Forty years ago when Bernard and Betty Berry built in Oakbrook, it was a tranquil Perkins Road setting in an undeveloped part of the parish.
Since then, businesses and subdivisions have grown up around their little neighborhood of 43 individually designed homes with a shared lake, secluded park and walking trails.
“Baton Rouge moved to us,” Bernard Berry said. “But we’re still a quiet little nucleus.”
In the years that the Berrys were planning their home, Betty Berry was on the LSU campus studying for her master’s in clothing and textiles and later working with Dean Helen Gordon in Women’s Housing.
“We just loved the LSU Union, sitting there in the treetops,” she said. “We loved all the glass, the views looking out and the open staircase, which was the signature of John Desmond, the architect who designed the Union.”
The very first meeting the Berrys had with Desmond, he sketched as they talked.
“When we went back for the second meeting, this house was on paper,” Betty Berry said.
Desmond was a giant in the field of midcentury modern architecture, but “he was open to using some old materials combined with new,” she said. “He made us happy. He designed a contemporary home with traditional overtones.”
Desmond situated the house on the property to capture the view of the neighborhood lake from every room on the back side of the house. The main entrance is from the driveway side rather than the street side.
The door opens to a foyer with a brick floor and Desmond’s open staircase, which leads to what was a bedroom suite for the Berrys’ son, Stephen, now an attorney in Atlanta.
To the left of the foyer are a guest room and the very large master bedroom, which was originally planned as two rooms — a bedroom and small study.
“While they were building the house, we came in one Sunday and demolished the wall partition between the two rooms,” Betty Berry said.
An antique partners desk now serves as “somewhat of a room divider” between the two areas.
The room is painted a custom Berry Blue, one of several strong colors in the house.
“Dixon Smith helped us. She’s a wiz with color,” Betty Berry said of the well-known local interior designer. “I like real color, not neutral.”
Two steps down from the foyer is the living room with brick and light copper-colored walls and old pine floors from a building at the convent in Chatawa, Mississippi. A free-standing wooden coat closet separates the foyer from the dining room with grass cloth walls and a bay window. Pottery gives the room strong pops of color.
“We have silver. We have good china, but more casual is now what we do these days,” Betty Berry said. Adjoining the dining room is the kitchen.
“It’s not a big fancy kitchen, but it works well for me,” she said.
Two steps down is a sunroom decorated in bright colors to complement Quimper pottery the Berrys use everyday. The sunroom, living room and master bedroom have views to the very spacious backyard, landscaped by Lorrie Henslee, with an arbor, patio and pond.
“Woodworking is one of Bernard’s hobbies, and he built the workshop, arbors, water feature and bridge across the pond we share with next-door neighbor Carol White,” Betty Berry said.
White’s late husband, Charles, collaborated with Bernard Berry in building the bridge in Berry’s workshop and transporting it to the pond. Bernard Berry also built many of the home’s bookcases, as well as several pieces of furniture.
Even though one of Baton Rouge’s busiest thoroughfares is within walking distance of the Berrys’ home, the neighborhood is as quiet as it was when it was established four decades ago.
“On my morning walk, I hear owls hoot, roosters crow and a chorus of birdsong,” Betty Berry said.