In 1950—the same year he was conjuring an airport administration building and a courthouse—A. Hays Town was also unveiling a new home on the LSU lakes. The house would not bear many of the hallmarks of the residences that he became so well known for in the 1960s and beyond. Instead, like much of his early commercial work, it featured some of the cleaner lines indicative of the era’s modernist movement. But if the knowing visitor looked closely enough, he could find many little hints of the gracious style that would eventually make Town one of the region’s most enduring architectural influences.
This confluence of seemingly opposing design approaches was part of what attracted antiques dealers and designers Gary McDaniel and Daryl Rogers to the lakefront home in 1996. Masters of marrying exquisite historic furnishings with just the right contemporary accents, the pair knew this house would be the perfect backdrop for their own personal collections of treasures old and new.
“We both admired the work of A. Hays Town, and the lake view was appealing as well,” Gary says. And having earned an interior design degree from LSU, Gary says returning to a home near campus seemed like the “comfortable thing to do.”
Daryl and Gary found the transitional style of this Town house intriguing from the first viewing. It seemed as though the structure captured the best of both worlds: Features like a screened porch with terrazzo floors marked Town’s earlier influences, while the tall slate roof, brick courtyard and oversized windows reflected characteristics of the architect’s later work.
When one’s starting point is the creation of an architectural master, a host of renovations is hardly necessary, so the men left most of Town’s work as is. They chose only to make minor aesthetic changes, like replacing a mantel in the living room with one they had discovered in the South of France, redoing kitchen cabinets, and covering the Roman brick exterior with stucco for a “cleaner look.”
In decorating the 3,000-square-foot house, Gary and Daryl needed to look no further than their own firm, Rogers & McDaniel Antiques and Interiors. The partners fly regularly to Europe to search for rare and beautiful pieces for their shop and clients, so it was easy to furnish the house with some of their own favorite finds from their travels. But unlike their design projects for clients, they were able to let this special undertaking progress over time, and so the house is an organic, ever-evolving showcase of unique items.
“What’s really important to us is kind of layering styles and materials and furnishings and art objects,” says Gary, who describes their style as “an easy elegance.”
“We try to buy timeless things,” he says. “I’ve definitely always had an interest in the contemporary, but I also very much appreciate antiques.”
While most of the major furnishings have remained constant, the couple enjoys rotating accessories and art as the mood strikes. “That keeps it interesting,” Gary says, adding that a large closet serves as a repository for items that are not currently on view.
That’s not to say that they favor a minimalist approach. Rooms both public and private are densely populated with antique treasures and carefully chosen modern details. The living room, which Gary says is the most-used space, is home to many favorite discoveries: a painting they “fell in love with” in Paris that now hangs over the fireplace, a rare French ebonized-wood and bronze chandelier, a carved antique angel that Daryl got from a friend years ago among others. It is here that the couple goes to watch TV—the screen is tucked away inside an antique armoire, naturally—and to get a glimpse of the sunlight bouncing off the lake through a large front window.
Like most of Town’s later home designs, this house features a strong connection between the interior and its surrounding natural environment, revealed through features like those big windows and comfortable outdoor spaces. Here, the original brick courtyard is as much a gallery for Gary and Daryl’s antique treasures as the rooms inside. It’s also an outlet for Daryl’s keen interest in gardening.
“Daryl has a great, great passion for plant materials,” Gary says. “He comes home weekly with a carload of plants. I’m more interested in the garden ornaments.”
That yin-yang means that nestled among the fruit trees and flowering vines are all-weather accents dating back to the 18th century. Like the items indoors, these pieces awaken an appreciation of their historic origins as well as fond memories of the trips on which they were found.
“We certainly like a sense of history,” says Gary. “When you have a passion for good design, whether it’s antiques or modern, it all works—at least for us.”
And just as the famous architect revamped and reshaped his style over the course of his long career, the spirit of the house he built is fluid.
“An interior is never finished,” Gary says. “Hopefully it keeps evolving and doesn’t look like it happened overnight.”