Home for the Holidays
The Home of Paula and Johnnye Ford
article by Maré Brennan | photographs by Joli Livaudais
A home built around their intrinsic love of family is exactly what Paula and Johnnye Ford have achieved in West Monroe’s idyllic Indian Lakes. And when it comes time to celebrate the Christmas season, no other home could be more welcoming and inviting to family and friends than their retreat nestled in Ouachita’s rolling hills. Built ten years ago, Paula and Johnnye looked no further than to Johnnye’s dad, legendary contractor Joe Ford to turn Johnnye’s ideas into reality. “We had built a house previously, and Johnnye drew out how he wanted this house to look and gave it to his dad,” explains Paula. The home is sited to afford grand views of a peaceful valley between rolling hills that are often dotted with a neighbor’s prized Arabians and a pond that glistens beneath what Paula calls “the most beautiful sunsets in Northeast Louisiana.”
Setting the tone for a grand, festive entrance, the Ford’s double front doors with an arched transom are embellished with evergreen garland intertwined with cascading mesh ribbons in brilliant green and red solid, stripes and checks and interspersed with twinkling white lights. Christmas trees of varying heights, adorned only with little white lights and placed in galvanized tin tubs in groupings around the front door give the front porch a rustic chic look. Each tall, floor-to-ceiling window on the front of the home gets dressed for the season with its own evergreen wreath complete with a big red bow. Helping Paula ready her home for Christmas festivities was everyone’s favorite decorating “elf,” Cindy Gist Foust, who’s tallness is only matched by her indefatigable wit, (good qualities too look for when decorating for the holidays).
Beneath the generous porte cochere which connects the garage with the home, hanging baskets with greenery are given a dose of white lights and oversized ornaments in the spirit of the holidays. Large pots filled with festive tiki ights and a large Merry Christmas sign greets visitors. The back door features a unique square wreath in bright greens and reds, proclaiming the Joy of Christmas.
The kitchen, den and breakfast area encompass one large, open gathering space which is enlivened with festive and whimsical Christmas decor. The wrought iron chandelier above the distressed black breakfast room table and chairs is resplendent with a garland of evergreen branches and oversized, glittery ornaments woven through its arms. The open kitchen features an island long which is illuminated by three task pendant lights and offers enough room to seat at least six comfortably. It’s no wonder that this is the heart of the home. Arched niches on either side of the stovetop provide built-in cubbies for the refrigerator and double ovens. “Johnnye designed the arches in the kitchen as well as the arched brick entryways that lead from the butler’s pantry and kitchen into the open concept living room and dining room,” says Paula.
In the den, an overstuffed sofa in a brown tweed and a comfy club chair in a complementary print provide seating near the brick fireplace placed between two low built-in cabinets beneath large picture windows which overlook the family’s pool and beyond to the pond and hills. Above the fireplace where the mantel is enlivened with whimsical Christmas trees made from red and green balls, a cute little Santa and yards upon yards of mesh and white Christmas lights are photographic portraits of the couple’s three children which were taken by their cousin Samuel Bourland. A beach portrait of the family by Staci Albritton above a small table reminds the family of one of their favorite places to be together. Placed where everyone can enjoy it, the Christmas tree in this room is a showstopper, each bough filled to the brim with ornaments ranging from the eclectic to those handmade by the children. “There’s even a ‘creepy elf’,” jokes Foust, who points out the obviously over-the-top-cheery Santa’s helper that is front and center on the tree. “He’s not creepy,” defends Paula, who admits that her sons’ friend, Nick, has confessed that the elf gives him nightmares. But creepy elf or no, this is still the favorite hangout for teens and adults alike.
Large, glass French doors lead out to the covered patio and the pool beyond which was added two years ago. “This is Johnnye’s favorite place to watch games and hang out, and our parties always spill out onto the patio when the weather is nice,” says Paula, pointing to the outdoor living room complete with a comfortable swing and red and white striped cushioned chairs positioned thoughtfully between propane heaters. A grouping of wrought iron crosses accent a brick wall above a love seat. Small Christmas trees in different heights bring the festivities outside. Two gold deer create a luxurious holiday centerpiece for an outdoor cocktail table. Just beyond the covered patio, the brick-edged pool makes one wish for a few more warm Louisiana days. Atop a stone waterfall that spills into the pool, a happy snowman finds his holiday home. Surrounding the pool are Paula’s lush plantings of sunny-hued hybiscus, enormous split leaf philodendron, giant palms and large pots filled with every type of citrus imaginable – lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruit.
The living room and dining room are decorated for the season in hues of red and gold. The mantel above the living room’s fireplace is decorated with evergreen garland interspersed with gold leaves and deep red poinsettias. A pair of gold Christmas trees with swirly boughs bracket the ends of the mantle and tall pillar candlesticks of varying heights add dimension to the brick hearth.
The foyer is home to the room’s gorgeous red and gold tree which creates a focal point against the richly faux painted deep yellow walls. Ribbons of gathered mesh stream down the sides of the tree and are joined by hundreds of red and gold ornaments. Two lighted gold angels, which were found by Paula at Old Time Pottery in Destin, FL, herald the upcoming Christmas season from a vantage point on the foyer table.
Ready for the holidays, the dining room table is set with Paula’s Holly china, luscious red goblets and napkins in the same hue wrapped in gold napkin rings. A centerpiece of evergreen garland topped with a whimsical gold reindeer creates a fun, playful mood as the family gathers at the dining room table to share in the bounty of Christmas. “This dining room suite was my grandmother’s from Downsville,” remembers Paula. “Every time she bought a piece of furniture, she would write the date and stick it inside the drawer.” On top of her grandmother’s buffet, Paula has placed a Nativity given to the family by dear friend Susan Lolley. Two small, decorative wall shelves bracket a large gilded mirror and hold Christmas doves that seem to take flight.
Through another brick archway, the public spaces of the home give way to the private. At the beginning of the hallway lies the couple’s son, John’s room. Two French doors with transoms let an abundance of natural light shine throughout the space. John, who attends LSU in Baton Rouge, gets the Christmas tree that every Tiger fan deserves. The tree is topped with an LSU Santa hat and is covered in purple and gold mesh ribbons and ornaments.
Just down the hall, it is easily apparent whose bedroom gets the full-press Rebel decor. Clayton, a safety on the legendary West Monroe football team, requested a Rebel tree, of course. Above the wrought iron bed, which is covered in a soft, plaid and cable knit pillows, is a West Monroe Rebel canvas painted by friend and neighbor Melanie Massey Groves.
Daughter Emma Lou’s room recently received an uplifting shot of color (a high energy color called Synergy by Sherwin Williams) to the walls. The ceiling is painted a pale pink that instantly adds flattering color to your cheeks and highlights the pink toile fabric of the balloon shades. Black and white graphic bedding with shots of turquoise in pillows and a quilted throw bring harmony to the room. Another canvas, “Believe” with angel wings, painted by Melanie Massey Groves provides inspiration for this “can-do” girl. The Christmas tree in Emma Lou’s room was acquired at one of Twin City Ballet’s Festival of Trees auctions. Topped with a fanciful Grinch and decorated in the colors every teenaged girl loves – lime green, turquoise and hot pink – this tree continues to be a showstopper.
In Emma Lou’s bathroom, a four foot tall ballerina-inspired tree sits atop her vanity. Dancers in tutus, sugarplum fairies, pointe shoes and diaphanous white and light pink ribbons are placed gracefully on it’s boughs. The tree is topped appropriately with a diamond tiara and a “tutu” of sheer ribbon. Emma Lou’s collection of nutcrackers is reflected in the shabby chic bathroom mirror.
Paula and Johnnye’s master bedroom suite was recently refreshed with the help of friend and designer Gayle Shepard. The richly carved bed is piled high with bedding in sumptuous tones of champagne, gold and black. European shams are covered in an exquisite black and gold diamond fabric. A chaise longue upholstered in a luxuriant fabric is a favorite perch for the homeowner to read and enjoy the amazing views from the bedroom’s bank of windows. Windows receive special treatment with a black, gold and cream plaid valance accented with black cording. Master painter Teresa Clark worked her faux finish magic on the bedroom and bathroom walls, which are given dimension and depth. A new Christmas tree was created for the Ford’s master bedroom and was inspired by the new color scheme of the bedroom and nature. “For their Nature Tree,” says tree designer Cindy Foust, “we used dried hydrangeas, burlap ribbon and blown glass owls and pine cones, as well as gold glittery pine cones and leaves.” Adds Paula, “The black and gold ribbon with a diamond pattern really ties the tree in with our new pillows. And we didn’t even plan it!”
In the master bathroom, a corner jetted tub is placed between his and her vanities. Soft uplighting emanates from the soffit molding throughout the bathroom. The private half bath was also faux painted by Teresa Clark who used left over paint from Emma Lou’s room and glazes to achieve a highly patinated effect that opens up the space. Clark used the same painterly effect on another half bath located just off the kitchen.
Being ready for Christmas and all that comes with it affords the family time to enjoy the real reason for the season. Taking time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with family and friends and sharing their home is just part of who they are. Before the first round of football playoffs, the Fords opened their home to the entire West Monroe High School football team for a dinner to prep them for the win ahead. No doubt the “creepy” elf was there to cheer them on.