A house made for Summer

When Chris Guidry showed his wife, Shane, the house he thought they should buy, she knew it was the one even as she saw it from a half-block away. The front porch, the driveway and the courtyard patio won her over before she ever went inside the house.

The Guidrys had been married just two months when they bought the home a couple of weeks before Hurricane Katrina. They had not moved in yet. Chris was doing most of the work himself, and they were knee-deep in having the floors refinished when they had to evacuate. Thankfully, when they returned, the house was intact, and they resumed their renovation. That was seven years ago, and the house is still their ongoing project that they worked on every weekend for two years.

Built in the 1930s, the house is a California-style Craftsman bungalow. It is 1,600 square feet in size but feels much larger thanks to the unique “doughnut” floor plan and the generous outdoor space. The attic has a built-in cedar closet that is used to store costumes and seasonal decorations.

When Shane’s grandmother asked her what color the Guidrys were going to paint the outside of the house, she expected to hear something serene, like white. Shane told her grandmother that she painted the exterior purple, and Grandmother was duly surprised. It’s not a garish Mardi Gras purple but rather a sophisticated soft shade with a gray undertone by Sherwin-Williams called Exclusive Plum. The color offsets the pretty front garden of green and flowering plants.

The house has been a perfect starter home for several families over the years, and so it is for the Guidrys. There is a lovely entry hall with the dining room and kitchen directly ahead. To one side of the hall is the light and airy living room with plenty of windows and a fireplace.

Around the “doughnut” are the other rooms, including the master bedroom with its own bathroom. Next there is a playroom for the couple’s 3-year-old son that leads to another little hall with another bathroom. You finally end up at the little boy’s bedroom, which has a school desk in it that belonged to Shane when she was a little girl. There is also a door to the patio off that back hallway.

The interior decoration is fresh, mixing vintage, antique and contemporary things. Some of the furnishings are passed down from both families, and some are things that the couple has acquired together. Walls are light, and the old floors are stained dark. Accents of color punctuate, and a burgeoning collection of artwork adds personality and depth. Pretty baskets filled with toys are tucked away here and there. This is a house that is eminently livable for the entire family.

Like so many old houses, there were no closets to speak of, so the Guidrys devoted an entire wall in each bedroom to massive California Closets systems that are hidden behind floor-to-ceiling drapes. The master bedroom has luxurious brown velvet drapes to hide the closet, and the playroom has colorful drapes that are ingeniously cobbled together from IKEA panels and cute pennants from Anthropologie.

The kitchen is the most used room in the house and, as Shane says with a smile, “the most abused room,” given how much they like to cook.

They added plenty of cabinets to the original ones that came with the house, refurbishing them with a fresh coat of paint. A large restaurant-style stove fits in nicely.

The dining room is large enough for a very cool mid-century modern bar; a music area and a play area for the little boy; a beautiful antique-style china cabinet; and a handsome Danish-style mid-century table and chairs that once belonged to neighbors and friends of Shane’s grandparents. When it was passed on to her, Shane refinished it with help from Chris and her late father, and it remains one of her favorite things in the house.

A fabulous vintage portrait of a little boy hanging above the bar turns out to be a portrait of Chris when he was about the age his son is now.

Along with the vintage portrait, the Guidrys have collected a great deal of other fun art. There is a whimsical painting of giant scissors by Sarah Ashley Longshore that was a gift to Chris from Shane – Chris is  a hairstylist, hence the shears. One of Shane’s treasured paintings is a William Hemmerling she bought 10 years ago. Shane is especially attracted to the talented female artists of New Orleans such as Longshore, Gretchen Howard, Elise Allen and Rebecca Rebouché.

Shane and Chris say that they have a happy home, and Chris, being wise in his ways, says a happy wife makes a happy home. They have an open-door policy where family and friends are always welcome. Shane was an only child in a modest home that was always filled with people, so she feels at ease with a houseful.

The places that the whole family enjoys the most are the front porch, courtyard and patio, spaces that are made for entertaining. Given their rare off-street parking and their proximity to the Carnival parade route, the Guidrys use every inch of their outdoor space. On the front porch, there are a swing and a gas lantern that Shane calls her “dream light” to set the welcoming mood. A place to put that swing was very important to Shane. Her father gave it to her for her very first home when she was still single, and she has carried it with her all though the years and now into her married life.

Now that summer is here, you will find the Guidrys outside on their patio in the courtyard at the back of the house. It’s the perfect warm-weather spot, whether for coffee with the newspaper on the weekend or a splash in the wading pool or possibly an evening soirée.

The large shaded courtyard adds to the overall livable square footage of the home. Lush plantings are nestled in the bricked garden. There is a built-in working fireplace and a storage shed with an outdoor bathroom that comes in handy for all those Mardi Gras parties. Adding to the fun is a covered deck complete with two long counter areas, a smoker and a crawfish-boiling pot.

The ample courtyard has plenty of play space, too, as evidenced by all of the colorful accouterments of childhood scattered about.

Chris rebuilt the shed, and the inside ceiling is totally covered with posters from music festivals. He added the covered party area next to the shed, complete with a “love shack” tin roof. There’s a TV out there, too, to watch all the games, and there is plenty of storage for all the outdoor serving dishes. The patio fireplace fell down at one point, and Chris rebuilt it brick by brick.

The Guidrys have not one regret about their home and the work they have done on it. Future plans include a camelback addition for a family room. They toy with the idea of putting in a pool but hate to break up their beautiful brick courtyard. For the time being, they enjoy their son’s plastic yellow wading pool.

It seems like everything in the house has a story to tell. As the Guidrys talk about their home, their joy is obvious as they relive the experiences of their adventures in home ownership and renovation. As they retell the stories, listeners are drawn into their domestic bliss. They love their Uptown neighborhood and describe their neighbors as “the best.” They enjoy being able to walk to local restaurants and the grocery store, and there is a nearby park to sit in and eat ice cream on a warm summer night.

Is this not just a perfect picture of summertime – when the living is especially easy in the environment the Guidrys have created in their beloved Uptown home?

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