A few years ago, Tom and Linda McCarthy faced a dilemma about their beloved historic home in Covington.
All three of their sons had graduated from college and started lives of their own elsewhere. Tom had retired from his career in the health care industry. Perhaps it made sense to downsize or move. But they had a better idea.
“We decided to expand,” said Linda. “We wanted to make the house not just a home for us but for our sons and their families. So, we chose to renovate and add on, and we are so glad we did.”
Guests at the Covington Heritage Foundation’s “History and Holly” tour will have an opportunity to see the results on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., when the McCarthys’ home on South Jahncke Avenue and six additional houses will be open to the public for the annual event.
“We always decorate for the holidays,” said Linda, “but this year we’re going all out because of the tour. By the time our sons and their families come right before Christmas, everything will already be done, and we can relax and enjoy them and our grandchildren.”
The task of decorating became a bit more strenuous in the past few years, ever since the couple expanded their 2,800-square-foot house by adding an 800-square-foot master suite connected to the main house by a hallway. The configuration helps fill part of the immense piece of property at the corner of South Jahncke and South 18th in old Covington. It also provides an opportunity for privacy for the McCarthys, plus an outdoor recreation space that got a lot of use recently.
Said Tom, “The temperature got just cool enough a couple of nights over Thanksgiving that we built a big fire in the outdoor fireplace and everyone gathered around it.”
The original cottage was built in the first decade of the 20th century, according to Covington historian Ron Barthet. A smaller house on the property, sided with boards and battens, probably dates even earlier, though no one has been able to pinpoint the date of construction.
Today, it serves as a guesthouse exclusively for the couple’s granddaughters when they are in town. With an oldest grandchild of 14 and the youngest of one, the McCarthys not only needed more space for their family, but more bedrooms. Their former master bedroom, situated to the right as one enters through the front door, is now a guest room. Upstairs in the original house there are two bedrooms and three in the little cottage, plus the master and guest room.
“Seven bedrooms sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t seem that way when everyone is here at the same time,” said Linda.
The couple hired New Orleans architect Davis Jahncke for the project, and it was he who had the vision for separating the new master suite from the main house.
David Noggerath, of Brandon Construction, used salvaged pine from a Clio Street warehouse in New Orleans for the flooring, and sinker cypress from Lake Maurepas for posts and beams. The unpainted wood is naturally pale and provides subtle contrast with the cream-colored shiplap walls in the reconfigured den. Twelve-foot ceilings seem even higher because of the vertical accent created by the cypress posts.
“Before the renovation, the ceilings in the rear of the house were dropped a few feet, to 8 or 9 feet high,” said Linda. “It seemed like a shame, so one day we asked our contractor if he thought the ceilings could be raised to their original height. He poked around for a while and decided that they could. So I asked Tom what he thought. Poor thing had no idea what he was agreeing to.”
“Once the ceilings were at 12 feet, the kitchen wall cabinets looked too short and so we ripped them out. That meant new bottom cabinets and before you knew it, it was a whole new kitchen,” said Tom, who managed to maintain a sense of humor about the project, despite being hoodwinked by Linda. “I couldn’t be happier with the results and Linda’s vision for the space. I like pretty much everything she proposes.”
The stylish kitchen, den and breakfast area now have shiplap walls that serve as a backdrop for furniture like the ornate antique armoire in the den. An open cupboard in the breakfast area displays Linda’s collection of vintage transferware in shades of red, blue, and even brown.
“Whenever we travel, I’m always looking for a piece to bring home,” she said. “I like it in all different colors and buy all different makers. Even though it makes a wonderful display, we use it all the time.”
Linda credits her friend Rachelle Woodard, an interior designer, with pulling everything together in the house to make it seem as if the renovated area and master suite addition have always been there.
“She came up with the idea for the bed curtains in the master and for finding the right fabrics for things like the valance in the kitchen over the sink and curtains in the hallway,” Linda said.
When the couple is not entertaining family members, they are reveling in the experience of living in Covington. According to Tom, “We have lived so many places because of my career in the health care industry, but when we moved here in 2002, we did not want to leave.”
Linda agreed. “It’s a wonderful community here. We go to church at Saint Joseph’s Abbey on Sunday mornings and afterwards we go to brunch where we see all our friends. We like going to the farmers market, and the Southern Hotel has been such a wonderful gift to everyone. Sometimes when I’m out in the front yard, one of the brothers from the abbey will drive by and honk — it’s just that kind of place."
Covington Heritage Foundation’s History and Holly Tour
WHEN: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 10)
TICKETS: $20, online or at Braswells, Southern Hotel, Hebert’s Cleaners or Jefferson House.