.

Michael’s bedroom (top) and Riley’s bedroom (bottom) are situated on the second floor, which features two private baths and a shared game room. “They pretty much own the upstairs!”says Ashley. “The game room is where they study, work on their computers, watch movies and games, and visit with friends.” Long leaf pine flooring complements the casual, streamlined décor and neutral color palettes that are enhanced with subtle pops of color.

While the first floor has retained a rather rustic and traditional ambience, the second floor that features the children’s bedrooms and living room has the feel of a contemporary, sleek and streamlined space.

The family room, which is centered by a large fireplace, was designed to have a splendid view of the covered outdoor kitchen. With a flat-screen TV over the outdoor fireplace (a magnet during game days), an island with bar stools surrounding a grill and an ample seating area designed for family creature comforts, the Hutchisons’ spacious outdoor living room serves an extension of their family room. Brick archways lead to the fenced-in pool and hot tub surrounded by a serene backdrop of trees, giving it a country feel within the heart of the city.

The master bedroom is where the couple goes to relax and refresh. The serene space is enhanced by a lovely view that includes a graceful magnolia tree in the back yard. “I always envisioned that area as a comfortable place with a chaise lounge, which I use a lot since I love to read,” Ashley notes. “We put grass cloth behind the curtains to warm the room up.”

The Hutchisons are enjoying an easy living sensibility that’s both practical and casually chic, two elements that strike and artful balance for a cozy home with a stylish glow. The residence resonates with warmth and invites all who enter to pause, relax and savor the moment. Thanks to the vision of the design team, the streamlined décor and natural materials embrace the relaxed, tasteful lifestyle of the homeowners.