Sunday, June 15, 2014

Houzz Tour: Artistry and Illusion Season a Baton Rouge Townhouse

Wow, what a great old house!” visitors often exclaim when they see Ty Larkins’ home for the first time.

Larkins can’t help but smile. While the structure resembles the kind of Greek revival townhouse that lined the streets of New Orleans 150 years ago, it was actually built in 2004. “I went out of my way to make it as convincing as possible,” says the homeowner, a designer who runs Ty Larkins Interiors, a home furnishings store and design studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Larkins and his wife, Amanda, love old houses but were unable to find one that suited them. Baton Rouge blossomed in the 1950s and ’60s, so few older houses were available, and what did exist were mostly Craftsman homes or small cottages — neither of which appealed to the pair.

So they found an undeveloped lot in Hundred Oaks Park and built their own homage to 19th-century design — with more than a few unexpected curves thrown in. “I think so much of design is taking something that’s a cliché and giving it a creative twist,” Larkins says.

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Ty and Amanda Larkins and their twin daughters, Lauren and Sydnie (age 12)
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Size: 3,700 square feet (344 square meters); 3 bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms

Year built:

Photography by Chad Chenier

It took a year and a half to build the home, which Larkins designed with assistance from Le Architect in Baton Rouge. The painted brick facade and shuttered windows overlook a formal front garden, lending an air of reserved propriety that evaporates once you step through the front door.

Larkins’ interior leavens period reverence with contemporary brio, for a look that’s constantly evolving. The designer modeled the living room after a Parisian flat, complete with chevron floors, boiserie (paneling) on the walls and a country French armoire dating from 1875. Despite the painstaking period detailing, he chose to paint the millwork the same color as the walls — a custom taupey gray — so that the trim almost blends into the background. A contrasting color would have made the room too busy, says the designer.

Still, he wasn’t above a little manipulation, painting the crown moldings a slightly paler color than the baseboard. “It’s an old decorator’s trick,” he says, designed to compensate for the lack of light up near the ceiling.

Modern furniture relaxes the formality of the room, as do the contemporary works of art. Larkins likes the tension that results when modern art is placed in a traditional room. “The important thing is making sure the scale of the art you use is correct,” he says. “I have a tendency of going for large, bold pieces.” The work over the sofa is by artist Ralph Turturro, brother of the actor John Turturro.

The designer needed an area rug to anchor the seating group but didn’t want to obscure too much of the floors, so he went with a round rug modeled after inlaid marble floors. At first glance the Lucite coffee table might seem like an odd choice for such traditional surroundings. “I needed something that was airy and would allow the rug to stand out,” explains the designer. “And it’s a good, clean counterpoint to the antiques in the room.”

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Houzz Tour: Artistry and Illusion Season a Baton Rouge Townhouse

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