Tales from India
Article by Maré Brennan, Photography by Martin Meyers, Contractor Chuck Burkett, Interior Design Carmen Hill-Eberts
The home of Alpa and Dr. Jeet Patel honors their Indian culture both architecturally and artistically.
When the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to honor his wife in 1632, the artisans created an enduring Wonder of the World. In Monroe, Dr. Jeet Patel and his wife, Alpa, honor their Indian culture architecturally and artistically in their home nestled in a secluded subdivision in the heart of Monroe.
Arched double doors beneath a wrought iron Juliet balcony welcome guests to the Patel home. Manicured boxwoods, sculpted hollies and soaring crepe myrtles around the home’s parking court provide a serene landscape at the edge of the quiet cul de sac. As a reverence, a beautifully crafted leaded glass window with the “Om” symbol (three curves, a semicircle and a dot) is positioned near the entrance to the home. “Om” is one of the most sacred symbols in Hinduism and is considered to be the totality of the Universe, surrounding all creation. At the left of the property an automatic wrought iron gate swings open to allow access to the family’s garage. From the outside of the property, one would imagine the home to follow a traditional Acadian French tableau; however, to step foot in the Patel home is to be enveloped in a sari of color, texture and space firmly rooted in the Indian tradition.
Born in Canada, Alpa grew up in Kentucky and Florida, and attended the University of Florida and obtained a BS degree in Health Science Education. Jeet was born in England but moved to Bossier, LA at the age of 10. He and his twin brother attended LSU-S then LSU Dental School in New Orleans. The couple, who have now been married for 19 years and have three boys, were set up by a matchmaking aunt from Florida who knew both. After 5 years in New Orleans, the Patels moved to Monroe to open Affordable Dentures, when their oldest child was only three months old. After living in Frenchman’s Bend for seven years, Jeet and Alpa began working on plans to build a new home that would fit their growing family. Says Alpa, “We worked with draftsman Randy Shultz for two years, really thinking about the details of this house. When we saw this new subdivision going in, we thought this would be a great fit for our family.” When the couple finished up plans, they enlisted Chuck Burkett as their builder and interior designer Carmen Hill-Eberts to help with finishes. “I love Carmen’s eye for detail and her ideas for making our spaces work even better,” says Alpa.
Twelve foot ceilings throughout the home add to the sense of light and grandness from room to room. The Patels wanted as many eco-friendly solutions as possible. Distressed wood floors are made from recycled wood planks, and low VOC particle board and paints were used throughout.
“We love color,” exclaims Alpa as we pass through one of the amazingly crafted India-inspired arches that builder Chuck Burkett was able to construct. Alpa relates how one of the contractor’s craftsmen, originally from South Africa, was well-versed in unusual arch construction. “We wanted Indian touches in our home. I got the idea for the arches from a magazine article. You will see that neutral rooms lead into rooms that are inspired by vibrant, jewel tones of Indian sari fabrics,” says the homeowner. “This house was my job. I wanted it to look like I envisioned and Carmen helped me make that happen.”
The open double-height foyer features creamy marble-toned tile floors and a gently curving staircase that leads upstairs to two of the boys’ bedrooms, a guest room and dedicated movie theatre. The couple searched for the perfect Indian design -inspired pendant light as evidenced by the lantern with arches that hangs in the space. A pair of commissioned “Atmostpheric” paintings by Sue Sartor hold court in the grand space. Flooring throughout the home was sourced and installed at Dupuy Flooring in Ruston.
On the left side of the foyer, antique Indian carved wood temple columns from Art of Old India delineate the entrance to the Patel’s dining room, resplendent in hues of tangerine and aubergine. A pair of antique carved wooden doors sourced by Carmen from Art of Old India were custom retrofitted with a wrought iron door frame custom made by Shayne Wallace of Iron Clad Designs. Wallace is the artisan who is responsible for the wrought iron work throughout the home. The doors open into the more formal, central living room of home. In the dining room, a painting of the Taj Mahal using oranges, saffron and aubergine hues by performance artist J. Zumo was a gift that was painted during Alpa’s fortieth birthday celebration in Houston. The dining room ceiling is painted with a distressed technique in a tangerine by Teresa Clark. Built in storage and display cabinets on either side of the antique doors provide places for storing serve ware. An adjacent butler’s pantry features a hidden dish drawer and a mini wine cellar.
In the living room, high backed “statement” sofas in a neutral fabric and a traditional Indian swing in lacquered black with gold accents provide a central conversational area that honors the couple’s culture. The swing was found on a trip to visit Alpa’s grandmother in India, where every home has a traditional swing. The large fireplace and abstract art by Polly Spence provide a focal point. The couples’ boys enjoy practicing piano and providing ambient music for their parents on the black lacquer baby grand piano.
The Patel’s open floor plan kitchen and den are truly the heart of the home. The kitchen is complete with two dishwashers, an enormous gas range, warming drawers and more. The uppermost doors of the kitchen’s cabinetry are outfitted in custom metalwork inserts. The kitchen flooring tiles are laid in a pleasing herringbone pattern. Tumbled travertine mosaic tiles cover the opening between the kitchen and the den area. A large custom banquette, upholstered in a creamy toned shagreen-like faux leather, is built into the kitchen island and provides ample seating for the family around a large round custom breakfast table. The leather upholstery keeps clean-up from being a chore. Just beyond the kitchen, a small elevator makes trips upstairs with luggage for guests a breeze.
In the master bedroom, the couple commissioned a custom upholstered headboard with nailhead trim. The trey ceiling was silver leafed by artist Teresa Clark. The silver leaf carries through to customer designed valances. A pair of paintings by Polly Spence flank either side of a gas and crystal modernist fireplace.
A hallway that leads to the en suite master bath finds a spiral staircase, which connects Jeet’s office upstairs to the master bedroom. The master closet was space planned by Barry Becton and leaves no stone unturned. A painting by Courtney Wetzel is a study in calming neutrals. The master bath features red and oxblood red mosaic tiles applied to walls behind the freestanding soaking tub from LCR and on the walls of the walk-in glass door shower. Dark grey cabinets and light marble counters provide the perfect foil for the room’s warmth.
One of Jeet’s cousins said it would be cool to have a basketball court at the house. Jeet and the boys love playing basketball indoors, and Alpa knew it would be helpful to have room for three rambunctious boys to run around in. The half-court regulation basketball gym attached to the home is a winner no matter how you play the game. LSU colors dominate and set the tone for epic battles. Laughs Alpa, “I compromised on the size of the master suite to have this court.”
A powder room just beyond the kitchen near the gym is a Sari-inspired treasure; walls are papered in a hand-stamped gold, oversized, traditional Indian pattern. The ceiling of the room is wallpapered as well with a gold tiger stripe. Onyx-like floor tile adds to the jewel qualities of the space.
The playroom which opens into the gym has great features like built-in storage to keep toys hidden until they are ready to be played with. Colorful green walls and matching ceiling amp up the emphasis on whimsical color and provide an inviting space for the homeowners’ children and their friends to kick back and play.
Speaking of play, family and friends often gather upstairs in the Patel’s movie room for big games or favorite flicks. Bronze stingray faux leather reclining chairs make comfort a priority. An old-fashioned movie curtain and custom valance designed by Carmen dress the space in luxurious fabrics. NetTech installed the state-of-the-art technology. Light boxes of famous movie posters line the walls, which are painted the same bronzed chocolate color as the ceiling. A wet bar with a copper sink and fixtures is embellished with a mosaic tile backsplash. Carpet from Dupuy helps with acoustics in the room.
The upstairs guest bathroom features stainless mosaic tiles on grid with a dark grey slate tile. Just down the hallway, Jeet’s home office pays homage to his English roots. Union Jack pillows, tailored curtains, and navy walls lend a cheery, United Kingdom vibe to the space.
The whole family loves spending time under the vaulted ceiling in the outdoor living area which is screened in, open to breezes but not pests. The area contains a full outdoor kitchen with grill, sink prep area, refrigeration and more. The cabinetry features twig drawer pulls and granite countertops. Hardware and drawer pulls throughout the home were sourced from Key Millwork & Supply. Says Alpa, “I wanted an outdoor space that was usable year round.” A large stacked stone fireplace provides a focal point for a semi circular sectional sofa. The outdoor room looks out onto the gardens and terraces designed by Rhymes Oliver and executed by Al Hayward of Big Al’s Lawn Service.
Exploring their Indian culture and traditions in an eclectic and modern way is achieved with success through the Patel’s use of vibrant color and the mix of antique and contemporary furnishings and finishes.