The road from LaPlace, La., to Covington, La., is literally 57 miles long, a drive that should take about an hour. But for Cissy and Jack Carville, the journey from a traditional bedroom community in LaPlace to their newly built, contemporary home overlooking the Bogue Falaya River in Covington, took 30 years.
“We came to visit some good friends in Covington one weekend, and there was this big beautiful house across the street. By the end of the week we had leased the house,” says Cissy Carville. “We had lived in LaPlace forever, but we would come over to this enormous house, and we called it our ‘camp,’ where we would sit on the porch, watch the fireflies. We didn’t even have a TV there.
“We really knew we didn’t want that house, but we started looking for a house. After a year we had sort of given up on finding what we wanted in our price range. But our realtor told us there was a property we just had to see—it was this place, and at the time it had was a pretty sad little house,” says Cissy. “But we got up on the hill and looked out, and even though I didn’t like the house, I told my husband I knew I could make it beautiful.”
What followed was months of drawing up house plans, preparing for renovation, talking to contractors and such. “Slowly it dawned on us,” Cissy says. “We knew we had to tear the house down. So we did and we rented a house for two years while we got the plans right.”
Cissy took the project on as a full-time endeavor. In the end, she literally drew the floor plan, and her sister, Leila Dahlbert, who does professional drafting, would perfect Cissy’s plans. Another draftsman in LaPlace brought the plans up to code, and the real journey began.
“My friend, Neetsy Walker, had never done professional decorating before, but she just has an eye,” Cissy says. “I told her to put our friendship aside and that I wanted to hire her. I did a lot of research on the Web, and I told her I wanted a clean,
clean look. Neetsy has renovated a couple of homes and since she helped me with this house, things have grown for her and now she’s busy decorating.”
The result of Cissy’s vision and Neetsy’s natural talent is a stunning, contemporary hillside home with a slightly tropical ambiance, bathed in natural light throughout.
“To me, it was and always will be all about the view,” Cissy says.
The view she refers to is of lush tropical gardens just outside a porch that runs the entire length of one side of the home. The large, fully furnished, enclosed porch is accessed through French doors that line the living room. The gardens lead downhill to the river, best viewed from the charming porch swing that hangs from one of the massive oak trees.
Inside, the house is warmed from fireplaces in the bedroom and living room, where furnishings are largely neutral colors and purposely sparse. Although Cissy’s sensibilities appear minimalist, the home is beautifully appointed, with contemporary art carefully placed, and a few family antiques carefully mixed with the otherwise modern décor. Cissy and Neetsy achieved what so many people struggle with—the house, while elegantly done, is not overdone. Although well-thought out, every room is livable and accessible.
“Figuring this house out became my whole life,” Cissy says. “I would lie awake at night thinking, ‘If I put the wine rack facing this way…’” Because of zoning restrictions, the house could only be 50 feet deep, which imposed some design limitations. Cissy stayed focused on her artistic goal of “clean lines, a tropical feel—to look like a vacation house that we live in all year round.”
Her dream came true by using white oak flooring throughout, except in the bedroom and master bath, where neutral wall-to-wall sisal carpeting was installed. The seven sets of French doors in the living room are also white, and higher than necessary, offering a greater vista and a more expansive feel. The dark wood of family antiques perfectly offsets the white furnishings. Recessed lighting throughout offers a warm glow.
With the help of contractor Kurt Tatje, the Carvilles achieved their dream. With contributions from local craftspeople such as Bill Kiermaier, who built the 60-inch round breakfast table, and Frances Walker from Baton Rouge, who did the finish on that table and the stucco on the bedroom fireplace, the home is a true Louisiana showplace with a decidedly Caribbean theme.
“I don’t want to leave it—I don’t even want to travel,” Cissy says. “That’s how much I love this house.”