The nest was already empty when Betsy and Jimmy Toups decided to raise a new roof.

But it had always been Jimmy Toups' dream to build a home, so the couple tackled the project and got to spend more than 20 years in their home before he died a little less than a year ago.

Because their children had already moved out, the house was constructed so everything the couple needed was downstairs with three bedrooms and two baths upstairs.

"This house functions very well as a one-story house," Betsy Toups said, adding that the upstairs provides plenty of guest space when family comes to visit.

The Toupses were lucky to find a lot in the Southdowns area.


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"Jimmy saw some plans in Southern Living," Toups said. "We diddled around with the plans for a while and then we called Becki Abercrombie."

With the interior designer's help, Toups quickly figured out the couple's furniture would not fit in their proposed new home.

That's when they gave their plans to architect Coleman Brown, who, Toups said, "straightened out all the messes," configuring the rooms to accommodate their furniture.

The front door of the home opens to an entrance hall with the stairway to the second floor. On the left is the dining room. A door to the right opens to the library. Across the back of the house is the living room overlooking the landscaped backyard. To the right of the living room is the master bedroom suite. To the left is the kitchen with a small breakfast area.

Lindsey Landreneau, who built the home, used fine materials including heart of pine floors and wide moldings in all of the public rooms.

Abercrombie's plan was to paint the walls in strong neutral colors and then use fabrics with lots of color for the seating and draperies. 

"The first thing we did was to buy rugs," Toups said. "Becki said it was so important to start there so you can pick your fabrics to go with the rugs rather than try to find rugs to go with the fabrics."

The living room is painted a neutral gray with a shade darker in the dining room. The library, with cypress dentil moldings and a wall of cypress bookcases, is painted a strong red. The breakfast area off the kitchen is a deep blue. Most of the trim is linen white. 

"In my other house, I must have had 14 different whites," Toups said. "Here we used linen white everywhere." 

Three or four years after the house was completed, Abercrombie came back for a visit. The Toupses had never done a thing with their wide front porch. 

"Becki said, 'You're missing a whole room,' and she was right," Toups said.

That led to putting in a swing and setting up two seating areas on the porch. 

The home is filled with beautiful pieces the Toups' collected over 54 years of what she called a "wonderful marriage," adding, "Jimmy let me do all of my foolishness."

Every piece in the house has special meaning.

"Buy things you adore," she recommended. "You are going to be looking at them for the rest of your life. That way you will never get tired of them."

For 35 years, Betsy Toups was an owner of The Clearing House, a business that did estate sales. After dismantling homes of some of the city's great collectors, Toups developed her own philosophy — use and enjoy your good things.

Time and time again she would visit homes to plan the sales.

"They would meet us in old house coats when three drawers down would be the most beautiful robes and clothes they never wore," she said. "They would be eating off broken plastic plates or drinking coffee out of old chipped mismatched cups, but in the cabinets were the finest china, silver and crystal, all for sale."