Channel surfing through the digital guide, I noticed Turner Classic Movies is once again featuring a day of Elvis Presley movies in cinematic celebration of what would have been his 81st birthday. Our son’s girlfriend recently visited Graceland, and her review of the interiors, especially The King’s Jungle Room, was one of mixed reactions. Time stood still for the decor of Graceland decades ago, but giving a bit of thought to a just for decorative fun update poses the question, how difficult would it be to untacky the tacky? Immediately I put on my redo, remodel, rearrange, remove, repaint, rethink thinking cap on. Seldom is over the top flamboyant chic the style aimed for when designing and decorating commercial and residential spaces, but not all commercial and residential spaces are created equal. There are spaces and places where understated just won’t do.
Ostentatious decorating and design has a standing relationship with grand scale museums, historical homes, architectural marvels, Las Vegas and hooray for Hollywood interiors. Some tacky, some tasteful, some unforgettable and some better forgotten. What is it they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Celebrities love to dial up extravagance in a manner befitting a true Hollywood style story. You live what you know as some would say, and if flamboyant is just another day at the office it becomes the rule versus the exception. Paging Liberace, Elvis and Michael Jackson! Talk about extravagance on and off the stage.
From the articles, books and interviews I’ve read referencing the interior spaces of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, his flamboyant personal taste and style on stage followed through to his home as well. I often find myself deep in if this was my house, hotel, or shop thought – a first cousin to window shopping for the decorating minded. Deep contemplation of exactly how I would redo, remodel, rearrange, remove, repaint, rethink the entire design takes over, and suddenly I’m looking for pen and paper to jot down ideas and sketches. I do the same thing when watching a television show or movie. Drives Dave the Builder crazy! My redesign and redecorating services have not been engaged by famous architects, heads of Hollywood studios, hoteliers or the fine folks at Graceland, but a girl can ponder can’t she?
In an article on How Stuff Works, it is revealed Elvis purchased the furniture for the jungle room on a spur of the moment whim to stir up his father. The article states Elvis’ father thought the furniture was the ugliest he had ever seen. I must admit I agree, which brings us to today’s let’s redo, remodel, rearrange, remove, repaint, rethink the entire design: The King’s Jungle Room edition.
We Louisianians are a patient people. We are aware our neighbors to the North actually get to experience seasonal foliage and fall colors before mid to late November. Fall takes it time getting down to Louisiana, but when it does it stunningly shows its true colors along the bayou in perfect fall form. I’ve yet to find a better way to take it all in than to hit the road with camera in hand, Dave the Builder at the wheel, and the words from the song “Drive South” defining the moment.
Come on baby drive South With the one you love Come on baby drive South
You can be guaranteed if it’s late November the locals are asking, “Are the leaves in color on the bayou Ginkgo?” This famous landmark Ginkgo tree has served as the picture perfect photo backdrop for generations of local residents. This picture does not do justice to just how beautiful these colors along the bayou really are.
Decades old iron bridge railing has aged gracefully through the years. Brick-lined streets, decorative ironwork and historical homes make a drive though the garden district a trip through time.
Further South down the road we go to another small town favorite, Lea’s Lunch Room. Lea’ s is known throughout the United States as the place for pie. It’s a standing game day tradition to stop at Lea’s for one of their famous ham sandwiches and a piece of pie on the way to Tiger Stadium. Recently, Lea’s Lunchroom was listed in the USA TODAY Travel article “10 best: Delicious Pies around the South.” All that driving and photographing works up an appetite, and it is the best excuse I know of to order up a sandwich and a slice of coconut pie with sky high meringue to-go, of course. On the road again…
The Mary McCoy Big House stands steeped in history on the Solomon Northup Trail. The story of Solomon Northup was the subject of the film, 12 Years a Slave. The Bayou Boeuf community and the parishes of Central Louisiana historically factor into the life of Solomon Northup. When I was in college at LSU I used the Mary McCoy Big House as my thirty minutes to home mile marker. Lots of history and beauty associated with this local landmark.
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Like the leaves, the colors of the season are changing from browns and oranges to brighter reds and traditional greens. This much needed road trip was all the detour needed to help me collect my thoughts and take a breather before the next phase begins. December 1st signals the official Christmas season kick off. Here we go!
Today marks an anniversary in American history that forever changed our nation. We’ve come to mark today as a day of remembrance and reflection, a day we come together in thought, moments of silence, ringing of bells and prayer.
Never Forget: September 11, 2001
Today marks an anniversary in American history that forever changed our nation. We’ve come to mark today as a day of remembrance and reflection, a day we come together in thought, moments of silence, ringing of bells and prayer. Never forget the fallen heroes, families, friends and fellow Americans whose lives were forever changed that day. Our memories will forever be filled with the events of that horrific day in our history, and even though painful to remember we should never choose to forget.
‘Tis the weekend of the 127 Yard Sale aka The World’s Largest Yard Sale. The Places In The Home Gang hit the sale in Gadsden, Alabama many moons ago on our way back home from our annual trek to the hills and mountains of East Tennessee. The already overloaded Excursion and U-Haul ( it was very normal for us to pick, hunt and buy enough treasures, trinkets and trash to warrant renting a u-Haul). Have any of you ever been to The World’s Largest Yard Sale? Please share! I love this pic from Authentica Classics. More where that come from here.
Gone with the Wind is as famous for its lines as it is for the movie itself. If I had a nickle for every time “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” has been quoted well, you know. Good Housekeeping recently informed its readers the infamous ending almost wasn’t the famous ending as we know it. An alternate ending has been revealed through the recent findings of a script. Take a look at what words Scarlett may have spoken over at Good Housekeeping.
Moving on to the second part of our The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery adventure, we pick up with our party of three filling the afternoon hours taking in local points of interest while counting down the time to The Myrtles Mystery Tour portion of our trip to St. Francisville, Louisiana. This story takes place fifteen years ago, right around the time I opened Hopefully Classic Antiques and Interiors. As you can imagine, antique shopping was high on the list of things to do, see and buy. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love antiquing. Dave the Builder gets into it, and being the fabulous parents we are we know how to bribe entertain our son while antiquing and attending auctions. We trekked the streets and shops of downtown St. Francisville until we could trek no more. New Roads, here we come!
In a glowing review of highlights and attractions not to be missed was the story of Miss Emily. Miss Emily was a local woman who worked the queue of vehicles waiting to board the ferry selling parched peanuts, homemade pralines and soft drinks from a large basket. I love it! Sitting in line waiting to drive onto the ferry goes better with an ice cold Coke, salty peanuts and a homemade praline. We continued our afternoon nosh aboard the ferry as we crossed the Mississippi River. This unique mode of transportation is now closed. In the name of progress and moving on up, the ferry has been replaced by the John James Audubon Bridge. I’m glad we got the chance take a ride on it before it did.
New Roads did not disappoint. I didn’t know what I was expecting in return from this small town, but it delivered lagniappe in a big way. We found our way to the main part of town and hit up several antique shops. The first shop (sorry, I can’t remember the name of any of the shops) specialized in clocks and vintage walking sticks. Dave the Builder was in his height of glory. We were welcomed into the shop by an older gentleman who was the owner and a lovely, lovely older lady whose greeting came in the form of my kind of question, “champagne or fruit punch?”
Our son put in his request for the fruit punch. I guess she could tell I was a little apprehensive about their comfort level with him in the shop with a goblet full of bright red fruit punch. I knew this kid was raised in and around the biz and the dos and don’ts in shops and showrooms, but I also knew she was not privy to this pertinent piece of information. This lovely and wise woman handled the situation with such grace and tact. She invited him to follow her to the butler’s pantry to help fix the drinks and slip a cookie or two. She realized right quick she had made a new friend. Gosh, what a great memory! We sipped, shopped and scored two of the most unique antique walking sticks. I wish I had them both today, but I sold them to a client the following week. Oh well, the memory is more valuable to me than the walking sticks could ever be.
We found a couple of other shops and enjoyed the local fare before heading back via ferry to St. Francisville. The timing was just right as it was barking up on sunset and coffee time. We crossed another suggested stop off our list by visiting The Magnolia Cafe. This place is right up our alley- an unpretentious do drop inn heavy on casual fun, food and drink.
It was about that time to head out for the Myrtles Mystery Tour. We drove up the winding driveway of The Myrtles, and the setting and timing could not have been better to set the mood and the tone for a mystery tour. The above image says it better than I can. We claimed three of the large rocking chairs on the veranda and pondered what was to come. While the crowd and the anticipation built, certain imaginations showed signs of running away with the night. Miss Hester, our tour guide for the evening, casually opened the front door at precisely 7:00 pm and invited the crowd of about twenty to come right on in. Talk about playing to an attentive and crowded room! We all gathered together in the foyer with wide eyes and listening ears. This is where things begin to get interesting.
In the daily meeting with the Places In The Home creative team (me, myself and I), quiet and centered thought brings forth ideas. Sometimes it all runs together, and at other times the ideas and interest flow like the mighty Mississippi River. There’s a world of inspiration out there folks! I love the search, especially when it is right here at home. October is a great month for antiquing, fall road trips and home tours. We took October very serious a few years back and set out on a intrigue packed afternoon and evening fondly referred to as The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery.
Working for family is a trick and a treat. I set the tone for a blissful and professional working relationship right off the bat, and we’re off and decorating. My brother is once again enlisting my help in redecorating his den and foyer. He didn’t realize he also wants to freshen up his dining room decor until I gently persuaded him to do so.
His circa 1903 home is one of the few Victorian turret architecture examples in the state. Staying true to the period is an absolute must on the exterior for historical purposes however, I am allowed to blur the lines when it comes to the interior. Small changes and edits keep the bottom line affordable and in check with current styles. Changing the neutral color palette is off limits. He loves it, and it flows with the historical aspect of the home.
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New lamps for the sideboard and replacing the dining room chairs ( bad, very bad) is first on the list. He has tried his best to get his hands on the balustrade lamp Dave the Builder made for me. Dear brother, it ain’t happening. That is the reason I sourced lamps in a more sophisticated image of my lamp for his consideration. We will also be paying attention to new curtains or perhaps new trim for the existing ones, a new rug and lowering the artwork and framed photos. I have to consider the twelve foot ceilings, proportion of the space and overall balance when placing artwork.
Placing items and photographing the space for reference reminded me of the details surrounding the silver lazy susan with double turned malachite handles atop the sideboard. St. Francisville, Louisiana is a charming town rich in history and historical sites. My brother is a history buff who really appreciates the architecture of historical homes. He enthusiastically believes no trip to St. Francisville is complete without a tour of The Myrtles Plantation.
The Myrtles Plantation is not without national media attention. Referred to as one of “America’s Most Haunted Homes”, The Myrtles has been the subject of interest, articles and television documentaries from Veranda, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times and The History Channel to the one I most remember, the visit with cameras rolling from Oprah Winfrey. As visitors make their way up the winding driveway to the entrance of the circa 1796 Antebellum mansion, distinctive features such as the brick courtyard, double dormers and the lacy wrought iron wrapped front veranda captures the eye. I could sit on the veranda in the large rocking chairs staring out at the moss draped live oaks and lush grounds for hours. One Saturday afternoon and evening fifteen years ago I did just that.
Dave the Builder, our son and I went to Baton Rouge for a working vacation. My brother suggested we drive over to St. Francisville and New Roads to check out the sites and tour The Myrtles. If we did tour The Myrtles he wanted me to pay close attention to the silver lazy susan in the dining room. We bounced the idea around, decided what the heck, and off down Hwy. 61 we went. Our first order of business when we arrived was to have lunch at The Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles Plantation.
Our waitress inquired if this was our first time to The Myrtles. She gave us the poop scoop on the town, the shops, and the Saturday evening Myrtles Mystery Tour. The Mystery Tour is held on Friday and Saturday nights, and is touted as the opportune time for Chloe, the reported ghost known to inhabit the house and grounds of The Myrtles, to make an appearance. Our son was captivated, my curiosity was piqued, and Dave the Builder thought it would be a fun way to spend a Louisiana Saturday night. I made reservations for the three of us for the 7:00 pm tour, and we left the grounds highly anticipating our return.
In part two of Three Part Harmony: Inspiration, History and Mystery I’ll tell the tale of Chloe, recount our ferry trip to New Roads and the infamous peanut lady, antiquing, champagne punch, and the fun and fright of the Mystery Tour.
Holiday at home in Louisiana themed decorations, lights, treasures, treats, and reminders find their way into my holiday thoughts and decor.
From mid November through early January, 2013 the Natchitoches, Louisiana Landmark Historic District along the Cane River is illuminated in over 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 riverbank set pieces in celebration of the Christmas Festival of Lights. Shopping, dining, antiquing, horse drawn carriage rides, live entertainment, and legendary fireworks displays each Saturday night make this one of the most anticipated traditions of the holiday season.
Sleigh Ride by the Louisiana born, raised, and swingin’ Harry Connick, Jr.
These vintage snaps are blasts from Louisiana Christmas past of my mother and brother, uncles and cousins and yours truly with the Claus.
Dave the Builder and I took a Christmas light walking tour through our neighborhood a couple of evenings ago, and this Christmas nativity display captured the essence of the season for both of us.
The large glass pine cone and Santa ornaments cast a vintage feel, taking me straight back to the country Christmases spent at my maternal grandmother’s house.
New Orleans knows how to throw a party and a holiday celebration! No trip to New Orleans, the French Quarter, and the French Market would be complete without a visit to Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines Shop. Believe me, Christmas time is the perfect time for a box or two of New Orleans’ signature candy. Ca c’est bon, y’all!
My small but cherished collection of hand-painted Louisiana cypress Santas add a dash of Louisiana seasoning to the holiday scheme each year.
Architectural integrity through architectural elements is the indelible mark of historic homes and landmarks.
It is usually the only tangible proof of bygone golden eras ruled by classic styles.
Restoration efforts and day to day upkeep of historic homes can be financially mind boggling. The sheer expense of replicating these styles in today’s market can create financial hurdles difficult to clear. Aging and changing neighborhoods coupled with a natural progression away from this style of living places most of these homes in the private sector on an endangered species list.
The craftsmanship, detail to details, and artisan skills used to envision, shape, form, and build these homes fascinate me. Over the years we have had the opportunity to tour, consult on, and donate antique pieces to several state and privately owned historic homes.
As much as I love antiques I will walk right by a period piece without so much as a glance to get to the heart of the historic matter. Architectural elements grab and hold my attention.
In our city we have a block that is known as Mansion Row. Anchoring the far left corner of the block stands the Thompson-Hargis Mansion. Built in 1907, this Greek Revival home with characteristic Ionic columns,porte-cochère, triangle pediment, and transom entry was once a jewel in the crown of our city history. The exterior and grounds showed the weathered look of sun and time- nothing paint and repair could not fix. The property was structurally sound and the architectural integrity intact.
The furnishings were removed years ago, the windows and doors boarded, and the grand dame beautifully sat idling until this past Sunday evening when she fell victim to a senseless demise.
Neighbors who recall the elegance of what was and admirers of what could have been mourn the total loss of of property, history, and hope.
It is a sad turn of events and an even sadder realization that original, historic, and one of a kind architectural elements were destroyed. Dollars do not factor into the equation, there is no replacement value for the architectural integrity of this 105 year old home. RIP Thompson-Hargis Mansion.
Preserving history and restoring things runs in my family. Dave the Builder and I preserve antique and architectural pieces. My brother purchased, moved, and restored his circa 1903 Victorian home – his second property to restore. I am currently in the process of photographing his home to feature in a future post. Stay tuned.
Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version in tribute to Natchitoches being chosen Best Southern Small Town by USA Today readers. Visit Natchitoches once and you will come to know why this comes as no surprise to me.
It’s the time of year for travel. Vacations, staycations and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections and give us ideas to implement into our home decor.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town rich in history and bragging rights. Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush) is located about one hour south of Shreveport and five hours north of New Orleans. Natchitoches was established by the French in 1714 and is the oldest permanent settlement in the 13 state territory Louisiana Purchase.
French and Spanish forts, historical homes, national historic landmarks, bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and fantastic restaurants line the original brick Front Street. The thirty-three block National Historic District and plantation district along the banks of Cane River Lake is made up of 100 historic homes and buildings.
One of my favorite shops to visit on historic Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile. Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana. The front door swings open to a blast from the past decor full of charm, hardware, tools, classic toys and utensils all in I remember these splendor.
Natchitoches is the hometown of writer, producer and film director Robert Harling. Robert Harling is best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias. Rooted in location and hometown authenticity, Natchitoches was the star of the South for a brief period of time in 1988 when Hollywood came calling. The excitement surrounding the filming was a statewide topic of conversation, and the memories of the stars and their time spent weaving in and out of the local landscape a souvenir program in Louisiana film history.
The Taylor-Cook home, better known as The Steel Magnolia House, remains one of the most recognizable and popular historic homes in downtown Natchitoches. As a surprise birthday gift to me, Dave the Builder purchased tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Candlelight Tour of Homes.
The evening tour of Taylor-Cook aka The Steel Magnolia House was a candlelight and cocktails themed party not to be forgotten. Several hundred guests strolled the grounds and toured the home filled with period antiques tastefully paired with stylish accents while sipping cocktails by moonlight, music and magnolias. Natchitoches throws a good party.
Clockwise from top left: Taylor-Cook House, Front Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Melrose Plantation
One of my favorite artist, African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988), is closely associated with Natchitoches. Miss Hunter was born near Cloutierville, Louisiana, moving to Melrose Plantation when she was fifteen years old. Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught artist who painted from memory.
Clementine was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon.
The Wash ~ Clementine Hunter
The subjects of her paintings portray plantation life as it were in the early 20th century. Although most of her works are untitled, the subject would be verbally described by the artist herself when asked.
Picking Cotton ~ Clementine Hunter
In the early days of her painting dating to the 1940s, Clementine Hunter sold her works for a quarter. Her paintings can now sell for thousands of dollars. It is estimated Clementine Hunter painted between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime. Miss Hunter continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death in 1988.
I was extremely fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase my Clementine Hunter painting in 1986 before forgeries of her work hit the market. The local couple I purchased “Outdoor Cooking” from were actual friends of Clementine Hunter. To authenticate the painting the couple took a photo of Clementine Hunter actually holding the finished painting. They gave me photo to keep when I purchased the painting, and I cherish her photo as much as I do the painting.
Cane River runs through downtown Natchitoches. There is not an empty spot to be had on the banks of Cane River on the first Saturday in December. On the first weekend of December, Natchitoches illuminates the Southern night sky in a festive Christmas festival firework spectacular. Approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to experience this annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, a tradition of lights and holiday merriment.
Oprah Winfrey made an unannounced and very surprising visit to Natchitoches in 2002. The visit was prompted by an on-air invitation from Peggy Plunkett who was in the audience at a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah came, saw and declared Natchitoches the “Best Little Town in the Whole USA!” Now that’s an endorsement!
Another wonderful festival (and there are plenty of those in Natchitoches) is the famous Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival. The origin of the meat pie dates back to the late 1700s. Natchitoches Meat Pies are deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef and ground pork seasoned with onions, peppers, and garlic. The Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival is a two day festival celebrating the regional delicacy and the festival also has its very own official recipe courtesy of Mrs. L.J. Melder.
Official Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival Meat Pie Recipe
1 teaspoon shortening
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork meat
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste
1 tablespoon flour
Meat pie crust:
1 quart plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup shortening plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup milk
Melt shortening in heavy pot. Add meat. Cook until the pink is gone.
Add vegetables and season to taste. (Season well, as meat will lose seasoning during frying.) When the meat is completely done and the vegetables glazed, remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour.
For the crust:
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Beat egg and add to milk. Work gradually into dry ingredients until proper consistency to roll. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Break into small pieces and roll very thin. Cut into rounds using a saucer as a guide.
Place a large tablespoon of prepared meat along edge and halfway in the center of round dough. Fold the other half over, making edges meet and seal with water. Form edges with fork. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Drop in deep fat and cook until golden brown. Drain and serve hot.
Serves: 18 pies
Southern hospitality flows through the town like the Cane River and the welcome mat is always out. Natchitoches, Louisiana is a sportsman’s paradise and home to Northwestern State University, festivals, historic homes and plantations, bed and breakfasts galore, quaint shops and excellent restaurants.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is a great destination for day tripping, a weekend getaway or a stay for a week or two visit. USA Today readers know what they are talking about.
Christmas lights from around the world brought to you by holiday spirit, magnificent talent, skill and style extraordinaire, and historical architectural wonders of the world as seen through the lens of talented photographers.
Fifth Avenue~ New York, New York
Mann’s Grauman Chinese Theater~ Hollywood, California
Jackson Square~ New Orleans, Louisiana
Empire State Building~ New York, New York
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele~ Milan, Italy
Shops in Seiffen, Germany
U.S. Capital~ Washington, DC
Caesars Palace~ Las Vegas, Nevada
Auckland, New Zealand
Rockefeller Center~ New York, New York
Melksham, United Kingdom
calle de Alcala~ Madrid, Spain
Champs-Élysées~ Paris, France
Buckingham Palace~ London, England
La Grande Place~ Brussels, Belgium
Fifth Avenue: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Mann’s Grauman Chinese Theater: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images