Home: West Feliciana Whimsy
Noelle and Sam LeBlanc III spent high-profile, high-energy careers in New Orleans. A longtime ballerina with Ballet Hysell and the New Orleans Ballet, Noelle was active in cultural and civic affairs and spent four years as secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, while Sam served eight years in the Louisiana Legislature and retired in 2002 as a senior partner in the law firm of Adams and Reese.
“When I retired, we had a second home in Aspen, [Colo.], and we thought that we would spend six months there and six months in New Orleans,” Sam explains. “However, we decided that Aspen was too cold, so we sold the house in 2006 and changed our focus to finding something near St. Francisville. Retiring to this area seemed right to me since it was a place of long ties.” Sam’s mother and stepfather – Marcelle “Nootsie” and Robert Couhig – owned nearby Asphodel Plantation for many years, and he has siblings living in the area.
The couple soon located a great place for their home. “We found the ideal acreage we desired complete with a small existing house,” Noelle says. According to Sam, they “love all things about the French countryside,” so they asked Baton Rouge architect Billie Ann Brian to pattern the home after the colorful houses in Roussillon, France.
Located on 30 acres of pastoral land, the new house definitely takes a cue from Roussillon, a picturesque region of Provence that is known for its nearby ocher mines and the many shades of ocher-colored homes. “It seemed only fitting to name our home Roussillon in honor of our inspirational touch point for the house we built in what I consider the most beautiful area of Louisiana,” Sam says. “Here we are surrounded by rolling green hills and air that is definitely sweeter.”
The new Provence-style home is located behind the charming lake created by the couple. “We made sure it was just the right distance from the house to create a wonderful reflection of it in the water at a certain time of day,” Sam explains. There’s also a golf green he had built on the side of the lake that includes three tees.
Sam is also very proud of the gate and fence that welcome you when you enter the property as further evidence of the uniqueness of the country estate. He designed the gate and fence, and New Orleans metal artist Luis Colmenares fabricated it. “We had a lot of fun making the Dogwood Fence,” he says. It is so named because of the countless dogwood blossoms affixed to the intricate curved metal branches.
The 5,000-square-foot home is all about comfort and light. French doors and large windows dominate the architecture, and there isn’t an uncomfortable chair to be found in any room. A highlight of the house is the fine art collection the couple has gathered over the years. Interior designer Jo Ann Hymel of Rogers & McDaniel Limited in Baton Rouge is credited with helping the couple achieve the eclectic look they like.
Noelle carefully supervised the design and construction of the large kitchen, which features cypress cabinets and millwork. “Michael Hopping, our landscape architect, created a wonderful outdoor room by wrapping the backyard garden in a stucco fence that features iron gates,” she says.
The house is picture-perfect, but it’s the barn that truly spotlights Sam’s creative genius. “I enjoyed making the ‘art’ on the front of the barn,” Sam says with a twinkle in his eye. “I found the perfect old Toyota truck in a junkyard and had it cut just deep enough to affix it to the barn wall. Then we had cutouts made of Noelle and our nine grandchildren and placed them in the back of the truck. I sit in the driver’s seat serving as chauffeur. It’s a wonderful, whimsical piece of art that we all love.”
The LeBlancs feel that they have found a bit of heaven, blended with a touch of France and flavored with just the right amount of whimsy on the beautiful countryside of West Feliciana Parish.