A new season – Empty-nesters Phyllis and Lee McLaurin find easy elegance in a new Providence home
See a gallery of all the photos from the McLaurin home.
Phyllis and Lee McLaurin are not scared easily. Even though they had been warned against the perils of starting from scratch with a new house, the couple braved the process—and not only came out unscathed but actually enthused about the experience.
“A couple of friends told us all the horror stories of building a house, but it was the most fun for us,” Phyllis recalls. “We said we’d do it again in a minute.”
The empty-nesters found themselves in the position of starting anew after spending nearly 20 years in a renovated older home on a large, tree-filled lot. “We had reached the point in our lives where we really wanted to downsize,” Phyllis says. “Our three children had moved away, and we wanted to have time to travel and do other things. And Lee was adamant that he wanted something that would require less yard maintenance.”
Lee found their new beginning on a drive through the Providence neighborhood off Highland Road. At the time, there were only a few houses built on the quiet cul-de-sac with its small lots and elegant architectural details.
“He came home one day and said, ‘I have sold our house and found us a lot on which to build,'” Phyllis says. It didn’t take much convincing once she saw the new space, and soon their construction plan was in place. They worked with the narrow but deep dimensions of the chosen corner lot to create a house that almost has a shotgun effect but manages to feel spacious within its 3,650 square feet of living area.
In planning the layout, the couple insisted on a comfortable, combined living and dining area. “Lee and I both really enjoy being at home,” Phyllis says. “I think that’s a result of us both having busy careers and traveling a lot for work.” The home’s floor plan, therefore, provides space enough for many guests to gather but also a cozy feeling when the couple is home alone.
Phyllis also made a marked change in devising the new home’s interior color palette. “In my older house, I used lots of color—red and khaki and blue,” she says. “When we built this house, I wanted calm—neutral colors, lighter colors, things that were more soothing.”
Selecting the perfect primary wall color—used all through the house as well as on moldings and trim—was quite a feat, but Phyllis found a gem in Farrow & Ball’s “Matchstick,” a pale, creamy shade with plenty of warmth. “I knew I didn’t want it to be white,” she confides.
But aside from new paint hues and strategic accent pieces, the couple was able to hold on to many beloved items from their former home. “For the most part, we were able to keep the furnishings we had,” she says. To help those pieces blend with the new home’s style, Phyllis relied not on a single designer but rather on the help of many. “We are so fortunate to have so many talented designers and resources in our community, many of whom I have turned to through the years,” she says.
New treasures have come in the form of an eclectic collection of art, from contemporary paintings by local artists to antique prints in gilded frames, scattered throughout the house. “I’m kind of into art the way some women are about jewelry,” Phyllis says. “Baton Rouge has so many wonderful local artists, and I like to go to art shows and to buy from people I know.”
Though the children, along with the couple’s seven grandchildren, now live out-of-state, the house is not always quiet. “We love to entertain and have friends over,” says Phyllis, adding that they have played host to events ranging from office Christmas parties to neighborhood progressive dinners. Parties often spill out the French doors onto the adjoining raised patio, where the babble of a fountain mingles with the laughter of merry guests.
When the younger generations do visit, they have their own private spaces, thanks to the home’s thoughtful design. The second story features its own living room, with cushy slipcovered sofas and a favorite pine cabinet, as well as spacious guest suites.
“This home is very, very comfortable,” says Phyllis. “It’s much more conducive to our lifestyle. We just love to spend time here.”