BROUSSARD — It’s a rare woman who can bring together East and West, but Penny Edwards does.
Wife of the late Marion Edwards, her home in Le Triomphe is an homage to the globetrotting life they led during brother Edwin Edwards’ political reign and a testimony to her transition.
Built in 1998 and purchased from a previous owner in 2005, the Edwardses liked the niches, nooks and crannies that seemed meant for art pieces. Penny Edwards completed the Old World twist by changing the wall finishes and completely replacing every light fixture in the house until it seemed custom made.
“It was like it was built for what we accumulated together,” she said.
Edwards has redecorated since her husband’s passing three years ago, donating some of his political memorabilia to the Haynie Family Historic Collection and selling off her more extreme Italianate pieces in order to return to “her oriental travel roots,” as she describes it.
The home marries her love of Old World classicism with her international style.
“It enabled me to move forward,” she said, although the home still retains its Italian villa character. “It’s a little more casual. I can kick back.”
Call it the power of the passport, but it begins at the front door, with Indonesian panels flanking the foyer alongside Balinese temple lions carved some 350 years ago, formerly used at palace gates to ward off evil spirits. The couple commissioned the two panels from the same Bali gallery to depict the story of the pair of lions. They required 18 months of labor due to tropical weather and intrinsic demands of the wood itself.
An Asian coffee table given to Marion Edwards by the president of Korea, repositioned now in the center of the living room, was his favorite piece, Penny Edwards said.
Collections acquired over the years grace the walls and oriental carpets cover the travertine floors underfoot. A Carrara marble fountain in the living room provides the unmistakable focal point, while a Capodimonte “Pietà” shares shelf space with a Salvador Dali drawing.
“Some women collect diamonds, I collect art,” Edwards says with a laugh. And she has, since 1977.
Chinoiserie extends throughout, including in the raised dining room where an intricate Chinese chest stands, a diplomatic gift from long ago.
“It has a million drawers,” she says.
Gazing down from the dining room wall are a pair of Adrian Fulton portraits, a smiling Penny and Marion with his famous white hat.
Nearly every piece has a story. The leaf Lalique bowl beneath the portraits was a gift from their best man and matron of honor at the Hotel Hassler in Rome; the large Moser crystal vase was purchased in Prague. A Ming plate rests in a shadow box near the kitchen, which boasts a pristine view of the golf course.
Edwards’ bedroom exemplifies her passion for objects with history that permeates the house. The pair of silk bird motif rugs in the room’s entry and at the foot of bed were bought in Beijing. Ice blue silk embellishes the windows, while other grand gestures include an Italian fresco and two twin Meissen porcelain mirrors flanking the Versace bed. A large, turn-of-the-19th-century piccolo forte cylinder music box from Switzerland takes up one wall. It is her favorite collectible.
Another piece she’s partial to is the Boticelli Venus in the boudoir.
“I love Boticelli,” she says. “Marion told the artisan ‘she wants a sculpture’ and he produced this one of crushed alabaster.”
The leather vintage man’s hatbox in her closet belonged to Marion, and a photograph of him hangs there also.
“I can see him straight from my bed every morning, laughing at me,” she says.
On the corner walls of the petit salon off her bedroom are photographs from a life lived largely in the public eye: Marion; Penny and Marion; Penny and Elizabeth Taylor; Penny and actor Dennis Quaid. An empty nail marks the place of one that she’s donated to posterity. The lacquered secretary, also pale blue, was custom-designed in Sorrento, Italy, and also has hidden drawers.
A vintage leather suitcase acquired in Jakarta sits by the door, only this one is filled not with clothes but with her writing. Nearby is a rare first edition of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” she found in Louisiana.
In the hallway off the living room, a mural of jackal gods judge a king’s worthiness to enter the underworld.
“I love Egyptology,” she says. “This is the tale of the afterlife.”
It leads to her study, formerly her husband’s, now redecorated with a woman’s touch. Her desk houses a collection of pens — 18k Cartier, Mont Blancs, Valentino, Waterman & Schaeffers along with one-of-kind pieces — as well as a Baccarat alligator. George Rodrigue artwork, including one the artist drew for her specifically on the tablecloth at Charley G’s, and Marion Edwards’ memorabilia are everywhere, accompanied by a world map with push pins marking the places she’s been.
“I’ve just added the Costa Rica pin, and I’m getting ready to explore South America,” she says, pausing for a moment. “The days of wine and roses, that’s just how our life was.”