The Long and Winding Road
To John and Cheryl Murphy’s home starts inauspiciously enough—it’s a turn off of the main drag of a very commercial part of U.S.-190 in Covington. But once you pass the gas stations, fast-food chains and strip mall, the landscape soon turns into a wooded, bucolic paradise. After a few twist and turns—and some more twists and turns—the Murphy’s home quickly comes into view. Instantly one thinks of Napa Valley, Ca.—of homes that seamlessly integrate the landscape into a home’s architecture, creating a complete environment, rather one overshadowing or being an afterthought of the other.
Once a vacation home for members of the Godchaux family, the Murphys saw the possibilities in what was originally a one-story, camp-style home. Or, one should say John, a vice president at Pool Corp., saw the possibilities. “We already lived down the street and John was always interested in the property,” says Cheryl. “But I didn’t like the house and I forbade him to ever bid on it if it came up for sale.”
Turns out John decided to follow his bliss and came home one day and told Cheryl he had just bought a new house—that house down the street. Though at first sight it was a bit worn around the edges, this country home had potential—and it was on an amazing bit of property, about three acres. High on a small bluff—23 feet above sea level to be exact—overlooking the Bogue Falaya River and bordered by trees, the sprawling, one-story home embraces its setting. And when the Murphys sat down to design their dream home, one thing was certain—every room in the house got a view of the river. They almost accomplished it, only their 12-year-old son Jack’s room doesn’t have one, but he has a view of the pool.
The home was divided into public and private areas. The children—in addition to Jack, there’s Griffin, 13; William, 7; and Mary-Kathryn, 5—have their own playroom, where Puddles, the family’s cockapoo dog, has free reign. A formal entryway leads into a living room with approximately 22-foot high ceilings and large windows—the only part of the original house left. A less formal gatherting room, dining room and kitchen flow from that room. The children have their own wing, including bedrooms, just off the gathering room. The master suite is just off a side of the living room.
Cheryl did all of the decorating, buying furniture and other items locally, as well as from places that she and John traveled to. “We have a wanderlust,” Cheryl says. The furnishings have a sophisticated, European style, but with a bit of American dash thrown in to loosen the look up. Most are in neutral shades so they are “easy on the eye,” says Cheryl. Her mother, Carol Lee Griffin, got into the act as well—she made all of the curtains—and Cheryl did the faux finishes.
The couple initially brought in an architect to help with the façade, but they did all of the subcontracting, designing a house that was built for “our needs,” says Cheryl. The house was gutted and expanded, so much so that if the Godchaux returned, they probably wouldn’t recognize it. In addition to the main house, there is a three-story guest house, adjacent to the pool, which can also convert to a separate party area, with a full kitchen, living/dining area, media and crafts room. John, who is restoring a wooden boat, had a building constructed just for that. And there’s an outdoor pavilion for entertaining en plein air, and another building housing a workout room—with windows overlooking the river, of course.
“Everything was built for how we like to live,” says Cheryl.
For landscaping, Gregory Pierce designed the layout for the front of the house, though the Murphys did the hardscape.
For the backyard overlooking the Bogue Falaya, Daly Sublette Landscape Architects created “an understated and elegant view from the home to the river,” says Brian Sublette, ASLA. “The Murphys wanted a nice place to entertain, access to the river and a landing. We then tried to seamlessly align the various planes [of land and home].”
Like many landscaping projects, Sublette says the yard is a “work in progress,” and awaits the day when the trees and other greenery fill in. He will no doubt fine-tune it some more. And, even though the Murphy home looks finished, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that John and Cheryl are eventually going to add something else to make their home into more of a country paradise. •