Dr. Harold and Laurie Brandt's home could be called their family tree.
"A home tells a story, not just of the family in the present, but of the generations that came before," said Laurie Brandt.
The Brandts, who had been living in a large home on Longwood Drive, moved to the much smaller digs in 2008.
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Walking through their two-bedroom home on Beaumont Lane is akin to flipping through a family album, but here, family history is preserved in passed-down treasures.
A large pine hutch in the foyer displays Laurie Brandt's antique china oyster plates, teacups and other serving pieces that belonged to her two grandmothers, Ernestine "Steen" Levy and Doris Levy Weill, who both lived in Baton Rouge. Many of the pieces had belonged to their mothers and grandmothers.
The foyer leads to the living area on the right and the dining room on the left. A small hallway opens to the master bedroom with an adjoining seating alcove. The antique rosewood bed, wardrobe, his-and-her dressers and desk were inherited by Ernestine Levy, who was about to give them away when Laurie Brandt intervened.
"I loved the furniture, but Harold and I didn't have room for it. We were living in an apartment in New Orleans while he was in medical school," Laurie Brandt said. "Steen agreed to pay for storage for the pieces until we had a house big enough for them."
Upstairs is a small den Laurie Brandt calls the Jane Austen room after her favorite author. What looks like a fine mahogany cabinet opens to reveal a Murphy bed, which turns the little den into a guest bedroom.
Probably the most meaningful item in the home is a copy of the painting, "The Madonna of the Cherries," that hangs over the living room sofa. It is one of a very few items brought by Harold Brandt's adopted grandmother, Mimi Brown, as she escaped the Nazis in Vienna in World War II. In her art studies, Brown's cousin had copied the painting from an original Titian painting in a museum in Vienna. It is such an exact copy that authorities held Brown in custody until they could verify that she had not stolen the original painting from the museum.
Harold Brandt's mother, Gerta Brandt, who also lived in Vienna, was 15 years old when she came home from a birthday party to find that her entire family had been taken away by the Nazis. She was protected by a group of nuns and eventually made it to Shreveport, where she was cared for by Mimi Brown and her husband, Walter.
The beloved painting is just one of many stories that weave together a family history of many generations. The epergne on the dining room table, statues from Laurie Brandt's parents' home, sets of china and photographs everywhere are among the many family treasures.
"It's like the old saying," Laurie Brandt said. "Home is where the heart is."
Serendipity played a role in the Brandts move to their new home.
"Our kids were gone, and Harold was sick of fooling with the pool and the yard," said Laurie Brandt of their old home. "He kept saying he was going to fill in the pool."
While biking though the area, the Brandts' son, Gary, found the secluded Beaumont Drive neighborhood and took his parents to see the houses. As it happened, a homeowner and her new baby were in their front yard. Harold Brandt rolled down the window and asked if she might be interested in selling her house.
The two families made a deal almost immediately, and the Brandts bought the house.
Laurie Brandt organized the move and then went to Florida, where she spent a good part of the summer on a project to save endangered turtles.
"I had everything arranged. All they had to do was put the things in boxes and move," she said. "I moved in the day (Hurricane) Gustav hit."
Laurie Brandt said she loved everything about the house but the dining room, which was much smaller than the one in their older house.
"I wondered how we were going to seat 20 people for Passover," she said.
Rather than change the dining room, which they used only a few times a year, the Brandts decided to expand their living room by taking in a screen porch and opening up the living area to the kitchen.
It proved the perfect solution.
Because the room is deep, the Brandts can move tables to create one long table for the Passover dinner and then return the extra space for day-to-day living.
Working with interior designer Bill McMillin, the couple created two seating areas in the large living room with two walls of windows that overlook the patios.
"We used Navajo White on the trim and neutral colors on the walls," Laurie Brandt said. "I like to keep it simple. I think you notice the things in a room more if you keep the colors simple."
And the things you notice about the Brandts' home are the treasures that tell their story.