When building a home, what comes first — the site or the design?
Bill and Mary Lou Potter had the answer when they saw The Bluff.
They knew they wanted to take full advantage of the site, part of a 17-lot development 11 miles south of LSU that sits on a high bluff between a lake and an ancient bank of the Mississippi River.
The couple hired architect Mark Montgomery to design their home so that it showcased the property's natural features.
"We capitalized on Mother Nature," said Mary Lou Potter.
Windows along a hall bring in views of the lake and a lush courtyard to the home's more public rooms.
The living room and dining room, connected through a wide doorway, are floored in dark-stained wood, smoothly transitioning from the polished brick of the hall.
Wheat-colored walls and white trim give the rooms a fresh, modern look even though they are decorated in a traditional style with antique furniture, most from Mary Lou Potter's family.
"My father died, and my mother was moving from Lafayette to St. James Place, so we were able to get a lot of her furniture," she said.
"It's a lot of old brown furniture," said a smiling Bill Potter, an attorney and CPA.
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Among the family treasures are Mary Lou Potter's mother's dining room table and six chairs used with a similar chair from Bill Potter's family. She displays family china and crystal in the dining room in her great-uncle's bookcase, which is dated 1879 inside a cabinet door. A small family desk fits perfectly between two openings in the living room.
The hall leads to the heart of the home — the large den/kitchen/breakfast area with old cypress beams, cypress cabinets, complementing granite counters and stainless steel appliances.
Even though the large room is based on an open plan, it has three distinct areas with the kitchen and den separated by a counter with seating set at an angle and the kitchen and breakfast area separated by a brick arch.
Mary Lou Potter, a microbiologist, said her only argument with the architect came when she insisted on an opening in the counter, leading to a trash can below, near the sink. She said she loved not having to touch the trash can, and the Potter kids and their friends loved to "make baskets" by throwing items into the opening from chairs in the counter area.
A wall of windows and doors at the back of the room opens to the back porch and the courtyard and patio area. The backyard has a natural terrace that leads to the lake.
Off the large room is a service area with the laundry room, bathroom, storage and garage. A stairway with dark-stained oak steps and cypress risers that match the kitchen cabinets leads to two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
Between the dining room and den area is what a friend calls "command center," Mary Lou Potter's office, which doubles as a butler's pantry.
The hall also continues to the left, where the master bedroom, bath, a large "her closet," smaller "his closet" and Bill Potter's office are located.
Landscape architect Ryan Cole designed the landscape plan for the property with two courtyards, beds planted with perennials as well as seasonal blooming plants and some citrus trees. The Potters do much of the yard maintenance themselves. The property was completely covered with trees when the Potters bought it, but they removed some to build the home and lost five big trees during Hurricane Gustav.
The Potters love to entertain in their home, so when their son, Jay Potter, and his bride, Stephanie Carroll, asked to have their wedding there in April 2016, the Potters were delighted.
As the bride walked down the hill toward the lake on her father's arm, a flock of Canada geese flew over. "It was a beautiful sight on a perfect spring day," Mary Lou Potter said.