When Tracy Cox Walters discovered she was ready to make a life change in 2013, it was in part because she was fed up with road construction in and around her Carrollton neighborhood.
“First, it was resurfacing Broadway. Then it was Carrollton, then St. Charles. By the time work on South Claiborne started, it was time to simplify my life,” she said.
Walters and her sons Cameron and Christian Cox had been living on Willow Street in a 3,000-square-foot house that had begun to feel like a burden to the divorced mother.
“It had a dining room, a living room and spaces that never were used. Plus, it was filled to the rafters with things,” Walters said. “I was ready for a change. Uptown and Carrollton just felt too congested and I decided Lakeview would be perfect: Quieter, more open space and closer to Franklin where Christian was about to start school.”
But before Walters even began house hunting, her home sold, requiring her to rent a townhouse on Milne Boulevard.
“One day, while we were living in the rental, I drove by when the ‘For Sale’ sign was going up at this house at the corner of Polk and Milne,” Walters said, referring to the 1940s-era Craftsman she shares with her sons, her new husband, John Walters, and the family dog, Lucy. “I had really wanted an old Lakeview house, because old houses are just built better. This one was configured as a double, and I kept it that way because I wanted the rental income to supplement my salary (as the office manager of a dental practice).”
Moving into the owner’s unit of the double forced Walters to go through her possessions and shed everything that, in her words, did not “bring me joy.”
“I held yard sales, put things on consignment, gave stuff to friends and contracted others to auction houses. I even auctioned off a set of silver that my mother-in-law from my first marriage, Helen Cox, had given me. She founded ‘As You Like It’ silver shop on Magazine Street, but she would have wanted me to do what I did because it helped me afford this house.”
Walters knew from the get-go that a renovation — and addition — would be in order if she and her sons were to fit comfortably in their new digs. The transformation began after Sanchez Shoring repaired the foundation, which was damaged in post-Katrina flooding. Throughout, Walters was picturing what she wanted the place to feel and look like.
“My stepmother had designed a house in Arkansas, and she gave me a stack of graph paper to work with. She said, ‘You can do this,’ ” said Walters.
Working with the graph paper, Walters drew the floor plan for the house as it was when she bought it and began experimenting with moving walls until she was happy with the layout. The former living room morphed into the kitchen, the master bedroom was enlarged and she converted the former kitchen into a master bath, walk-in closet and pantry/laundry room.
Next, she started designing the 500-square-foot addition for the rear, which connects directly to the kitchen. The addition accommodates the living room and dining room.
“I painted everything in the house a shade of white with a little hint of gray in it to tie the rooms together and make the space light and airy,” Walters said.
Another spatial trick that Walters employed was to vault the ceiling in the addition, leaving its structural members exposed.
“The original ceilings are at 9 feet throughout the house, but I raised them to 11 feet in the addition and opened the ceiling to the roofline,” she said. “The beams that run across are bolted together for extra strength. I came up with the idea, adding some of the extra V-shaped wood pieces and putting beadboard on the ceiling to give it a little more style.”
Walters worked with structural engineer Ben Foley, who found a draftsman to draw up the plans. She also worked with Boesch Maintenance master craftsperson Rachel Tassin and Mike Boesch, who built the bookcases that give the living room its personality.
“I spent hours and hours designing those bookcases,” said Walters. “I had edited my belongings and knew what I wanted to put there. But then I needed to figure out how to divide them up so that the whole unit would be symmetrical.”
Across the top row of cubicles (accessed by a library ladder), Walters displays vintage milk glass pieces that Helen Cox gave her. There’s a nook holding antique glass bottles and others containing books.
Some hold acid-free cardboard boxes (all meticulously labeled) that protect genealogical information about her family.
“My kids tease me that I can get a little OCD when it comes to organizing things,” said Walters. “I had lots of photo albums in different colors and couldn’t stand the visual chaos, so I went online and searched until I found some that were the same size and white.” The all-white photo albums are lined up on the bottom row of the bookcase.
What the home displays best of all, however, is Walters’ ingenuity and personal style.
Although she loved the look of marble for her kitchen counters, she found a granite composite that looks like it but performs better. In her baths, she replaced towel racks with rows of hooks and installed galvanized outdoor light fixtures over the vanities in lieu of lighting bars.
In the master bath, she repurposed a vintage cranberry crate by hanging it on the wall and using it to store towels and washcloths. Floors throughout look like bleached wood but are a high-end laminate that Walters stalked online until it was reduced 50 percent.
“I asked my boys recently how they would describe the house,” Walters said. “They told me, ‘Mom, it feels like a spa.’ That’s exactly what I was going for.”