A broad center gable at the front houses a formal columned portico-traditional Southern fare, but with a modern home kick. The stylized look is hardly Tara. "I have no interest in straight historicism," explains Ledbetter. "For example, the house has a more idiosyncratic shape. And it doesn't have shutters. For many, that borders on heresy for a Southern home."
The brick façade is painted yellow at the request of Harlan, who became enamored with St. Petersburg's pale yellows during two trips to Russia with People to People. "I had fallen in love with the Winter Palace, and told Lee I would like to paint the brick that color," Harlan explains. Ledbetter looked closer to home, however, for the right color match. He found it in New Orleans, on the historic General Beauregard House just down the street from his offices. Ledbetter "borrowed" a flake of the peeling paint and had it matched.
The portico portends things to come. "It prepares you for the grandeur of the great hall, an adaptation of a Creole center hall, which we exploded into a living room," informs Ledbetter. This barrel-vaulted space with its 22-foot ceiling functions as the living room. It's also the architecture's central hinge, holding the wings together.
But the gallery at the back is where the young family really lives. "Harlan wanted a deep porch. We put it at the back to take in the bayou views," says Ledbetter. The gallery, visible through French doors and transoms, runs all along the house.
Ledbetter addressed all design issues. For the great hall, he designed chandeliers hefty enough to humanize the high vault of the ceiling. Subtly colored silk at the windows and textured linen on the furniture meld with the gentle palette of the Chinese needlepoint rug. The dining room's heirloom American Empire table and chairs continue the neutral color scheme with a splash of sparkle from a chandelier and mirror.
Luxury living turns exotic at the library, where mahogany bookcases meet herringbone leather floor tiles and graphic fabrics emit a whiff of Eastern influence. The library's rich chocolates extend into the family room, a melting pot that also incorporates the lighter neutrals of the formal spaces.
Even with its heirlooms and elegance, the modern style home is true to its more casual upstate-Louisiana form. It is the New South. "The family's lifestyle is quite informal," insists Ledbetter. "Rest assured, the children roam the house."