What do you do with a lifetime of collections?
That's the question Lubna Culbert faced after the death of her husband and fellow collector LSU History Professor David Culbert.
The couple's collections of fine Oriental rugs, antique furniture, china, art, rare books, textiles and more filled their large home on Reymond Avenue.
On a trip to Italy in May 2017, David Culbert died suddenly. His widow faced the decision collectors dread most.
"Once I lost David, the big house was just too big to maintain," she said. "I wanted to be able to lock the door and be able to travel. With a big house, you can't do that."
Friends recommended neighborhoods all over Baton Rouge, but Culbert was determined to stay in her own part of town, her "own bubble," where, she said, everything she needed for her daily life was on one street.
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When she came across the Crescent at University Lake, a two-building upscale condo development, her decision was made.
Culbert liked the open plan of the condo with the dining room as part of the main room but in its separate space.
"I entered. I saw the dining room. I saw the living room. I said, 'I can live here,'" Culbert said. "It's like the Holy Spirit told me."
Culbert's new home is bright, airy and compact. High ceilings, hardwood floors and neutral walls create the prefect backdrop for the things she kept from her old home.
An entrance foyer leads to the main room, she calls the sitting room, with the dining area on the right. The kitchen is defined by a large peninsula and a separate breakfast area.
The entire wall at the back of the main room has windows open to a corner gallery large enough for a table and chairs and comfortable outdoor seating.
A small hallway on the left of the main room leads to the master bedroom with its own small gallery, and a luxurious bathroom designed for aging in place.
There's also a guest room and a small library commemorating Culbert's Middle Eastern heritage with family photos, memorabilia and books. It is also a place she displays some of her fine needlepoint.
Contractor Bertell Cook, who had worked for the couple in the past, helped her personalize the space, renovating the two bathrooms and making a few changes in the kitchen. He also turned a niche at the end of a hallway into a display area for part of her collection of Jerusalem pottery.
Local rug expert Sarko Moutafian removed all of the carpets from her old house, washed and repaired them, then helped Culbert decide which would fit in the condo.
"Once we put the carpets down, we moved the furniture in," she said.
Culbert did not have to buy anything. In fact, she had more than enough.
"What didn't fit, I sold," she said. "I weeded out things that David and I collected. I gave a lot away to friends."
She donated her late husband's music and their Steinway concert grand piano to Oberlin College, where he earned undergraduate degrees. She gave 25 boxes of his papers on mass media and propaganda to the LSU Manship School and 10 boxes of his work on World War II to the National World War II Museum. His clothes went to the LSU Textile and Costume Museum.
"It was an exercise in self-discipline," Lubna Culbert said. "The pieces I kept were the pieces I loved and were functional in the space."
Culbert said she has adapted to her compact style of living and loves the freedom it gives her.
"David was not at the other house," she said. "Once I put my things here, this became home. Once you leave a house, it just becomes a dwelling."