The Happiest House

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On a tidy corner lot in downtown Covington, the Redmen family has transformed a 19th-century home into a 21st-century jewel. Even the grass sparkles like an emerald in front of this snow-white, classic beauty.

Dody and Jimmy Redmen bought this home in 2015 after a long search for Dody’s dream house turned up nothing but disappointments. A self-proclaimed lover of old houses, it was always her dream to live in a neighborhood that seemed to be something out of a television show from the 1950s where she could raise her family and watch her son, William, grow up. “I quit searching on a Monday, and I felt peace about stopping the hunt for the perfect house. I got a call on Wednesday that a family was outgrowing their house downtown, and here we are.”

Here they are, indeed. The home, first built in the 1890s, is storied to be one of the first in the Covington area. Legend has it that it was built as a wedding gift for the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, whose former home sits across a modern-day street from this one. Two lots make up the property; this home on the corner and the second lot to the side. Jimmy and Dody added a sparkling pool area, and the need for a changing space led to the creation of a delightful guest house. Tongue and groove walls, a cast iron sink and brass hardware produce a cozy cottage effect in this new building, and a fully concealed Murphy bed allows for overnight company. Flowers and arrangements are one of Dody’s passions, and this space is perfect for her fresh garden-cut stems.

 

Inside the original house, things are somewhat different. During an extensive remodel, the house was basically gutted, except for the original fireplaces. They restored what they could. Working with an architect, they created a floor plan that kept the exact footprint of the house intact, with one addition: a new back porch. The heart pine floors throughout the home are salvaged wood from a Chicago crayon factory, of all places, but the Redmens learned that the wood had originally been milled in Bogalusa; it was a homecoming of sorts to have the floors installed in Louisiana.

Meticulous work on the original wooden windows preserved them for another generation, a true victory in a home of this age. The doors all boast solid brass, period-correct hardware, which Dody adores. She self-managed the project, making every decision with her family in mind. Usability was a key factor and organization a high priority: even Jimmy’s ties have their own compartments in the sleek inset cabinetry of the custom closet. “I love looking at all the fabrics in their own little squares,” she laughs. “And the inset style just makes everything look so neat all the time.” Modernizing areas like the kitchen and bathrooms was a priority, but classic material selections like Carrara marble and panel-style shutters keep the look from becoming overly contemporary. The front door and its sidelights were also restored, letting light flood freely into the wide center hall and the library that sits at the front corner of the home. The view of crepe myrtles through the bay window makes this spot a favorite for the couple, who both love to read. “It’s such a happy room. We spend as much time in there as we can,” says Dody, and Jimmy agrees. The home has four fireplaces, but only three chimneys; as was somewhat common in the old days, two rooms shared one chimney. Now, the center hall fireplace has been re-lined for use as a true wood-burning fireplace, adding a touch of old Southern charm that is visible from multiple rooms of the house.

The neighborhood itself adds to the delight of the property. Streets here are drivable, but are more often filled with residents walking dogs and visiting with their neighbors. Jimmy laughs about trying to teach four-year-old William about safety on the road, and having the boy ask, “What cars, Daddy?” Dody, herself from a close-knit community in central Louisiana, loves the charisma of these few blocks where the water is close, but the people are closer. Combine a couple who counts their blessings daily with a precious young son and a beautiful historic  property, and here stands the happiest house in town.



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