Bettsie Baker Miller is a well-known community volunteer with a secret passion.
"I am a chronic house builder," confessed Miller, who was closely involved with at least two of her own house projects and served as contractor for her new home completed last October.
She and her husband, Ben Miller Jr., had worked with architect Cindy Stewart on plans for a house and were ready to build in Bocage Lake when Ben Miller was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2014.
Miller soon realized that she needed a smaller, different kind of house. That called for new plans so, again with Stewart, she came up with a design for her "forever house," with amenities that would allow her to remain there as she got older.
The search for a lot drew Miller home to the Westdale Woods neighborhood where she grew up and where her sister lives. Miller purchased a narrow triangle-shaped lot, removed the small house on it and filled in a ditch at the back of the property.
Miller and Stewart spent almost two years working on plans for the odd-shaped lot, and it took another year to build it.
"I was out here every single day," Miller said.
Stewart designed the house on two axis with the master bedroom and garage wing at an angle to the front of it.
"I wanted everything on one level. I wanted an art studio incorporated in the house, and I wanted it to be midcentury modern in keeping with the neighborhood," Miller said. "Because we used so much glass, we dubbed the style 'California beach.'"
One of the unique features of the home, which lends to Miller's aging-in-place aesthetic, is the seamless concrete floor installed by Patriot Industries, a concrete construction company owned by Miller's nephew Baker Brooks and his business partner Chandler Rice.
"The only thresholds in the house are at the front and back doors," Miller said.
Together, Stewart and Miller selected a palette of soothing Benjamin Moore paint colors in blue-gray hues like Steel Wool, Gray Owl, Smoke and Greyhound to complement the natural tones of the floors. They spent a lot of time picking out unique light fixtures that would work with the theme.
They also incorporated into the plans places for art, some collected by Miller as well as her own artwork.
Over the years, the Millers had purchased lots of antiques and traditional accessories. She kept many of the pieces for her new home, but added a few more contemporary pieces and painted some of the dark wood furniture and mirrors to work with her more modern theme.
"Ben and I were traditional, but we had started updating and going more modern," she said. "I think the mix makes the house more interesting."
The large foyer is filled with light from the matching front and back double doors of horizontal glass panes.
To one side is the large contemporary living room open to the separate kitchen and separate dining room connected by a bar with a built-in wine cooler.
A wall of windows and doors at the back of the living room looks out on the back porch with brick columns and a comfortable seating area. Suzanne Turner, a professor emeritus of the landscape architecture at LSU, took advantage of the natural features of the small lot to create a low-maintenance landscape plan.
A hallway off the living room leads to a small foyer that opens to the master bedroom, bath and closet with its own entrance to the laundry room.
On the opposite side is the guest room wing, which includes Miller's office and her large art studio with a continuation of the columned porch. Thinking ahead, Miller had plumbing added to a wall in the studio so that it could later be converted to a third bedroom and bath.
Chris Hughes, of Hughes Mechanical Contractors, designed an HVAC system that is energy efficient and affordable, and also advised Miller on subcontractors for the entire project.