AROUND THE BEND
photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK | article by VANELIS RIVERA
When Jan Strickland was asked to be one of the sponsors for Northeast Louisiana’s St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, her first thoughts were of her childhood best friend Tiffany Suann Greer who passed away from cancer on August 18, 2004. The pair created countless memories in their youth, like going to Sonic before dance recitals and eating Tiffany’s favorite, plain-cheese tots. Strickland is in her fourth year of decorating the interiors of these illustrious homes that make dreams come true for both winners and St. Jude families. Along with a plethora of local business owners, she has donated her time and expertise to help raise thousands of dollars for a cause near to her heart. Though all local enterprises that participate get recognition, it’s apparent by frequency of participation and attention to detail that Strickland’s involvement is not just business; it’s personal.
BRACO Construction Co.’s Brian Allen reached out to Strickland about the project after he worked with her while building her parents’ home. A seasoned sponsor (now in their tenth year acting as a St. Jude Dream Home contractor), Allen was enthusiastic to welcome Strickland’s keen design instincts to such a significant endeavor. “It was something that I knew I was supposed to be a part of,” admits Strickland, who on this project worked with Allen’s son, Bradley. She still isn’t quite sure how she managed her first Dream Home, since she was very pregnant at the time. “I was picking out all of the finishes, plumbing, countertop, flooring tile, the week before my daughter was induced.” Her daughter has grown alongside each home she has fashioned, another personal reminder for Strickland as to the central focus of her labors—giving children an opportunity to gain exceptional care, and providing relief for distressed families.
St. Jude is a recognizable name and institution, but when it touches an entire community, it hits differently. “That’s what happened this year,” beams Strickland. Considering the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the economy, it was a pleasant surprise to the St. Jude Dream Home team when tickets sold out in a record time of eight weeks during the month of March, raising $750,000 for the children’s charity. “Before the house was done. Before I ever put one piece of furniture in there,” she says, still in complete awe and disbelief. “It’s because our community grabbed a hold of this project. I mean, everyone wants to be involved.” If you’ve ever built a home from scratch, you know there are many moving parts that need to work in unison. This year’s 4–bedroom, 3 ½-bath home, located in the Frenchman’s Bend community, is valued at $350,000 thanks to the generosity of national and regional chains alike. Strickland has observed the same “loyal sponsors” each year get first dibs on a project that is fully donated by the community from the lot to the roof. Twin City Granite for the past couple of years has taken care of all the countertops. Joe Banks Drywall and Acoustical has been donating “since day one.” Rucker’s Custom Cabinets, “does a phenomenal job,” especially with this year’s self-closing inset hinges on the kitchen cabinets. Strickland gets the light fixtures from Coburn Supply Company in West Monroe. All the windows and doors are donated by Russell-Moore Lumber, Inc. “Every year it seems people become more eager, more involved. And I really believe it’s because you know, they know how important it is,” asserts Strickland. “Everyone just pitches in, in-depth.”
After the construction crews accomplish the grueling work of building the house from the ground-up, Jo Tiffany Faulk steps up to the plate. Faulk, owner of Sleepy Hollow Furniture & Mattress, has the marvelous task of helping Strickland stage the house, making it come to life. That includes the furniture, accents, and floor covering. “Any of the things that turn it from a house to a home,” says Faulk, who relies on Strickland’s storyboard to pick out items when she goes to “market.” For the style of the home this year, Strickland went for classic southern elegance. “Everything that she had envisioned was very subtle in color,” says Faulk, noting how Strickland played with all the neutrals, and the soft textures. The first few steps into the home provides a promising initial impression for a minimally layered, delicate design. From the banquette bench seating in the dining room table to the cozy, low-set upholstered bar stools, the immediate vibe is sleek comfort. The subtlety of texture begins with the wood floors donated by national sponsor Shaw Floors through local sponsor Custom Design Center. The foyer flaunts platinum wood panels in a herringbone pattern, which contrasts the light oak panels in the open living room and kitchen, Strickland’s favorite space.
“I love the vaulted ceiling and, to me, the lighting in here is just so beautiful.” Matte white kitchen cabinets reflect the illumination charmingly from three single light, mini pendant light fixtures and matching chandelier, bringing attention to the sandy-colored tile backsplash framing a nickel mounted pot-filler and modern Bosch stove. If that’s not posh enough, the other Bosch appliance that’s sure to keep the kitchen busy, particularly in the mornings, is the built-in, stainless steel espresso machine and milk frother. Another true statement piece can be found in the living room, across from the white-splashed red brick fireplace—a Chesterfield-style sofa with tufting on the backrest and roll arms (Faulk’s favorite piece). And though the dining room is tucked in a corner, it refuses to be upstaged. Two tall and narrow window shutters, compliments of Smith Blind & Awning, and a metal framed, rectangular chandelier demand instant admiration.
Keeping true to one of her signature principles of design, Strickland kept a few common threads flowing throughout the home. She used three paint colors donated by Sherwin-Williams—Malabar (a soft beige with slight gray undertone), Pure White (bright and clean), and Taupe Tone (a warm grey-brown). While understated, they appear in unexpected ways. In the main bedroom, the tray ceiling is even more apparent by way of the soft beige center, lined by the crisp white, and accessorized by an impressive wide taper light fixture. Following suit, the main bathroom keeps up with the well established tasteful elegance of the home by way of sleek wall sconces and hexagonal, porcelain bathroom tiles that trail vertically like a stream onto the granite tiles that make-up the shower walls; the same eye-catching tiles are also used for the bathroom floor. Brizo faucets match the chrome accents, and an LCR white tub, compliments of The Plumbing Warehouse, awaits to provide the new homeowners a luxurious and restful pause.
The remaining bathrooms follow Strickland’s floor-to-wall tile approach, showcasing stunning geometric pieces she chose to keep muted in tone, quite unlike the walk-in pantry where she added a jolt of rich “trendy” patterns in the form of black, light grey, and white Sevilla ceramic tiles. “I think whenever you’re doing trendy stuff, it’s good to do it in bathrooms or smaller spaces,” advises Strickland. Adding the finishing touches of pizzazz to the home, Amy Simmermaker, a former designer for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, stained the grand entry doors with a welcoming walnut brown that pairs well with the white washed brick exterior and tavern-style, copper porch lanterns.
“The patio is almost always one of my favorite spaces,” says Faulk. Sleepy Hollow’s patio showroom is currently celebrating five years, and has seen all the design trends hit the patio world. “I love watching the whole furniture industry embrace the patio industry as well,” adds Faulk. This year’s home incorporated Sleepy Hollow’s deep-seating, beige and ash furniture collection, nestled on a textured, water resistant carpet. The spacious patio also makes room for six wicker-like seats set around a pseudo concrete top table, long-lasting and lifetimes pieces. Faulk notes that the outdoors is becoming the “new living room,” which is easy to do in this home thanks to the calming view of Bayou Desiard.
Though all rooms are staged in order to stimulate the vision of hopeful homeowners, the set-up that resonates the most is in the form of names and pictures. The fourth room, closest to the entrance, is set up like a home office with a simple wood writing desk, centered under a woven, metal pendant light fixture. Behind the desk are three mounted shelves, each bearing six, square metal plates (curated by Tanya Paul from Everything Artsy Designs) with stylishly calligraphed names (done by Shannan Inman from Paperglaze Calligraphy). Sam, Ava, Sawyer, Harley, Sam, each name a current St. Jude patient in our area are among the eighteen featured. “I always gift these things back to the family. So, when we take this down, I’ll make sure that each family has their child’s name,” informs Strickland.
The two additional bedrooms, staged as kids’ rooms, honor local patients who succumbed to the illness. In the girl’s room, minimally styled with a distressed bedside table and matching, tufted headboard, the black and white photos of Katie “KK” Joyce, Tiffany Suann Greer, and Amber Nicole Tamburo, smile from a white wall. The boy’s room features a “twin over twin house loft bed,” as well as the pictures of Claude Benjamin Williams and Corbin Gulde, whose fight included enduring bouts with four different forms of cancer. Another reminder of this fundraiser’s unique mission is mounted at the entrance, a framed picture of St. Jude with the prayer: “St. Jude, apostle and servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for me and all who need thy help, the most desperate and hopeless cases. Amen.”
Even in the midst of all the shiny, bright things that make this year’s St. Jude Dream Home a wildly anticipated raffle win, there is no mistaking where the heart of this home truly lives. “Everybody who buys tickets toward this project, their $100 ticket is making it where no child’s family ever has to pay a bill, and also towards the life saving research,” asserts Strickland. This incredible project transcends brick and mortar. It’s a spirit-filled endeavor that starts with hard labor and ends only when the fruits of our generosity help find a cure.
To learn more about the St. Jude Dream Home in our area, follow @stricklandinteriors on Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about this national movement by visiting https://www.stjude.org/give/dream-home.html.