A French Twist
Cathy and Keith Daigle’s fresh take on a classic
Simple lines keep the living room from feeling overly formal. Linen slipcovered sofas, reproduction French chairs and rug from The French Mix; chandelier and Austin James abstract from Rivers Spencer Interiors.
Photographed by Sara Essex Bradley
Technically, when Cathy and Keith Daigle decided to build a new home, they were empty-nesters. Having lived in Covington for 26 years and rearing six kids, now grown, they chose to move to a bucolic setting – the private golf and country club community of Money Hill in Abita Springs.
But the Daigles’ new homestead is anything but remote or empty. Money Hill, named for the legend that Barataria pirates buried treasure there, is located just 12 minutes from Covington. And since moving in last September, the couple has made their home a frequent hub for family (there are eight grandchildren and two more on the way) and friends, who’ve quickly warmed to its surprisingly user-friendly layout and mostly white-and-cream décor. “We wanted a place that our kids’ families would want to visit,” says Cathy. “When we’re home, we usually have family over.”
A Louis XVI style bench by Hickory Chair and a sheepskin rug occupy the breezeway overlooking the side and front yards.
The kitchen island is topped with Sea Pearl Quartzite that picks up the blue tint of the glass tile backsplash, while the paneled detailing on the cabinets is carried through to the Thermadore exhaust hood. The casement window opens onto the outdoor kitchen so that things can be passed through with ease when entertaining. Chairs from Restoration Hardware.
The pillows on the keeping room’s two-piece sectional sofa (from Greige) were chosen to repeat the blue of the kitchen’s Villi glass tiles. Acrylic, glass and brass coffee table from Rivers Spencer Interiors.
The Daigles’ vision for their new home began with a photo of a house that Cathy found seven years ago online. French Provincial architecture with a pitched roof, a white stucco façade and structured gardens were among the hallmarks that appealed to her. But as the Daigles began working on plans for their house, they soon realized that what they really wanted was a simpler, less adorned and more modernized version of the prototype. “It turned out nothing like [the original],” says Cathy. “It doesn’t have as much French influence. Other houses [in the style] have more details like shutters and quoins. Ours is plain white stucco. Inside we have beautiful woodwork and moldings, but it’s understated.”
In addition to being inspired by classic French elements, the design of house also was driven by the property around it and by the Daigles’ desire to have a house customized to their own specific wish list. Cathy’s one request when moving to Abita Springs was that they have an unimpeded view of the lake. She wanted to be able to see all the way from the front entrance of the new house through to the lake and grounds out back. That meant an open floor plan, and French doors and casement windows that conduct views and breezes. Keith wanted large master closets (something their last house lacked), a media room and an outdoor kitchen for grilling. The couple also wanted guest bedrooms for both their children and grandchildren, and their parents. Working with builder Jason Hand, residential plan designer Allen Mowdy, and interior designer Beth Walther, the Daigles slowly realized a design that looked right and functioned with ease. In Hand, Mowdy and Walther, the homeowners found likeminded collaborators. “Jason understood what I wanted without my having to tell him,” says Cathy of Hand, whose work they’d seen at a Northshore show house. “Allen modified the original plans, and Beth helped with the measurements and placement of cabinets and the design of the kitchen.”
The master bedroom’s quartz fireplace surround has a subtle element of sparkle. Custom velvet-upholstered bed and bench with acrylic legs from The French Mix; chandelier and rug from Horchow.
The dining room is painted a pale Wedgewood blue trimmed with white. The built-in cupboard has a mirrored display space on top. The place settings on the Henredon mahogany dining table include Cathy Daigle’s grandmother’s silver.
The final design of the light-filled, one-story house includes three bedrooms, each with its own bath, a kitchen and keeping room, living room, dining room, powder room, study, laundry room and media room. One of the guest bedrooms has an en-suite bath with a roll-in shower in case the need for wheelchair accessibility arises. The other has a sitting room to accommodate the couple’s children and grandchildren. An additional 1,050 square feet of outdoor space featuring carefully thought out amenities – including a fully equipped kitchen and dining area with remote-control screens that can be closed for seasonal temperature control and protection from mosquitos, as well as a contemporary outdoor shower – completes the combination of interior and exterior living. Every room except the two guest bedrooms has a view of the travertine deck, elegantly tiled infinity pool and lush, lakeside scenery. At night, LED lights transform the terrace into a blue-hued environment worthy of a luxury resort.
Cathy decorated the interior of the house while Keith, a golfer and barbecue buff, oversaw the design and installation of the media room and outdoor areas. Many of the home’s refined interior features – 14 foot ceilings, polished marble floors, panel-like wall moldings and crystal chandeliers – are drawn from the chateau vernacular of the broader French Country style. Others, such as the living room’s pared down mantle are a departure from the ornate details that typify the genre. The Daigles’ goal in blending the conventional and atypical was a house that is both sophisticated and welcoming. Cathy is quick to point out that none of the rooms are out of bounds. “Cream and white is easy to look at and easy to clean,” says Cathy, who purchased many of the house’s new furnishings from The French Mix in Covington and Rivers Spencer in New Orleans.
Designer Jennifer DiCerbo of The French Mix helped guide her from the stark white, washable, bleachable mainstay of the couple’s previous Covington home, to a palette that includes shades of cream, particularly in the more formal rooms. There are a few exceptions. The dining room is coated a pale Wedgewood blue trimmed in white, the powder room a Ralph Lauren silver, the media room and study are painted with tones of blue/gray. Yet the overall neutrality of the house was intended to exude quietude like the rolling green landscape where the Daigles decided to begin the latest chapter of their lives. “We designed the house with the outdoors in mind,” says Cathy. “We love getting in the pool with our children and grand babies, sitting outdoors soaking up the sun, grilling and eating around the pool and enjoying the peace and quiet of our surroundings.”