Habitats of Humanity

An Acadiana designer shares the mystery and magic of creating functional spaces that hold memories

Loveletters

I’ve heard it a thousand times when someone leans in after learning I am a custom residential designer: “I always wanted to be an architect! Like Art Vandelay, you know, from Seinfeld.” This declaration is typically followed with an explanation of why they find the profession fascinating. Perhaps it’s Frank Gehry or Frank Lloyd Wright, they find inspiring, but they also say architects are mysterious. Then the specific questions begin. Why did I decide to study architecture and why design homes? I wish I could just say Vandelay but it’s more personal.

Year after year what keeps it all so interesting to me? The people of Acadiana. We cook all day and dance all night. We gather for festivals and holidays, and can’t stop talking about our gardens. Although we have these cultural rituals in common, how each family lives in their individual homes is as varied as how we make a roux. If you are wondering, for me, that’s medium brown color and a little thin like Pye, my grandfather, made.

Only when I get to know someone more fully do I feel comfortable discussing the nuances of my profession. My design practice is centered on working together with clients to craft an experience representing their personal point of view. Creating a site-specific environment with a sense of place is often a two-year process from initial design to move in and requires a real commitment by both parties to achieve a thoughtful and honest design. Each property is unique, every budget has a challenge and the kind of spaces that are required varies.

Home life is personal and people who seek out professional design services typically value their individuality and want to see it streamlined into a cohesive expression. Until now, custom design was thought of as a luxury service. During the pandemic, Acadianians, like people everywhere, have come to see their homes in a new light. The added functionality needed at home regarding work and school has exceeded our square footage. This has a lot of people asking me: How do I make my home better?

This is where the mystery and magic come in. The part that people can’t quite put their finger on about Vandelay, Gehry and Wright. Architects consider the poetic and the practical needs of a project and instead of choosing one over the other, we develop a design that honors both. All while layering in the needs of the people who inhabit the design with places like porches that capture a steady breeze or transom windows that give a glimpse of the moon. Spaces that hold our memories of times we share with the people who mean the most to us.

Here’s another one I’ve heard a thousand times. “I’ve always wanted to live in Louisiana! New Orleans, right?” No, I say, I live in Acadiana.

 

LISA BOURQUE is a custom residential designer based in Lafayette. She volunteers locally with nonprofits to improve neighborhood housing. Hiking with her dog and gardening with her husband fill her weekends.