Major and Chanler Holden Mittendorf and their three sons live in an old dairy barn surrounded by family and a menagerie that includes a llama, a horse, chickens, rabbits, three Boykin spaniels and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Noel, a special delivery from Santa Claus several years ago.
Chanler Mittendorf’s sister and brother-in-law, Dr. Wendy Holden-Parker, and husband Rob Parker, and her brother, Derrik Holden, also live in houses on the Highland Road property, which was originally the home of an LSU professor who operated a small dairy there. The Holden siblings acquired the property before the Mittendorfs married under an oak tree behind the barn in 1999.
“When I moved here, everyone said tear the barn down and start over,” recalls Chanler Mittendorf, an artist and graphic designer who could see the potential.
She transformed the barn, basically one long skinny room where the cows were milked, into a living room/kitchen combination and added a partition to create a little bedroom. She also added her studio to the west side of the house.
When the Mittendorfs married, they converted a small separate building where the milk was measured and tested, into their bedroom.
“We had to walk outside to go to the restroom,” says Major Mittendorf, managing partner of CORE Comprehensive Occupational Resources.
Their first “married” project was to connect the small room to the rest of the barn, but they soon ran out of space when they started having children. That’s when they did their big addition — a master bedroom, walk-in closet, bath, den and a playroom for the boys.
“We added about half of the present house,” says Chanler Mittendorf, who designed the addition.
Her parents, Dr. Jack and Pat Holden, are expert collectors of Louisiana antiques. While driving around the Paincourtville area, they saw a 200-year-old house that was being torn down. The Mittendorfs approached the owner about buying the old wood and other materials.
“The guy said you can have it if you just get it out of here in two months,” says Major Mittendorf. “It was a fabulous old house.”
Every day after work, the young couple would drive to Paincourtville, pick up a load of materials, bring it home, remove the nails and stack it up for future use, which came when contractor David Dansky built the addition using the old cypress ceilings for the floors and old beams for the ceilings.
The home is filled with items given to the couple by the Holdens from their collections, including Indian pottery and an antique chest from New Mexico.
“Before my parents collected Louisiana furniture, they collected New Mexico furniture,” Chanler Mittendorf says.
Among their other treasures is an old confessional from a church, which they use for storage, and an old gun cabinet, now used for displaying guitars. It was given to Pat Holden by contractor Cookie Honore after many years of restoration work together.
“Guns to guitars,” Chanler Mittendorf says.
At the center of the kitchen is an old butcher’s chopping block from Manchester, England. The top tells the story from decades of cutting meat.
“It’s like a piece of sculpture,” she says.
The last addition to the home is a wonderful deck with a fireplace, comfortable seating, outdoor kitchen and a long antique table. Because of the elevation of the property, the view from deck is to the top of a large live oak.
“This is where we have big family dinners every Tuesday,” Chanler Mittendorf says.