|The Massengale home is infused with refined rugged influences|
The fantasy begins at the front gate. As visitors approach the 40-acre property of Trent Massengale and his wife, Ann Zedlitz, they must first pass through an ornate and imposing iron portal inspired by the “Harry Potter” movies.
Arriving at the house at the end of a meandering gravel driveway, it becomes even more apparent that this is no ordinary family dwelling, at least not in 21st-century Louisiana.
Rather, it seems that anyone who enters here has actually been transported—Harry Potter style—through time and space to a centuries-old Czech castle.
At least that's how interior designer Cindy Maughan labeled the unique atmosphere that Trent and Ann were looking for when they built this home seven years ago.
“We like old things—nothing delicate or fragile,” explains Trent of his family's preference for a rugged old-world look. “We wanted to create comfortable spaces and to embrace imperfection, and we wanted the house to have character.”
With Maughan's help, Ann and Trent were able to translate their wishes into a cohesive vision that captures the spirit of a grand and mysterious long-ago era, while still providing all the essentials for a comfortable modern-day life.
But this family of five, including daughters Erica and Emma and son Ethan, might never have found the path to their dream home had they not begun by getting lost.
“We had a van full of kids and a retriever, and we were looking for a snowball stand,” Ann recalls. “Somehow, we ended up on Hoo Shoo Too Road.”
Their fortuitous wrong turn led them to Mallard Lakes, then a relatively new development with very spacious lots and only a few houses. Ann and Trent were immediately enchanted by the private gated neighborhood, and it wasn't long before they acquired their own parcel of land and began making construction plans.
“We liked the quiet, peaceful countryside,” Trent says. “This is a place where the kids can grow up hunting and fishing in their own backyard.”
To carry out their concept, the couple assembled an equally imaginative team helmed by builder Marion Joffrion, who embraced the idea of taking on an outside-the-box project. Gary Hart, whom Trent calls an “artist with a hammer and a forge,” was the mastermind behind the ironwork that lends a medieval mood to the house. Donald McCorkle aged interior surfaces with plaster and paint, and interior designer Holly Harrison helped to complete the look with all the details that would fill each room.
“We had to explain to everyone that we didn't want it to be perfect and that it was OK if the cabinet doors were not lined up perfectly,” Trent says. “Dents in the doors, scuffs on the floor, bubbles in the glass were okay. We would joke and say, 'Take that door down, drag it on the gravel drive, and then rehang it.'”
Trent says his enthusiasm for a very traditional style is deeply ingrained. “I always say I'm an old man in a young man's body,” he says. Adds Ann, who professes to prefer a simple and functional style, “I have to pull him back from the dark side sometimes. He really leans toward the Gothic look.”
Perhaps it is that balance that makes the 7,000-square-foot house somehow cozy and dramatic at once. True, the ceilings reach a breathtaking 26 feet in places, and rooms are filled with grandly scaled furnishings, but the intentionally imperfect finishes and warm color palette creates an air of ease that's far from palatial. Trent, Ann, and the kids can often be found gathering around a game table in the great room or relaxing together in the kitchen. Even the large fireplace does double duty as a place to cook dinner or dessert—just like they might have done in a Czech home hundreds of years ago.
Of course, when your house is a conversation piece in itself, it's only natural that entertaining should be part of your regular schedule of events. Trent and Ann, who are both dermatologists and teach at the LSU School of Medicine, frequently welcome residents and other faculty members to crawfish boils and Christmas parties. And for Trent's 40th birthday, Ann arranged a surprise party with a Renaissance theme—featuring flame-throwers and horse-drawn carriage rides—that perfectly suited the house's style.
But with both of their busy careers, the most enjoyable aspect of this country house for Ann and Trent is its soothing setting. The backyard view includes the lake for which this neighborhood is named, and the front yard's features include a pond, an arched pedestrian bridge and gently sloping hills. It's not uncommon to spot wildlife including deer, coyotes and even alligators meandering around the property.
As Trent leaves for work early each morning, he likes to pause in front of the house and watch the sun rise over this exquisite natural scene. “It's absolutely beautiful,” he says. “And there are plenty of ways to relax after a hectic day. Just walking outside for a while seems to restore my inner peace.”
The fantasy might be the first thing visitors see, but despite its unconventional aesthetics, what this family has found here is a true sanctuary. “When we go on vacation, we're disappointed,” Ann says. “We're really most relaxed when we're right here at home.”
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