Carpenter’s Delight

Stacy Lynn Shearman’s home is an architectural treasure on a quiet street in the Charpentier Historic District of Lake Charles. Wrapped with a porch and second-floor balcony, it was built in 1896 of cypress and heart-of-pine lumber, reflecting Lake Charles’ heyday as a sawmill town and lumber center.

“There is a special charm about this house,” Shearman says. “I treasure the original detailing, such as the Eastlake turned posts and brackets that still exist on the porch and balcony, stained-glass dormer windows in the attic, transoms over the doorways and bay windows in the dining room and master bedroom. I enjoy the ‘Steamboat Gothic’ design of the house that was popular during the Victorian era, and I feel there is something special about still having the original 1896 glass-panel front and side doors.”

The Charpentier Historic District consists of 40 blocks and is one of the largest National Register districts in Louisiana. The late New Orleans architect Henry Krotzer was a specialist in restorative architecture. Krotzer described the home as one of the most outstanding landmark Victorian structures in Lake Charles. He also included it in his photographic exhibit titled “Victorian Lake Charles: A Study of Esthetics in Structural Design.” (“Charpentier” is French for “carpenter.” The area takes its name because many of the homes were built by carpenters without the benefit of architects and therefore often had unusual design elements not commonly found on blueprints.)

“I always had my eye on this house,” Shearman says. “I was living just doors away when it went on the market, and I couldn’t wait to get it under contract.”
The house belonged to Ida Winter Clarke for almost 40 years (Ida’s parents purchased the home 1926 and turned it over to her in 1950.) She was a well-known Southwest Louisiana cultural leader and dancing instructor, specializing in ballet.

“I, like hundreds of other girls in Lake Charles, took dancing lessons from Miss Ida, as she was called, so I had always admired the house, and I had the pleasure of visiting it when she lived there,” Shearman says.

Shearman left all the architectural details of the original house intact and added a kitchen, a combination sitting room-breakfast room and a half-bath downstairs with a grand master bathroom, a laundry room and three new closets upstairs. “I ended up with the best of the old combined with a state-of-the art kitchen with a center island and a dream master bathroom,” she says. “I added a bay window overlooking the rear garden in the sitting-breakfast room to pay homage to the ones in the dining room and master bedroom. When the addition was designed for the rear of the house, I was pleased that we could reuse the porthole window that was originally on the rear. It adds interest to the large walk-in closet upstairs.” Her home now encompasses 3,000 square feet.

Interior designer Jeanette M. Richey, who now lives in Ridgway, Colo., was called in to make the space sparkle. “Jeanette knows what I like, and she helped me create the comfortable interior spaces with colorful walls and elegant drapes,” Shearman says.

An interesting departure from the norm was to use two crystal chandeliers over the dining room table instead of the usual one and placing a round marble-topped table in the living room that is just the right height for tea or coffee service rather than the low coffee tables usually found in homes.

“I enjoy everything about my house, but there is nothing more special than sitting on the porch or balcony and savoring a cool fall day,” Shearman says. “My home is a cozy place with lots of charm, and it is just right for me.”