Old World Influences: Inspired designer rejuvenates a century-old residence

A few miles from downtown Covington, Dr. Scott St. Romain and his wife Cindy purchased a house that had been damaged by hurricane Katrina. “There was essentially no yard and many exterior parts of the home were damaged, including the roof,” says Cindy, a decorator. She owns St. Romaine Interiors in historic downtown Madisonville.

Cindy, whose mother is from Greece, grew up in Italy so her European sensibilities would transform the large, 100-year-old residence known as the second oldest brick house in Covington into a graceful Mediterranean-style manse with flourishes of Provence. A loggia had been added in the 1950s and there was a master bedroom wing addition by the previous owners. The Romains further expanded the property with a second master bedroom, a salt water pool, a slate deck, and a garden.

“We wanted it to become a beautiful old Provence looking home in the country side. The cool thing about the house is that it has the country feel, but it is only a few miles from downtown Covington,” Cindy remarks. The rejuvenation and redesign of the residence occurred in three phases.

“The first step in redoing the house was to redo the floors of the entire home because each room had different flooring,” Cindy says. “I put cream travertine and painted the entire house 200 percent linen white. I did that to open up the house and make it all unified,” she explains. “We took and old home and now it looks like something in the south of France. It is all open and airy. I opened up the rooms, knocked down walls, painted the walls the same color, and the floors the same color,” she says. “I decided to convert the entire home to travertine in order to create a European feel, continuity, and more light.” Only the bedrooms have wood floors painted in a light French blue.

“Master bedroom number one was turned into a family room with sectionals and a large screen television,” Cindy explains. The Romains have three teenagers who gravitate to the family room: Scott, age 14; Michelle, age 16; and Nicole, age 18.

The St. Romains also opened up the front of the house in order to create a living room/dining room combination (the dining room had previously served as a bedroom). All the doorways were subsequently enlarged. “We tried to keep a subtle European feel to the home,” Cindy says. “Whenever possible, the architecture was maintained to keep the ‘old’ feeling.

The second phase of the project was landscaping the yard. “One of the prettiest things about the house is the property,” Cindy says. “I wanted everything to be natural and timeless.” Both Scott and Cindy wanted a large, simple grass yard to flaunt this beautiful home and render a European country feel, so they engaged Brian Humphreys to do the entire estate. He added brick walkways, an underground watering system, perimeter bushes, plants, and trees. “And of course he added the infamous French-style boxwoods everywhere,” Cindy says. “The gardens were filled with wild Louisiana flowers and sugar kettles were added wherever possible to get that wild French look,” she says.

The final phase of the project was the interior decorating process which Cindy handled, utilizing items from her shop in addition to her design department, which produced the elegant toile and taffeta gold drapes and shades. “I have three seamstresses that work for me,” Cindy reveals.

“Our home is filled with mostly French and Italian antiques and vintage pieces, combined with new Swedish furniture and a dash of contemporary accessories,” she says. “I like to mix styles and lighten up the look while adding contrast and interest to the décor.” The flowers and plants for her home were designed by Ambiance Flowers in Mandeville; she uses them for all occasions.

“My whole concept of décor is to mix European antiques and contemporary pieces in order to get a clean balance but with an Old World feel,” Cindy explains. “One suggestion I make is that in every room, you should have one awesome piece, something that is really unique. It weights the room for you and you build around it.”

“In the case of the living room, I started out with an original Napoleon III mirror, early 18th-century. I built the room around it,” Cindy reveals. “Then I put upholstered contemporary furniture from my shop.” The living room’s contemporary coffee table from St. Romain Interiors was designed by Allan Knight.

“My favorite piece that I own is a French painted Trumeau mirror with a coat of arms at the top. It is from the early 1700s. I got my hands on it seven or eight years ago,” Cindy remarks. The mirror serves as a focal point over an early 19th-century sideboard in the dining room, which displays two 18th-century antique wooden balustrade lamps with original pig skin shades. A Louis Philippe walnut dining table is surrounded by original French Louis XVI side chairs upholstered in a light brown and cream toile. “I bought them in France,” Cindy discloses. Both chandeliers in the dining room and living room are French antique bronze and crystal, circa 1800. “They coordinate with each other but they are completely different,” she remarks.

The open kitchen, which has a fireplace, includes a breakfast room with a long walnut farm table that was gleaned from a tavern in the south of France. The centerpiece accenting the table is a French planter that is filled with flowers by Ambiance. The slip covered, cream chairs were custom made at Cindy’s shop with 100 percent European linen. A wooden French chandelier hangs above the long table, lending a rustic aura.

“We live in our kitchen,” Cindy exclaims. “We live it, breathe it. There is nothing wrong about using your Limoges china every day, and your antiques. People shouldn’t be afraid of using their antiques. They appeal to all your senses and they are timeless. I find a delight in mixing things, because you are constantly updating your home. Your home will never become outdated it you follow these simple rules,” Cindy advises. “You want to make your home a place that you never want to leave. I want to get people excited about their houses. It is my passion,” she reveals. Cindy can be reached at (985) 845-7411 for decorating help.

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