NEW ROADS — Cary Saurage has fond boyhood memories of False River, so he didn't have to be strong armed into buying a place there to retreat from the bustle of Baton Rouge.
"When I was growing up, my dad bought a motor boat," said Saurage, who is retired from Community Coffee, a family business started by his grandfather in 1919. "My brother, Roland, and I would come to False River to ski and boat and drink beer. I have happy memories here."
However, he did put a condition on the purchase of the small home from friends Randy Harelson and Richard Gibbs.
Harelson and Gibbs bought and restored the historic LeJeune House in downtown New Roads in 2006. When a smaller house next door became available, they purchased it, too. Some time later, they approached Saurage about buying and renovating the smaller house. His caveat: The two friends would have to help him with the work.
"Structurally, the home was in good condition, but it had an addition that was in very bad shape," Saurage said. "The chimneys were crumbling, with the mortar turning to dust."
With the assistance of Gibbs, an architect, and Harelson, a horticulturist, Saurage completely modernized the home with new electrical work, plumbing, air conditioning and heating. He hired workers to remove the addition and took down the chimneys. He removed all of the wallboard and replaced it and added new insulation.
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Saurage completely reconfigured the left side of the house, which included the living room at the front, a hallway and the kitchen and dining room at the back. He made the side entry the main entrance to the home. "It was closer to the street," Saurage said.
The original living room with its semicircular bay of five windows became the dining room, where Saurage hung a fabulous contemporary fixture over a circular table. He added a powder room at the back of the hallway and removed a fireplace in the center of the back room and two columns separating the hall from the old dining room to open up the whole area.
Saurage planned to have two bedrooms on the right side of the house, but his friend, Darren Whatley, an interior designer and landscape architect, urged him to make the front room a study.
"He told me I needed to get the desk out of my bedroom," Saurage said.
By adding two windows for light and a handmade cupboard for office storage, the front bedroom became Saurage's home office.
A porch along the right side of the house, part of the addition that Saurage removed, provided the perfect place for two bathrooms — one for the study and one for the master bedroom — at the back of the house.
The first time Saurage seriously looked at the house, he concluded that it really needed a dormer to break up the roof line. He ended up adding the dormer and building out the attic behind the dormer with a large bedroom and bath. To get to the room, craftsman Kerry Callegan built a beautiful staircase from the large center hall. The space below the staircase is now the laundry room.
Saurage, who studied landscape architecture at LSU, completely redid the yard with assistance from Jon Emerson and Wayne Womack, both retired professors in the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at LSU.
With the help of Whatley, Saurage decorated the home with contemporary furniture. It has also become a place for Saurage to enjoy contemporary art.
"My house in Baton Rouge is done in darker, more somber tones," he said. "This house lends itself to more modern art. I wanted to start patronizing local and Louisiana artists. This home has given me the opportunity to do more of that."