Fran Harvey knows that old saying is true: Mother knows best.

At least when it comes to decorating and your mother was one of Baton Rouge's most well-known interior designers. 

When Harvey set out to furnish the home she and husband Leroy purchased 15 years ago, she relied on a lifetime of advice from her mother, Nell Fetzer, an interior designer for more than 50 years.  

"Mom was still going to Dallas for annual checkups from having breast cancer 25 years before," Harvey said. "Leroy and I went with her and dad on one of her trips just before we got married, and we went to market and bought everything we needed for our house in a couple of days."

The house is a contemporary A-frame the couple purchased because of its location near Catholic High School, where Fran Harvey's son, Clayton Stewart, was a student.

Although the home retains many of its contemporary elements, Fran Harvey decorated with antiques including family pieces, quite a few from her mother who had selected them on antique shopping trips in Europe and Latin America. 

The entrance to the home is through a walled courtyard that leads to the double front doors flanked by large glass panes on both sides and overhead. The foyer soars to a two-story cathedral ceiling and is surrounded on two sides by a balcony with a French nickel and brass rail Leroy Harvey crafted from Fetzer's design. The painting showcased upstairs was done by her father, the late Ed Fetzer, while downstairs a landscape by family friend Donna Fraiche adds color to the space.

When the Harveys bought the home, the staircase to two upstairs bedrooms was in the foyer, but both thought the space would be brighter and roomier without it. Within a day, it was gone.

"The next question was, 'How do we get upstairs?' " Fran Harvey said with a laugh.

The answer was through the library to the right of the foyer. Part of the recessed ceiling in the room was removed and in went a custom stairway built in New Orleans to fit the space. The ceiling was vaulted and cypress beams added. To give the room a cozy, English look, a Burnschwig & Fils wallpaper in a bookshelves pattern went up, along with a brass chandelier. A wheat-colored rug finished off the space, which was converted to an office for Leroy Harvey, a businessman with interests in timber, real estate and historic preservation.

Opposite the library is the dining room, filled with treasures from Fetzer, who died in 2007, among them a Spanish sideboard with her collections of chalices and antique bells, unusual wine glasses and a large punch bowl.

Four years ago, the couple renovated the kitchen and breakfast area with Fran Harvey's sister, Suzanne Goodwin, coming up with a plan designed around the things that actually get used.

"Everything has its place," Fran Harvey said. "It works the way a kitchen is supposed to work."

During the renovation, a light-colored tumbled limestone floor was installed in the kitchen and den, which was originally a step down from the other rooms.

"There are five doors to the den, and the workmen were tripping on everything," Fran Harvey said. "I told them to pour concrete and fill that up." 

The walls of the home are painted a wheat shade called Bridgewater with trim in Navaho White. For unity and flow, she recommends a plain floor with the same neutral color in adjoining rooms.

"Invest in a quality flooring product as you are spending the same amount on labor whether you put down an inexpensive or expensive floor or carpet," said Fran Harvey, who believes that one of the greatest investments a homeowner can make is a rug, preferably a hand-knotted oriental one.

"Even though it will be one of your most expensive items, it will set the colors, patterns and design style of your palette," she said.

"Changing paint colors is the least expensive way to change the look and feel of a room, and it can have the biggest effect," she said, "but a good rug can last a lifetime, move from room to room, house to house, and help you and your style change in myriad ways as your taste and style develop over the years."