Barefoot on the Bayou
The first thing that greets you as your car noses into the gravel driveway of this quiet Pass Christian, Miss., getaway is a sign that announces its lighthearted name –– Les Get It On. The homeowners, a young professional couple with three children ages 10, 8 and 6, came up with the playful moniker as both a reference to the wife’s name (she grew up spending time in Grand Isle, where camps traditionally are named for the lady of the house) and a reminder to one and all that fun is always welcome. Both husband and wife work hard and wanted a place where their family could relax and shed the demands of their busy life in New Orleans. They also wanted to expose their children to the same sorts of summer rituals –– swimming, water-skiing, fishing and crabbing –– that they enjoyed growing up with their respective families. His spent years visiting their second home in Bay St. Louis; hers frequented their beach house in Grand Isle. When they began looking for a suitable place to make new memories of their own, they envisioned being near the beach.
But after Hurricane Katrina, they reconsidered and opted instead for a house overlooking Bayou Arcadia, which runs along the back of the sleepy Gulf-side town. Although the raised house had 3 feet of water inside it as a result of the storm, it was being renovated when they saw it more than a year later, and the tranquil marsh setting appealed to them for its relaxing quietude and its access to the Wolf River and the Gulf of Mexico where they boat and water-ski. “We put in an offer the day we saw it,” says the husband. “We had decided we didn’t want to be in an exposed area. We wanted to be close to the beach but more protected and also somewhere we could keep a boat in the water.”
Soon after purchasing the house, they began making improvements –– a screened porch for outdoor dining, a bulkhead, a pool, a dock and a boathouse –– and called in their friend, decorator Donna Maselli, to create a comfortable, uncluttered interior with light colors, soft textures, easy “washability,” a simplicity that wouldn’t compete with the beauty of the setting and lots of space for kids to engage in a variety of activities. “The great thing about being there is that there’s so much for them to do,” says their dad. “The TV never gets turned on except for nighttime movies and sporting events. We use the house for every rest and relaxation you can imagine.
One person will be taking a nap, another fishing, another may be doing an art project, and another may be watching a football game.”
Knowing that the house would be a much-needed retreat for her active friends, Maselli was eager to get it just right. When the homeowners suggested bringing some unwanted pieces from their home in New Orleans, she counseled them to jettison anything they didn’t love and instead find things that they did. “She made us leave New Orleans behind to make it feel like it really is a getaway,” says the wife, who refers to Maselli, with whom she’s run four marathons, as her wingman.
Working quickly and on a budget designed to soften the blow of any future hurricane damage, Maselli laid a foundation of cool, summery white and accented it with hand-blocked textiles in spring colors, crisp stripes, natural materials, custom window coverings and the character of age. “I always love to use sea grass, baskets and old wooden bowls,” says Maselli. “I thought, and they agreed, it’s important to have old things in every room. They add so much depth.” One of the couple’s favorite pieces is an old cypress cupboard on loan from friends who had it stored in their garage. “They called and said, ‘Our friends are moving today, and they have an old piece, and they said we could use it in the beach house,’” recalls Maselli. “When I saw it, it was covered with dirt and unassembled, but I knew it was perfect.”
American Indian photographs by renowned portraitist Edward Curtis, purchased during a visit to Santa Fe, N.M.; indigenous images by famed Louisiana photographer Fonville Winans; and a teak console found in Seaside, Fla., also add a time-worn patina without being precious or untouchable.
Although simple, the house sleeps 14 and provides everything the family needs. A stop at the grocery store is all that’s usually required for even the most impromptu visit. “It’s so close to New Orleans, there’s no stress in packing,” says the wife. “Once you get 30 minutes outside New Orleans and hit the Mississippi border, you feel you can relax and leave everything work-related behind.”
“It’s amazing how quiet it is,” adds her husband. “With the hustle and bustle of our lives, it’s so refreshing to go somewhere where you don’t hear a thing but the crickets chirping.”