A Good PlanThe whole house—including the living room—is dog-friendly, as the presence Rocky (right) and Dagnabit (left, who has paralyzed back legs) attests. The brown velveteen couch, slipper chairs and over-sized pillows are from Bellanoche.

If  you talk to most homeowners about the reasons they bought their properties, many will discuss their need for more space, their expanding families or their lifelong dreams of home ownership. Kim Dudek bought her Tylertown, Miss., home for one reason only:

“I needed a place to evacuate in case that ever becomes necessary again.” Kim says. “During Hurricane Katrina I was stuck in New Orleans with 15 dogs and nowhere to go. I just was not willing to let that happen again.”

A Good PlanA chaise in the corner of the living room provides a spot to read a book, or to see who is at the front door, as it is opposite it. The mirrors are from Belladonna, while the pillow, throw and lamp are from Bellanoche. The side table is from West Elm.

Kim, who owns Belladonna Day Spa and Bellanoche in New Orleans, and whose primary residence is an elegant 1920s home in Broadmoor, never does anything in a small way. While some people might opt for a modest getaway, Kim found an expansive 3,500-square foot, four-bedroom home set on five acres, complete with built-in pool and a pool-house she has since converted into an apartment. And that massive piece of equipment one sees on the side of the house—that is a generator. Kim is not taking any chances.

A Good PlanThe pool house bed and furniture is Ikea, the bed linens from Crate and Barrel. In the clear-topped table there is a space where Kim puts paperback books for guests to read.

“I was working with a realtor who just took me from one doublewide trailer to another, and even though they were well disguised, they were still trailers,” Kim says. “Coming in to Tylertown for the first time, I saw this house on top of the hill. It had been sold right before Katrina, but the buyer decided to cancel the contract and it had just been put on the market the day before I came to town.”

The stately house, built in the 1930s, is set far back from the street and needed some updating. “The land you see now is not how it looked before the storm,” Kim says. “The hurricane decimated almost every tree on the property.”

A Good PlanThe pool, which was in bad shape when Kim bought the house, was restored. It’s also where she does water rehabilitation with Dagnabit.

Still, the only real structural changes Kim had to make were in the kitchen, where a powder room was removed to create more space. Kim had an island with a cook top installed, and distinctive new lighting fixtures on pulleys that allow them to be raised or lowered. “Everything in the house was electric,” Kim says. “There was even a real old electrical stove—the kind where you had to push the buttons. We ran gas lines so the generator could run off of gas.”

Stainless steel shelves and porcelain tile floors were installed in the kitchen, along with light birch cabinetry. The result is an airy, sun-dappled room that welcomes visitors who enter from the rear of the house.

A Good PlanThe kitchen is completely new to the house and was fitted with cabinets by Ikea. The chandeliers move up and down on a pulley. The ceiling fan is from Lowe’s.

Rooms are spacious throughout, and with Kim’s penchant for finding beautiful furniture, the house has already become a showplace.

Outside, a separate building once used to house recreational vehicles has been turned into a kennel. Kim, who is passionate about her dog-rescue and rehabilitation work, had the building outfitted to accommodate several dogs in the event of an emergency. On a recent visit to the home, her own five dogs (Petunia, Bert, Ernie, Rocky and Dagnabit)—including one who does not have use of his back legs and navigates the property on wheels—served as the welcoming committee. Sturdy iron fencing has been added throughout the property. “We had to make sure everything was escape-proof!” Kim says.

A Good PlanThe previous owners’ curtains remain in the house, which dictated the color scheme, such as in the dining room. The table and Chinese Chippendale-style chairs are by Artesia from Bellanoche. The plates on the wall and table linens are from Belladonna Day Spa. The carpet and chandelier, which has a matching one in the pool house, were there when Kim bought the house.

The kennel building is adjacent to the pool area, which Kim says was a “huge nightmare” when she bought the property. “The pool was empty for six years, so the liner had ripped, and trees fell in it during Katrina. It was murky, dirty and disgusting.” Today the pool has been relined and beautifully restored. The pool house
is cozy and well-appointed for guests.

Today, Kim feels far more prepared for an emergency.

 “I think my whole life since Katrina has been about making sure everybody is safe,” she says. “I lost my parents for three days during the storm, and I had other people with me, and many dogs. What scared me most was how unprepared I was. By myself, I’m fine, but when you have other people and animals depending on you, you just must be prepared.  Now I think I am.”

A Good PlanThe master bedroom is a center of serenity. The bed is by Ikea, the curtains original to the house. The bed linens are from Bellanoche.

Next on the agenda may be some landscaping. “There are beautiful irises and daffodils and crocuses that grow here,” she says, since the climate in Tylertown is cooler than New Orleans. “It just feels like home, and the people here are very welcoming,” Kim says. “And all the people who have worked on the house—they’re like family now.”

Kim has already settled in and found comfort in her home.

“This place has brought me so much joy already—it’s just so peaceful here. I haven’t been on vacation since Katrina, so this is like a vacation to me, to be here.”