article by Maré Brennan | photos by Martin G Meyers
Interior Design by Sherri Mowad
This is a tale of a sweet, hardworking family who chooses to split their time between two neighboring parishes. Because the husband’s business is anchored in Bastrop, the couple made the commute work, traveling between Morehouse and Ouachita so their children could attend a church-based school. While it may have been a circuitous route finding the perfect house for their family, sticking to their initial wants may have taken a little longer to achieve, but the results prove that it was worth the time and work.
This tale of ranch redemption begins when the couple sold their home and started the process of searching for property near their children’s school. On their wish list was a home on usable water. After 15 months of hunting for a home, everyone was just about ready to throw in the towel. “Then six weeks before our lease was up, our Realtor called us about this house,” smiles the wife thinking back to her first encounter with the Sterlington property that is bordered by the bayou. “When I rounded the house, I could see the bayou and the sunset, and I knew we could live here forever. And that’s before I even looked at the house!” When the couple determined that the home “ticked every box,” they set out to make it their own.
Thoughtful in her approach to creating the home of her family’s dreams, the wife took it slow, noticing how her family lived in the home for a year and how she could make her home function better for her busy husband and children. The better part of that year, was spent planning down to the tiniest detail how the heart of her home, her kitchen, would look, feel and function. For the renovation, the homeowners enlisted good friend Larry James to draft plans to open up the spaces and recapture the joy that ranch homes meant to the homeowners. Adds the wife, “One thing about a remodel is that when you have an existing home, there are pockets of space that we just had to make the best of. I grew up in a ranch, so 8 foot ceilings seemed normal to me, although we were able to raise the ceilings in parts of the house to open up the spaces.”
The wife was blessed with a talented friend who initially helped her with a few key choices during the initial phases of the renovation. Shortly after the project was underway, interior designer Sherri Mowad, known for her ability to keep a project on time and on budget, was called in for her expertise.
Explains Sherri as she looks around the home, “This was a big job for me. The family had moved out to what we call the ‘pool house’ and were practically living on top of each other during this renovation which took about 6 months of construction. It’s been nice to take our time decorating, finding the right pieces at the right price and not rushing into anything.”
An avid cook and homemaker, the wife’s favorite part of the renovation is her dynamic kitchen. With custom designed cabinetry from Douglas Cabinets, the kitchen is a study in efficiency. A cabinet pot rack is a chef’s dream – all pots within reach but cleverly concealed behind doors and out of sight. Smooth-shut drawers keep the banging to a minimum, intensifying the calmness that comes from organization. For instance, spices are located in racks easily accessed beside the DCS gas range in the central island. “It’s funny how you go back to your childhood roots,” says the wife. “My mom had a range in her island! It’s just something that felt right.” The light granite with grey veining, Morrow White, on the center island was one of the first choices of finishes the homeowner made for the renovation and it helped set the tone for the entire project. Counter height stools from Ballard Designs are where everyone tends to gather.
Crisp, white subway tiles create a visually light backsplash against graphic, honed Absolute Black granite counters that top white Shaker-style cabinets throughout the kitchen. A Delta touch-style faucet makes time at the sink a breeze. A walk-in pantry is a study in the homeowner’s organizational skills as well. She laughs, “I’m a Container Store freak! I love installing Elfa closets like this and did all the closets in the house myself. The beauty of Elfa is that you can change it.” Sherri nods in agreement and repeatedly says she is hiring her client to design closets for future design jobs.
At the back door entrance to the home, a “To Go” cabinet is well-stocked with all the necessities for a family on the go, like hand sanitizer and umbrellas. The home’s new, spacious laundry room makes even the laundry averse want to wash and fold. Metallic porcelain 18” x 24” flooring tiles set the tone. Ample storage, including a broom closet outfitted for cleaning supplies with an outlet built in for cordless vacuums as well as a wrapping paper drawer, is designed into this room. Counters are a budget saving but chic-hued Formica. “During the year I lived here before the renovations, I thought through every phase of my life and tried my best to categorize tasks and how best I could organize my space for those tasks.
Just beyond the kitchen, the home opens up to the bayou in a great space with soaring ceilings and a wall of windows. The area is split into a dining area and comfortable living section. With a dining table big enough to easily seat ten people, Sherri found the dining chairs from Traditions on Trenton on Antique Alley in West Monroe and had them recovered in a rich leather. Upholstered armchairs in a beige linen with nailhead trim can be called into service when the crowd for dinner gets bigger. The fixture above the dining table is by Ballard. In the living area, Sherri created cozy seating areas with a pair of navy topped stools also found at Traditions, and existing sofa that was reupholstered and a pair of swiveling club chairs from Mason Salters in Natchitoches. A large armoire is a treasured family piece. Rugs throughout the home were also acquired through Mason Salters.
Beyond the great room lies the outdoor living space which is protected by a vaulted ceiling. A colorful hooked rug anchors the seating area where Frontgate sofas and chairs mix with wooden rockers from Sam’s. Phase Two of the homeowners’ plans to renovate is in the planning stages now with a landscape plan designed by Patrick Trisler.
Throughout the public spaces of the home, Bella Sera hand-scraped, wide plank hardwood floors create a rich continuity. In the foyer, the original door to the house was converted to a barn door that rolls back to reveal the family’s board game collection. A zinc topped table from Traditions on Trenton features carved legs and is the perfect spot to have family game night beside a roaring fire in the wood-burning BuckStove fireplace from Arkansas Stone. The fireplace wall is accented from floor to ceiling with Ledgerstone from Theresa’s Flooring and a hand-hewn cypress mantel from Rustique in Ruston. Additional salvaged cypress planks were made into shelves for a built-in niche by the large window, which was added to provide views of the bayou as you enter the home’s front door. The drapery used to soften the windows are ready made panels available through Fabulous Fabrics.
The homeowners really took their children’s wishes to heart as they designed their rooms. Because they had “lived like gypsies” for so long and endured lots of moves, the parents wanted to complete their children’s rooms first. The son’s room features a corner bed, built by Douglas Cabinets, which is wired for today’s electronics. The two twin beds meet at an angle and free up lots of floor space for lounging and playing X-Box with friends. Sherri had custom tailored, neutral striped dust ruffles made for each and topped with cute navy West Elm comforters. Poufs from Target make easy-to-move seating.
The daughter’s room reflects her love of travel and lots of playful global influences, including a velvet headboard, a World Market pendant light over her work space and colorful trim and monogram added to her bedding pillows.
Sherri pinched pennies throughout the job but splurged on key pieces of upholstery for the living areas, including a beautifully appointed sofa and a pair of upholstered chairs from Mason Salters. Some of the ingenious ways Sherri and the homeowner found ways to save included using remnant granite for guest and children’s bath countertops, IKEA mirrors and ready-made window panels, as well as reupholstering seating the couple already owned.
“What I appreciated about working with Sherri,” says the wife, “is that she knows we are ‘normal people’ and she helped me stay on budget and still find the things I love. We have had a great team from Sherri to our contractor, Jimmy Leonard, who brought in Joey Hodnett, who did amazing carpentry work. When it was all said and done the project was $40 under budget. We are a great team. I crunched the numbers and Sherri trimmed the fat.” Adds Sherri, “This project is an example of how designers and clients have to trust on so many different levels, and we have that trust.”
Sherri and the homeowner both interject that using technology and apps, like Houzz or Pinterest, can help you refine what you like and give you ideas that you’d like to explore in your own home. Says the homeowner, “I knew what I liked and Sherri helped me get there. When I look at the photos on Houzz that I liked and when I walk into my house now, it makes me feel the same way.”