By Lea Rittenhouse | Photos by Sam Smead
Architectural Detailing & Interior Design by Harry J. Crouse
Tucked away in the billowing trees of East Texas, near a picturesque lake, is a spacious property beholding an architectural structure best described as Creole cottage.
With interior design elements reflecting a prominent New Orleans flavor, Jimmy and Patti Wright’s three-story home captures a time period and décor rarely found on this side of the Louisiana-Texas border.
“Almost every single thing in the house came from New Orleans,” says Interior Designer Harry Crouse, who has been involved with the home since its beginnings. “Going back and forth and back and forth to auctions—it took years.”
The home was built on 11 acres of land about 17 years ago, but with the authentic slate roof, Cyprus doors made in Baton Rouge and the lived-in antique heart pine wood floors, the house has a vibrant soul reminiscent of 100-year-old plantation house.
“I’ve always loved old things, antiques and things like that, so part of the style of the house…it’s just different than what you normally see,” Patti says describing the furnishing and design elements that add to the soul feeling of the house.
The Wright’s purchased the Longview home from the original owner about nine months after the property was finished. Previous to settling on their Louisiana-style home, the couple often scoped out land outside of town.
“We came out here and looked (at the house) and he fell in love. It wasn’t just me, it was Jimmy,” Patti says while explaining their unique attraction to the home. “That was our hobby, we’d drive out to the country and look at land, and we kept dreaming. ‘Okay, eventually one day we’re going to find a piece of land and we’re going to buy it.’”
Since the vision for the home was deeply rooted in the already established structure and design elements, Patti knew she didn’t want to deviate from the vested direction.
She found out Harry had collaborated on the original plans and contacted him, hoping he would want to continue his work.
“We knew that Harry had ideas about he saw it to be furnished and the vision to complete it to be a Louisiana style house,” She says.
Harry was thrilled the Wright’s invited him to continue working on the home since he had helped finish the home when the original owner was still building.
“He had a passion for Louisiana architecture,” Harry says while expounding on the eclectic collection of authentic touches on the structure the builder included. “He searched out all of these wonderful old things.”
The largest deflection from the Creole flavor of the architecture is the extravagant floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the landscape, which the Wright’s treasure about house. Both of their daughter’s wedding portraits were taken in front of the windows.
“The huge floor-to-ceiling windows, that’s something they would not have done,” Harry says. “We did it because of the view, but we divided it in the traditional way. You couldn’t possibly use the small little windows with the shutters with this view.”
When the family moved into the home, Patti says Harry acquired a vision for their girls and worked hard to incorporate into the design what reflects the family, while keeping in line with the New Orleans feel.
“My kids were at an age where they definitely had opinions about their space, not that they could pick everything, but I wanted them to feel like it was their home,” Patti says. “I think it’s really important that your home be your home, and feel like you.”
Several pieces used in the home belonged to Jimmy’s grandparents, adding to the family flavor of the space.
Jimmy and Patti have done two significant remodel jobs, on the lower level and second floor, and Harry helped guide both of them. In 2005, Patti gained inspiration to remodel what is now known as the media room, so the family would have an indoor reception area for her oldest daughter’s May wedding.
“It was plain concrete floors and cinderblock and I needed the other bathroom and I needed an indoor area,” Patti says.
The second remodel on the third floor was completed after both of the Wright children had moved off to college. The goal of the alterations was to replace the upstairs carpet with wood floors and to overall create unity within the design of the entire home.
Despite the remodels, Harry says the house is still not finished.
“The main reason it’s not finished is it takes so long to find the right pieces,” he says.
Although she would enjoy finish the home one day, Patti says finding authentic pieces is worth the wait rather than putting a time limit on the process.
“You’re not going to have the ability to acquire the things that are you, and representing the house and its period,” She says adding that her and her husband slept on a mattress with no headboard for years while waiting for the right piece. “Another reason why the house does feel like it has soul is because it’s along the line of these slow acquisitions that it takes.”