A Natural Wonder

Shelly and Christian Valiulis built their dream home overlooking a quiet oxbow lake that was once part of the Red River on a property that had originally been purchased by her grandparents in the 1930s. “Marie and Charles Hamel, my grandparents, purchased the tract of land in an area of Shreveport known as Dixie Gardens where they started Hamel’s Dairy and later Hamel’s Zoo and Amusement Park,” explains Shelly. “I lived most of my life in the home my parents later built on the property.”

The Valiulises built their home to take advantage of the natural surroundings, using clean, simple design and natural materials. “We have beautiful sunsets on the lake, and we enjoy the various birds that migrate in the different seasons. Our new home fits our family with its overall effect of comfort and style,” says Christian.

The couple’s three children: Charles, 9; Griffen, 13; and Lily, 14, knew the property well from visiting the grandparents, Carolyn and Dean Griffen, who still live on the other side of the barn from their new home. “Our children insisted we build next to the barn where four miniature donkeys and two bard cats make their home,” Shelly says. “It is where we have cookouts, pick fresh berries and fruit, play smash ball and take an occasional ride on our zip line. There are chairs hanging from the trees near the barn where the children enjoy reading and a wonderful tree house.”

Christian adds, “We all enjoy the wildlife, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and just relaxing in the peaceful setting.”

The couple selected Scott Payne, a young Shreveport architect who was just returning home after working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he had been designing mountain-styled contemporary architecture. “It was an exciting project from the start because of the site,” says Payne, who began work on the project when he was part of the Shreveport architectural firm of Somdal Associates; he now has his own firm: Scott Payne Architect LLC. “The house has a contemporary design aesthetic with a layout oriented to capture the view of the lake from the high bank that leads to the water. It is fashioned with a large great room that features a peaked ceiling that incorporates the living, dining and kitchen areas.”

LEFT: The great room features an open floor plan and provides a view of the lake. RIGHT: The dining room table occupies the center of the great room.

Shelly and Christian also praise Wesley Thomas, their builder. “I was pleased to be a part of the strong collaborative effort between Scott, Shelly and Christian that produced a home that is nothing less than exceptional,” Thomas says.

“And be sure to mention how happy we were with landscape architect Lloyd Overdyke’s design,” Shelly adds.

The couple also worked with landscape architect Lloyd Overdyke, who maximized the natural beauty. “My goal was to complement the innovative architecture,” says Overdyke. Both Shelly and Christian love the dry rock creeks that he designed to maintain the proper drainage of the yard. “It’s one of our favorite features of the landscape,” Christian says.


TOP LEFT: A guest cottage is located at the end of the large swimming pool in the backyard. Before its recent renovation, it was the children’s “party house.” TOP RIGHT: Shelly and Christian Valiulis are shown in front of their new home in the Dixie Gardens area of Shreveport that was designed by architect Scott Payne and built by Wesley Thomas. BOTTOM LEFT: Large windows in the master bedroom provide an unobstructed view of the lake. The master bedroom is separated from the bathroom by barn doors. BOTTOM RIGHT: A picture window over the tub in the master bathroom shows off the country setting on the three-acre site.

Patrick Marr of Lagniappe Lawnscapes was given the responsibility of the installation of Overdyke’s plan. “I wanted to make sure everything was correct so that the homeowner would have high-quality plant health so that they would not have to spend family time nursing the landscape,” he says.

As we walk over to the nearby barn with Griffen carrying food for the donkeys – Jane, Jack, Jasmine, and Jessica, they immediately respond to his presence and hurry to greet him as he opens the gate to the wooden fence. “It’s great to have the donkeys for pets,” Griffen. “I always enjoy feeding them is part of my daily routine.”

“There is much to enjoy about living here,” Shelly says. “I marvel each day that we were able to fulfill our dream of building on this historic land. This is our retreat from our busy lives. Even our teenagers enjoy just hanging out at home – and that’s saying a lot.”