Located on 40 acres of pristine forest, 35 miles north of Alexandria, the get away home of Mary and Christopher “Kit” Provine was built to take full advantage of Nantachie Lake, a private preserve where property owners have title to the lake bottom. Here, overlooking a picturesque rolling meadow with just a few enormous multi-trunk pine trees that look like oaks, the Provines built a home with wraparound views that take full advantage of the shoreline view of the 25 acres of lake bottom they purchased with the land.
“We had been looking for a place on the water that wasn’t too far from Alexandria,” Kit says. Mary adds, “We looked for a long time and we knew that our search was over the day we discovered this land. The pastoral setting had such a feeling of peace and tranquility.”
The Provines knew they wanted Barbara Downs, a well-known Alexandria building designer, to design their new house. “We had worked with her before and we had full confidence that she would design something special,” Kit says. “We wanted a place with a rustic feeling, yet one that incorporated all of the conveniences of a modern home.”
The stone fireplace was stacked so no mortar is visible on the front
“We agreed that whatever was designed, it had to be in concert with this amazing place,” Barbara recalls. “The house needed to be ‘earthy,’ with as little contrast to its surroundings as possible. We also knew that all of the important rooms needed to overlook the lake. My intention was to let the site and lake dictate the design.”
Located high above the meadow that leads to the lake, Alexandria builder/designer Barbara Downs fashioned the Provine’s home.
The couple weighed in with their ideas. Mary wanted something relaxing and southern, while Kit asked for ceilings high enough to house the trophies from his African safari. Both wanted lots of porches and fireplaces. In the end, the project was a day to day collaboration between Mary, Kit and Barbara. As plans developed, all three decided to incorporate old materials wherever possible. “Once our quest began, we were never disappointed,” the designer explains. “As we traveled and shopped in south Louisiana, it wasn’t long before the materials began to dictate the interior.”
Treasures found included “dirty-top” flooring, with some of the boards as wide as 16 inches. “It was two inches thick so we knew it couldn’t cup,” Barbara says. “It had such an amazing color that we decided not to clean it; we simply waxed it as it was – no sanding, staining or sealing.”
A state-of-the-art kitchen opens onto the great room and breakfast area, with access to the porch through a glass door
“It was exciting to watch the project evolve,” Mary says. “Originally we planned to use new ship-lap siding for the interior walls and paint it.” Their plans changed when they discovered a place with old ‘silvered’ wood siding in Sunset. “Fortunately, Jeff Burns, our fantastic contractor, was always enthusiastic about the project,” Mary adds. “Using old materials presented a challenge, but Jeff was quite artistic and his crew was extremely skilled. They accepted each challenge in good cheer.”
The spacious wraparound porches allow for touches of comfort and “found” materials
Barbara recalls how the idea of a stone fireplace evolved once the house began, to take on a scale that dictated something unique. “We decided that we wanted the stone to be stacked with no mortar visible from the front,” she says. “We discovered Ricky Rhone, an old-school brick mason, who was willing to work with us to lay the stone. Mike Virden, another contractor friend, coached us on how to lay the stone. It turned out to be a careful art to execute … we were concerned about keeping the stones from crashing down in the middle of the floor. We all worked long days for six weeks selecting each stone and its placement.”
The couple was so pleased with Barbara’s input that they asked her to be involved with the interior design and well as the architecture. “We spent over a year shopping all over Louisiana, North Carolina and even Mexico, for just the right furniture, rugs and art,” Barbara says.
Even the master bedroom embraces the view of the lake, through interior French doors that can be covered by long drapes – made from old French sheets – for privacy
Jeff Carbo, the landscape designer, made sure the plantings were in keeping with the rustic setting. “We added minimal landscaping,” Kit explains. “We wanted the rustic feeling of the house to also be reflected on the grounds.”
Mary and Christopher “Kit” Provine stand in front of their lake house.
“We love everything about this home,” Mary says. “It is such a relaxing place that we hate to leave.” To further enhance the pleasure of the place, Kit had a pond built and stocked near the house just for their three grandsons – Taylor, 7, Harris, 5, and his namesake, Kit, 1. “It was our gift to them, and although Nantachie Lake has great fishing, we wanted a safe, more shallow place where our grandsons could grow up fishing.”