While most of their friends have moved several times as their needs have changed and their families expanded, Helen and Bill Campbell decided to grow their house along with their family.
“We were able to raise our children here, and now our grandchildren visit us here,” said Helen Campbell of the house that started out as an 1,800-square-foot cottage and is now almost double that size.
“We did it in phases over a long period of time,” Helen Campbell said.
Over their almost 50 years in the home, the renovations included major changes, like removing floor furnaces, taking out a huge ceiling fan, adding central air and heat, redoing electricity and plumbing and dry-walling the old canvas-covered board-and-batten walls.
The couple bought their home in Steele Place in 1967. They had no idea that it had actually been built two blocks away on Acadian Thruway and moved twice before it reached its current location.
Friends Frank and Virginia Kean, who lived on the next corner, told the Campbells how much they loved living in the older neighborhood.
“We bought the house, and the Keans promptly moved to Tara,” Helen Campbell said with a laugh.
The “little old farmhouse,” as Helen Campbell calls it, was perfect for the couple, who had no children at the time. It had a living room, dining room, small kitchen, two bedrooms, two unfinished rooms upstairs and two bathrooms, including one on part of a small back porch that had been added by a former owner.
The Campbells began working with interior designer Dixon Smith shortly after they moved to Baton Rouge in 1966 for Bill Campbell to take a position teaching economics at LSU.
With Smith’s assistance, they opened up the kitchen, extended the home on the west side — creating a family room where their original driveway had been — and added a home office for Bill Campbell.
Smith told a reluctant Helen Campbell that she absolutely had to remove two closets at the back of the kitchen to make a place for a table and chairs. Campbell hated losing the storage, but the suggestion turned out to be right.
“Dixon was right on everything she ever did for us,” Campbell said.
The family grew with the birth of two daughters, who shared the bedroom on the east side of the house. About 1986, the Campbells finished the two upstairs rooms for the girls and added an upstairs bathroom. The downstairs bedroom the girls had shared became Helen Campbell’s office.
The next big project was to remove the porch bathroom and add a new master bath. The late Jan Robin, who had just gotten her degree in architecture, assisted Helen Campbell with the plans, which included making a small laundry area in the new bathroom and extending the dining room by adding a bay window.
Finally in 2005, the Campbells added a large sunroom, designed by Smith and Joel Fazende on the east side of the home.
“We did this room with the idea that we will enjoy ourselves here,” Helen Campbell said. “This is where we visit with our children and grandchildren. This is where we entertain friends, where people come to watch football games.”
The room opens to a back patio, but also has windows on the street side. It is filled with light, even though it has almost two full walls of bookcases with storage as well as a fireplace. It is large enough for a baby grand piano, plenty of comfortable seating and a television.
Entry to the sunroom is through a landing from the living room.
Below the landing are storage cabinets, where the Campbells keep their children’s toys, now enjoyed by their grandchildren.