In the 24 years since Kurt and Kema Bueche bought their 1930s-vintage Old Goodwood home, they have completely transformed it from a "ruinous condition" to a perfect spot for living and entertaining.
Their journey included a disastrous setback in 2008 when Hurricane Gustav sent a 120-foot red oak crashing through the center of the house.
"It was so massive that it broke the windshields of the cars in the back," said Kema Bueche of the tree that once stood in the front yard. "It sounded like the Jolly Green Giant had jumped on the house."
When they bought the home in 1994, it needed a tremendous amount of work — everything from a new roof to a kitchen renovation to a complete paint job.
The couple reimagined the space by converting the original garage with an apartment above it into a den. They connected that space to the main part of the house by remaking a covered breezeway into the dining area. The seldom-used formal dining room became a butler's pantry, laundry room and office.
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They eliminated a hall from the living room to the bedroom wing and expanded the master bedroom into the space. One of the three downstairs bedrooms became the new master bathroom and large master closet.
"We changed the flow more than we changed the footprint," said Kurt Bueche, an IT professional.
Then came Gustav. The damage was so severe the family had to move to a rented house for a full year while the home was repaired.
Family friend and architect Kevin Harris, who had worked with the Bueches for years, designed the restoration.
"He knew our kids. He knew how our family flowed. He knew our needs," Kema Bueche said.
Harris thought it was important for Kema and Kurt Bueche to have a place where they could relax and visit with friends so he designed the living room for them and converted an adjacent space, which he called the "kissing room," into a den for the three Bueche boys and their friends.
"It was originally a screened porch," Kurt Bueche said.
The project included a complete rebuild of the upstairs area to expand the home from a story and a half to two full stories. Where there had originally been two small bedrooms, a playroom, one bath and a full kitchen, the Bueches made large bedrooms for their sons, Cameron, 25, who is in graduate school at LSU; Conner, 23, who works in Washington for Vice President Mike Pence; and Chandler, 22, a senior at Spring Hill College in Mobile. The sons, who are referred to as 1, 2 and 3, have their numbers above the doors of their rooms. The new upstairs also includes a huge closet for decorations Kema Bueche uses for holidays and celebrations.
At the same time, a patio, outdoor kitchen and bar, the family's favorite gathering place, was established in the backyard. Cabinetmaker Thomas Laville made the bar counter from old windows and doors that were removed during the restoration. The Bueche sons decorated the covered bar area with beer signs and other found items.
With all of the improvements, the home has become a real gathering place.
"We have had everything from wedding receptions to athletic banquets to deb parties," Kema Bueche said.
Every Tuesday during Lent, friends and family members drop in for a casual supper with menus like jambalaya, white beans, or chicken and butter bean stew. There are no invitations, but by the end of Lent, as many as 75 or 80 people will show up each Tuesday.
The Bueches are well aware that the hurricane could have been a family tragedy because they were all inside when the giant tree fell. But they took the disaster in stride and did the huge restoration, which improved the flow of the home and gave them the large outdoor entertaining area.
"Gustav was the worst and the best thing that ever happened," Kurt Bueche said.