Margaret and Randy Rice built their Georgian-style home in 1990 to reflect their love of England and traditional English architecture. Two decades later, they brought Georgian into the 21st century.
That meant painting away the strong colors in favor of a more neutral palette. The result was a newly modernized home without any major construction.
The home retains its Georgian bones — a hallway down the middle with two rooms on each side.
The wide center hall with its magnificent stairway opens to the living room and a study on the left. To the right are the formal dining room at the front and their one big compromise when they built — a big un-Georgian den and kitchen combination at the back.
“I wanted to be able to visit with the family while I worked in the kitchen,” Margaret said.
The Rices’ two sons, Randolph and Chandler, were 12 and 9 when the house was built.
Originally the home was decorated with rich fabrics and antique furniture by interior designer Becki Abercrombie, now retired. The dining room was done in strong yellows and pinks with heavy fringed draperies. The walls of the den-kitchen were painted red with natural cypress trim.
“Becki and I had so much fun coming up with stuff, looking for stuff,” Margaret said.
The Rices enjoyed their home for more than 20 years with only one major change — the addition of a studio, where Margaret does pet portraits, off the kitchen area.
However, about four or five years ago, the Rices decided it was time for a redo.
Out went the strong colors and heavy floral chintz fabrics, and in came a simpler design in neutral tones.
The biggest change was to the den-kitchen, where interior designer Anne McCanless suggested going from red walls and natural cypress trim to white walls and slightly off-white trim. That meant painting the cabinets and woodwork.
“I had a hard time painting the wood,” Margaret said, “but I was ready for something different. Anne said that the wood wasn’t antique cypress. We can still get it if we ever change our minds.”
Margaret had her old red sofa and den chairs slipcovered in a washable white fabric.
“I don’t worry about anything,” she said. “We can take the slipcovers off and wash them.”
The living room and dining room have also been repainted in neutrals to brighten the rooms, which still have their original antique furniture interspersed with the occasional contemporary piece, like a Lucite ghost chair in the corner of the dining room.
“I love to put something contemporary in with the traditional,” Margaret said.
Several pieces in the living room, including a secretary, were made for Margaret’s grandparents by a Mrs. Diamond, of Royal Street in New Orleans. The original invoice, dated 1935, gives the price of the secretary as $121.50 with two small tables at $65 and a wing chair for $85.
The once dark, cozy English study, originally painted hunter green, is bright and airy and the perfect office for Randy, who retired from the LSU Economics Department, where he served as chairman for years.
The home now has a completely different, more contemporary feel. But that doesn’t keep Margaret from thinking about what she will do next.
“I wonder if in 15 years, we are going to say, ‘Remember when we all painted everything white?’ she said with a laugh.”