Above the Store

Overlooking picturesque Cane River along the main street of  Natchitoches’ business district, this  amazing apartment was created by architectural designer James Hearron several years ago from a space that had endured life as a storage area over a hardware store. The magnificent 25-by-82-foot apartment was built into the area to take full advantage of the view of the old brick street, tree-lined boardwalk and river below. Three large windows provide a clear vista and French doors lead onto a broad, iron-laced balcony.

Located above shops on Natchitoches’ main street, the fashionable apartment created by architectural designer James Hearron was once a storage space for a hardware store.

The living room is situated in front with a sectional sofa placed away from the wall to allow for the display of the couple’s interesting collection of pots.

“One of my greatest pleasures is to watch the reaction of first-time visitors,” Hearron explains. “They travel along the angled walls, explore the almost hidden spaces, marvel at the unusual bathrooms and usually say something like, ‘Wow, this looks like a place in New York that I’ve seen in a magazine.”

Hearron smiles and continues the tour of the unique space he shares with his partner Brenda “Bea” Ellzey, who’s busy pouring glasses of wine and adding her approval to the appeal of the place. “It is such a comfortable home,” she says. “I love everything about this place, especially how you feel like you’re in a tree house as you look out and see the tops of the huge live oak trees along the street. You should be here when it rains – it takes on a special mystical aura.”

Almost every street in the quaint city boasts a stock of interesting old houses along three-lined streets that would create the perfect backdrop for a movie set in a past century. “Yes, this is a town with a glorious past,” Hearron concedes. “I love the old homes that are filled with antiques but I wanted something exciting and different.”
And different is definitely what Hearron carved out of the space. He fashioned the entire front area for living and dining rooms, with a unique music alcove. A wide hallway flows from the front along one side with a media-library jutting out in the shape of a “V.” Nearby, a quiet reading area features two comfortable round wicker chairs that seem to invite visitors to sit for a while with a good book.

“We both like the way the entire rear of the space is our master suite,” he says. “The built-in bed with storage at the top and bottom, and even a pop-up television, creates a wonderful retreat.” In the corner of the room, a window-high ledge was created for a thin down-filled mattress. “If you open the blinds on a nice summer afternoon you can take a sunbath right here,” he adds, plopping down to demonstrate. A small canvas covered settee and two chairs provide seating along the adjoining wall, while a unique picture wall was created on the opposite side of the room. “It is a perfect place for all of our family photographs,” he says.

A large master bathroom with a freestanding tub, separate shower, double sinks fashioned in the vanity and deep built-in closets complete the master suite. A guest bedroom and bathroom is tucked off the rear entry.

Drop lighting defines the dining area.

A music alcove allows Hearron to display his guitars and other musical keepsakes, including the bugle he played in high school.

A photo wall was designed behind the built-in bed and the narrow pathway provides access to storage.

Inset: Brenda Ellzey and James Hearron.

An imaginative kitchen, complete with custom cabinets with hunter green Formica fronts, occupies a corner across from the dining room. “Hearron is a genius when it comes to designing a workable kitchen,” Ellzey says with pride. “I love the open, pull-out pot drawers under the cook top and the felt lined silver flatware drawer.”
The music alcove is a favorite spot for Hearron. “I’ve played music all my life and I wanted a place for all of my guitars, keyboard and even the old bugle I played in high school.”

Both agree their house is cozy and inviting. “It’s the place I want to be,” Hearron says. “Here I can relax and let the cares of the world go by. I could stay here forever and never leave.” Ellzey agrees; she especially loves the fact that the openness of the apartment and the broad balcony allows them to have more than 100 guests for the annual Christmas Festival in December. “I love it when this place is filled with friends and family having a good time. It’s the best place for entertaining in town.”

Pleasure palaces
Artist Hunt Slonem, whose Albania Plantation near Jeanerette, was featured in our Summer 2007 issue, has a new book. PLEASURE PALACES: The Art and Homes of Hunt Slonem published by powerHouse Press, features his art, his Louisiana plantation mansions – Albania and Lakeside – his Cordt Mansion on the Hudson River in Kingston, N.Y., and his two lofts in Manhattan – one where he lives and the other where he works. “The point of this book is to show the relationship of my environment with my paintings,” he says. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans recently featured a show of his work Aug. 4-Sept. 30, 2007. He is represented by Heriard-Cimino Gallery at 440 Julia St. in New Orleans and Marlborough Gallery internationally.