From the time Sam Corso was 6 years old, he wanted to be an architect. Then he fell in love with art during his junior year at LSU.
It was only natural when the artist needed a new studio, he would pick a house in Spanish Town that needed a complete renovation.
“I always loved old houses,” Corso explained.
Now from his cottage on North Street, he does painting, drawing, mosaics, bronze sculpture, tapestries, furniture design and stained glass for commercial, liturgical and residential clients.
What is now his studio began life in 1897 as an elongated shotgun house for rent, built by the man who lived next door.
“The whole house is old cypress — inside, outside, windows, walls, floors, doors, shutters,” Corso said. “Everything is pretty much original. The house is good and solid after 118 years.”
It has 12-foot ceilings and a side hall designed to access the rooms.
“The proportions of the rooms are great — 15 feet by 15 feet,” he said.
The house originally had a shake shingle roof, which was covered in the 1950s with a tin roof.
Corso believes that the original builder designed his home and the house next door, which is an exact mirror image of Corso’s studio.
When the original builder died, his wife inherited the three properties. At her death, they went to a caretaker-friend, whose daughters inherited the properties at her death.
One of the daughters added an efficiency apartment to the west side of the building Corso now owns. That’s where Corso made major changes.
“It had an 8-foot ceiling,” he said. “I took all of that out, added extra supports and put in a wood ceiling to match the other part of the house. I took that side down to the studs.”
The studio, which faces North Street, is painted a putty color with warm gray trim. “It’s really about seven different colors,” Corso said. “I wanted it to look muted, like it is in a fog.”
He removed awnings and screen added during the 1950s to open up the tall front porch with its traditional Victorian-style gingerbread and front windows with working shutters.
The front door leads to the long hallway, which Corso uses as a gallery to display some of his paintings. The first room is the conference room with a large wooden table, a small fireplace and mantel, an antique armoire and an antique bookcase. The ceiling in the conference room is painted green, which Corso believes is the original color. Walls, like those in the hallway/gallery, are painted cypress boards.
“They probably at one time had wallpaper or cloth,” Corso said.
The second and third rooms are where Corso fabricates his stained glasswork. Behind that is the glass room, where he keeps the glass for his projects.
Connected to the house by a small “bridge” is Corso’s putty house, where he does some of the sanding and chemical work required for his art.
Corso came to Baton Rouge from his hometown of Monroe to attend LSU, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1975. Two years later, he received his master’s under his teacher and mentor, the late Paul Dufour.
After he completed his studies, Corso continued working in Dufour’s studio.
“People started buying my work and giving me commission work,” said Corso, who later became Dufour’s business partner.
“In 1992, when Paul retired, I became president and sole owner of Dufour/Corso Studios,” he said.
Over the years, Corso has taught at LSU in the School of Art and in the School of Landscape Architecture and done workshops and classes around the country and in New Zealand. His work has been shown in numerous art shows.