Olivia and Scott Huffstetler’s living room opens to the foyer, dining room and refurbished kitchen. Every piece of furniture in this space had to be replaced due to the flood. Photos by Melissa Oivanki.

Coming home: A displaced family finds new life in their refurbished abode

Driving into Olivia and Scott Huffstetler’s neighborhood in Denham Springs, one is reminded that every single house in the area flooded. Vehicles owned by construction crews still park curbside, and trailers laden with cabinets or flooring continue to be unloaded. Unlike a typical single-house renovation—which disrupts neighborhood streets for a while—this is a complete renovation of an entire area. It’s progress in process.

“Almost every one of my neighbors has walked through my house already to see the flooring and the finishes that we picked out,” says Olivia, an interior decorator whose home took in 3 feet of water. “And we’ve walked through their houses to see the changes that they’ve made.”

New gas lanterns and slate floors were added to the front porch when the Huffstetlers refurbished their house after the flood.

The flood left few in their area untouched.

After a river of water poured onto the streets of Chateau Jon on Aug. 19, 2016, neighbors helped neighbors quickly salvage what they could and get to safety via boats launched at the entrance. The following week, the gutting process started as most returned to rip out drywall and assess the damage. The rebuilding began.

“This neighborhood has really bonded over it,” says Olivia, who gladly helped others choose stucco and wall colors. “We’ve all decided to make the best of a bad situation. The entire community of Denham Springs is strong, and a lot have rebuilt. In the end, it’s going to be better than ever.”

Black chairs in the breakfast room were stripped and redone in a dovetail grey to complement the rest of the kitchen. A custom painting by Laurel Browning—a favorite of Olivia’s—hangs on the wall beyond.

It’s this sense of community that drew the Huffstetlers to this home in the first place. Their original desire was to build a brand new house on plenty of land, but four years ago they found this spacious, single-floor home on an acre and a half in an established neighborhood. Just perfect for their growing family. They made minor updates and moved in. But the flood changed everything.

“We are trying to see this as an opportunity rather than a calamity,” says Olivia of the reconstruction process. “We ripped this house down to the studs. So essentially, we got to build a new house without pouring a slab.”

The greatest visual change the duo made to the house can be seen in the kitchen, where a U-shaped, two-tiered island was replaced with one that is 10 by 6 feet, per Scott’s request. Perla Venata quartzite, installed by Menzie Stone Company, tops Shiloh inset-style cabinets, by Sexton Kitchen & Bath. The entire island offers ample storage underneath with easy access, and it also houses a dishwasher, microwave and warming drawer.

“We love to entertain, whether it’s just having our friends and family over or hosting a party,” says Olivia. “And everyone gathers in the kitchen. That’s why this space was so important to us.”

A custom stainless-steel hood by Robby Turner of Old South Lighting & Ironworks was oxidized for patina and includes polished brass detailing. Shiloh cabinets from Sexton Kitchen & Bath, quartzite countertops from Menzie Stone Company, subway tile from ProSource and The Blakely lanterns by Capital Lighting work together to make this room an entertaining hub.

Infusing the home with character was also paramount to this couple, so they added materials with plenty of patina to give a sense of age. A brick wall now houses the walk-in pantry, complete with a salvaged door from The Corbel in Jackson. The fireplace wall—formerly just Sheetrock—is now covered in brick to complement the brick columns flanking the entrance to the foyer. Wood beams were distressed and installed at the ceiling and to mimic a few beams that were already in place. And rustic oak floors from ProSource replaced a more formal Brazilian cherry wood that was ruined by the flood. Other additions include gas lanterns on the front porch and slate flooring on the front and back porches. And while they were able to save most rugs and drapes, new furniture had to be purchased for much of the 4,500-square-foot house.

“I used Town and Country Furniture. As soon as I heard that they flooded too, it made a difference to me. I know what that feels like,” says Olivia. “Many of their employees flooded as well, but they were so helpful and accommodating. They even held furniture until I was ready to move in.”

And while the reconstruction and design portion of the Huffstetler house project transpired relatively quickly, compared to many in the area, Olivia was anxious to get everything in place and move her husband and three young sons back home. She made decisions quickly and worked tirelessly to ensure no detail was overlooked. They were not just returning to a reconstructed house, they were going home.

“As a mom, you want to nest,” says Olivia. “I didn’t want to hurry up and finish because I wanted my couch and my rug back. I wanted my children home. I am so grateful every single day that we are back in this house. There is calm again.”

For a closer look at the rest of this home, click on the photos in the gallery below: