Through three major projects and a few minor ones, Bob and Linda Bowsher transformed what she called the “Baton Rouge version of a ranch house” into a modern traditional-style showplace.
It’s also become the perfect background for his handmade furniture, her art, family pieces and items collected over decades.
The Bowshers purchased their home in 1977 shortly after they moved from Washington, D.C., to Baton Rouge for Bob Bowsher to take a position in a local law firm. The story is that the home was designed by the late Bill Hughes for the CEO of Gulf States Utilities, now Entergy.
“We understand that it was the first all-electric house in Baton Rouge,” Bob Bowsher said.
As it happens so often in their Walnut Hills neighborhood, the house never went on the market. Leonard Nachman, Bob Bowsher’s law partner, heard the owners were interested in selling and told Bob Bowsher to knock on their door.
The home was in excellent condition with a modern open-plan design.
“It had one giant room,” Linda Bowsher said.
The couple added bookcases for their massive collection of books and did a few minor changes but mainly kept the house the way it had been built in 1956.
In 1988, they made the first of three major additions with a new master suite, a utility room and a powder room. They also reconfigured the patio to create what they call their “very expensive dog porch,” a place designed for outdoor enjoyment but soon taken over by a succession of family dogs.
In the 1990s, Linda Bowsher surprised her husband, a woodworking hobbyist, with the news that she was giving him a workshop for his birthday. It was, she said, also a gift to herself.
For years, Bob Bowsher had enjoyed assembling traditional-style furniture from kits. When he first started his hobby, he did his projects in the family room because the finishes would not dry outside in the humidity.
“When we added the master bedroom, we made it big enough to move his woodworking there,” Linda Bowsher said. “But the projects got large.”
“A half-completed grandfather clock and a 12-drawer chest in the process of being assembled were sitting in our bedroom,” Bob Bowsher said with a laugh.
The Bowshers didn’t build just any workshop.
“We like architecture, so before we built, we went around the country looking at historic workshops,” Bob Bowsher said.
Then in 2002, the Bowshers tackled their biggest project, adding a front hall and portico to completely change the look of the home.
“We never really liked the front of the house,” Bob Bowsher said.
They also removed a side window from the living room and replaced it with a fireplace, which they surrounded with bookcases. “We wanted a fireplace, and we wanted a front hall,” Linda Bowsher said.
Wood craftsman Ford Thomas, who made many of the mantels for architect A. Hays Town, cut the mantel for the Bowshers.
While the family room with its wall of windows at the back of the home remains almost exactly as the Bowshers found it when they moved in, almost everything else has been redone, including the kitchen and the large living room-dining room combination, which is now divided into separate rooms and, with the new front hall, painted a soothing Greenbrier beige with linen white woodwork.
Through all of the projects, the Bowshers have relied on Logan Killen as their builder.
“He has a good eye and good suggestions,” Linda Bowsher said.
They really needed him when Hurricane Gustav brought on an unplanned project after a neighbor’s tree fell on the house and into the living room.
“While the storm was raging, I called Logan. He had a crane out here the next day,” she said. “We will never forget that. He’s my builder until he quits building.”
The home is filled with paintings the Bowshers have collected as well as Linda Bowsher’s own artwork. She started painting some 12 or 13 years ago with local artist and painting instructor Libby Johnson.
Bob Bowsher, who made the dining room chairs and many other pieces of furniture in the home, has moved on from kits to actually cutting the pieces himself. His latest project, a focal point in the family room, is an adaptation of a Stickley chair and ottoman in the Arts and Crafts style.