In 2013, New Orleanians Ginny and Dean Westphal built an 800-square-foot St. Francisville retreat with an eye toward the future.
Dean, a retired designer of office furniture and former architecture student, sketched the space with a pair of floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the living room fireplace that could be turned into casement openings if the couple decided to add-on. Just three years later, he drew up an addition, and the windows were put to use as planned.
“We bought the property and built a small cottage thinking that we’d be here one week a month and then it ended up we were here more and more,” says Ginny, noting that the one-bedroom, one-bath space with a loft above felt crowded when guests stayed over.
“We knew where we would add on and how we would add on,” says Dean. “The windows allowed us to have construction going on while we were living here.”
The original cottage took its cues from the 10 woodsy acres around it: walls and ceiling beams of cypress, floors of reclaimed heart pine, a 400-square-foot open-air porch and numerous windows that connect the interior to the outdoors. The new 1,600-square-foot space, which incorporates a focal entrance and features the same warm woods (there is no sheetrock in the house), followed suit so successfully that visitors inevitably think it is the original structure and that the original house is the addition.
The Westphals worked with architect Lindsay Woolf of Woolf Architecture & Interiors to perfect the expansion, which houses the the entrance hall, a large master suite, a living room with a vaulted ceiling, an office and game area, a mudroom and a loft bedroom with its own bath.
“She was instrumental in refining all our thoughts,” says Dean.
“They definitely knew what they wanted,” says Woolf. “They came to me with clear ideas of what they wanted the floorplan to look like.”
Woolf made sure windows aligned from the outside, saw to it that the proportions of the addition worked and that views were emphasized. She also suggested the owners screen in the original porch and add a deck off the living room.
“It’s all about the fresh air and trees and birds,” says Woolf. “You really get a sense of the 10 acres around you.”
Just as they had with the original house, the Westphals sourced their lumber from several St. Francisville suppliers (both Stutzman Sawing and Jackson Hardwood custom-milled their orders), worked with the same contractor, who did much of the carpentry work himself and lightened the cypress walls with a mixture of one-part paint to three-parts water that allows the grain of the wood to show through. They also furnished the house with the same mix of rustic and refined. Dean made some of the simpler pieces, while the couple scoured estate sales (including one at a Natchez plantation) and consignment stores in Louisiana and Mississippi for some of the more elegant pieces. The mantel in the original part of the house was purchased 40 years ago when the original Loyola music school was torn down; its weather-worn finish is the serendipitous product of being stored in a leaky outdoor shed for decades.
The Westphals host family and friends often and as intended, the house is well suited to entertaining. Three sets of French doors are conducive to moving about easily, enjoying both the house and its bucolic Louisiana setting.
“We had a seated dinner for 40 and it flowed very easily,” say the couple, who accomplished exactly what they envisioned. “It’s a very people-friendly house.”
AT A GLANCE
Date Built // original house 2013, addition 2016
Square Footage // 2,400 living space plus 400 screened porch, 400 deck
Architect of Addition // Lindsay Woolf, Woolf Architecture & Interiors
Interior Design // Ginny and Dean Westphal
Standout Features // Cypress walls and ceilings (no sheetrock), reclaimed heart pine floors, custom extra-wide French doors, 20-foot vaulted with exposed cypress beams (dining and living areas)