The Southern Architect

Architecture, Uncategorized

Reclaimed Materials Done Right

There’s a home in a town in Louisiana you’ve never heard of with a quality of craftsmanship you can’t imagine. It’s a place where a simple brick walkway will make you stop dead in your tracks and a potting shed will make you actually want to garden in a hot and humid Louisiana summer. It’s a place where the courtship of authentic old materials and the highest-possible quality craftsmanship have resulted in a beautiful marriage indeed.

Sitting nearly dead center in the state of Louisiana, the Gilchrist home in Meeker, LA, is a testament to what quality southern architecture should be about. But it is much, much more than just that. It’s a throw back to a time when being a carpenter meant being a craftsman, an artist. It’s a remembrance of when a home was built to house generations of family, not just a decade of use. And it’s a reminder that a plot of land is more than a platform for a frame and a roof – it has history, real history that can root itself in the very foundation of a home, when that home respects its past.


The Gilchrist Home

It’s also a home controlled entirely by an iPhone. There’s a media room that could seat a football team. It’s a home with more clever inventions, innovations and nifty ideas (and security cameras) than anyone can keep up with. But this home isn’t about technology, it’s about history and how a brick, a piece of wood and a philosophy can make a brand new house feel like it was built 100 years ago.

Take the reclaimed brick walkways which surround the entire property. From afar, they look beautiful and frame the property perfectly. From up close, the defy imagination. Not only are there seemingly miles of antique brick walkways, you suddenly realize that they are without mortar, or any binding whatsoever. And yet they are perfectly aligned, so tight you couldn’t fit a credit card through the gap. They were each painstakingly massaged, sanded, shaved and shaped to fit each other – one, by one, by one – until a perfect walkway surrounding the entire property emerged.


Miles of masterfully crafted brick walkways 

ake the full-length windows on the front porch. They are handcrafted by Highland Cabinets in Baton Rouge, to our exacting specifications. Each window weighs in at 400lbs – that is to say, impossible to open. That is unless you’re owner Randy Gilchrist and you have an idea to return to a past era when heavy windows used counterweights to assist in opening. He applied the same principle to this massive scale and the seemingly impossibly task of lifting these huge windows up into their ceiling pockets is accomplished by one finger.

There’s a bed on the second floor from that the owner had a child. But it’s dimensions are hardly appropriate for every day use. So, the owners had a second bed hand made to mirror its every curve. It looks as though the bed was crafted inside the master bedroom it now sits in.


An outdoor space for all seasons complete with beautiful Bevolo lights

The wood flooring is antique, but is the recipient of a technique which makes them look brand new. Not brand new as floors look today, of course – brand new as they would have looked new in the 1880s. On the second floor, the floors natural color was so spectacular, only a sealant was applied – no stain.

This home pays homage to the home that sat on the exact same plot of land before it. An antebellum home built in the 1880s, it’s owners were ancestors of the Gilchrist family (a fact the family was not aware of until they started designing the new home). It was a majestic mansion, set amidst dozens of live oaks and acreage as far as the eye could see. But, it was also in ruin and was eventually torn down.

Today, thanks to owner Randy Gilchrist and builder Tim Dousay, it’s back. Not in exact detail, not in design – but in spirit, in craftsmanship and in purpose. Many of the same materials they used then, the home uses today. Not, mind you, to look old, but in fact to look new as they would have 100 years ago. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise any of us if the craftsman of the original home would look proudly, if not jealously, at the craftsmanship of the home that sits there today.


Incredibly, this floor is not stained, only sealed. Its natural color shines through. 

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