Rustic Comfort

There is warmth and beauty in the Covington home of Elizabeth “Liz” and Gregory “Greg” Arceneaux, which showcases Greg’s Creole and Acadian furniture designs. The cozy space is surrounded by tall trees and shrubs that make it feel like a country retreat, despite its location in a well-developed area called Covington Country Club Estates, not far from Lake Pontchartrain.
“It isn’t a grand house,” says Greg, who calls himself a cabinetmaker and has been furnishing some of the finest homes in Louisiana since 1980. “We love it because it’s rustic and comfortable. It’s always a happy retreat from our busy shop.”

Built in the 1950s, the two-story structure features a spacious living and dining room that opens up to the lush back garden through a wall of windows and glass doors. “We don’t have a lot of time for gardening,” explains Liz, who works alongside her husband managing the business. “We pretty much just plant things and let them grow.”

The result is a dense green space that adjoins the patio, with a pathway of slate leading through an arbor to the green grass beyond.

Each room features Greg’s signature furniture: “I have always prided myself in making comfortable furniture from the finest woods to last a lifetime,” he says. “There is something special about the graceful elegance of early Creole furniture in its simple detail and sturdiness. I still craft everything using traditional mortice and tenon joinery. It’s the same technique that has preserved the 18th-century Creole furniture that is much sought after today by antique collectors.”

The large living room features a raised hearth in front of the fireplace. Greg Arceneaux made the Creole-style coffee table with cabriole legs and a scalloped apron requires 13 steps to complete, while the Bautac mahogany chair with a leather sling seat and individual antique brass nail heads is like the set of 12 chairs President Thomas Jefferson had made in Louisiana for his use.

The Arceaneauxs relax on the patio overlooking the rear garden.

Floors in the main living area are covered in Mexican tiles. Tuscan colors on the walls add warmth to the space, which also boasts a large fireplace with a raised hearth. “I especially love the fact that our dining room table is right in front of the windows overlooking the garden,” Liz says. “It is a pleasant setting for our meals, and of course, the table, chairs and bench are all Greg’s creations.” When the weather permits, the couple enjoys eating at their patio table just steps away from the house.

Both Liz and Greg take great pride in the kitchen with its cypress cabinets with a narrow picture window overlooking the front garden featured between the base and hanging cabinets. “You never feel closed in,” Liz says. “And the bank of the tall trees and shrubs give us complete privacy from the street.” There are two additional bedrooms and a spa-like bathroom downstairs, while the entire upstairs is a master suite that features a U-shaped built-in bench in the room that Greg also fashioned. “It’s my favorite place to sit and play my guitars,” he says.

Greg’s craftsmanship is evident not just in the couple’s home or other nearby residences – it reaches far beyond. In the 1988, when the New Orleans Cabildo caught on fire, much of its furniture, including a 14-foot Spanish trestle table and 12 chairs that were in place for the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, were lost. Greg was commissioned to replicate both the table and chairs using the original written specifications for the furniture.

The cypress Acadian-style bed in the guest bedroom features pencil posts that are chamfered and tapered, and a curved headboard was built by Greg, as were the cypress end tables that are also Acadian-style. The ash bench at the foot of the bed is a reproduction crafted by Greg is a copy of the one found in one of the oldest homes in the Mississippi Valley at Cane Bayou.

A mahogany bed with a melon-shaped headboard and cabriole legs in the Creole style was built by Greg for the master bedroom. The mahogany end tables are reproductions of early Louisiana Creole-style and were recently featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine.

Greg built a special corner in the master bedroom just for his guitars. Made of cypress with bead board panels the seating also provides storage.

Greg built the antique cypress cabinets in the kitchen when they moved into the house in 1979. They are built in one continuous cabinet instead of the individual cabinets you see in today’s kitchens.

“It was thrilling to have the opportunity to receive such an important commission,” he says. “I was also asked to do 11 cherry trestle benches.”  In 2010, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art hosted a four-month exhibition of his work.

He continues: “In many ways I feel what I am doing is important to preserve Louisiana’s rich heritage of Creole and Acadian furniture, and there is something very special about using my furniture in our home along with knowing it is enjoyed in many homes around the country.”