Florida by Design
article by Maré Brennan | photos by Martin G Meyers
There are few homes that bring together a singular vision so succinctly than the Ruston home of Rusty and Marvin Green, who pared their existence down to the necessities and amenities they love without sparing a single design detail. Perched on a slight bluff overlooking a forest of tall pines where visitors in the 1890s used to flock to the resort-like Louisiana Chatauqua Society’s summer programs and healing mineral springs, the Green’s home offers a resort-like respite for its owners, family and friends.
When retired surgeon Dr. Marvin Green and his wife Rusty decided to build in the exclusive neighborhood of Toma Lodge, Rusty was ready to go with a file of her favorite home ideas gleaned from the pages of magazines, such as Florida Design and Miami Home and Decor. The cutting-edge design that Rusty craved would soon become a reality at the hands of master builder Johnny Chevalier. Said Rusty, “Marvin and I worked on the plan, and Carolyn Williamson helped us draft the house plans. But we knew we could draw it in the sand, and Johnny could build it.” While contemporary in design, the home is still filled with touches of nostalgia that allow the Greens to thoughtfully acknowledge their family’s history and sense of community.
As you walk up the generous pathway leading to the cobalt blue front doors, it feels as if you are in an oasis, surrounded by lush plantings of tropical palms, banana plants, crepe myrtle trees and knock out roses in fuschias and hot pinks that live up to their name. A moon flower vine hangs heavy with fragrant creamy blossoms just waiting to open up under the still warm September moon. Rusty, an avid gardener, points to hummingbirds as they flit from blossom to blossom in her gardens which undulate like the tide and lead back out to the sea of pine trees.
A custom designed railing and a pair of contemporary lights at the gate set the tone, whetting a visitor’s appetite for what waits just beyond the extraordinary gates. The double door entry is painted an unforgettable custom Sherwin Williams color, “Blue Blood,” and is recessed to keep visitors out of the elements. The doors’ ultra chic and sleek, custom made hardware was handcrafted by the Steven Chevalier, the contractor’s son, who also designed the railing and gates. “I never dreamed we could get these done,” said Rusty of her door pulls that she loves so much. “They are like jewelry for the door.”
As you step through the front doors, you enter a jewelbox of a design, completely unlike any home you’ll find in northeast Louisiana. But then again, when you love the seaside as much as Rusty Green, who grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, it’s no surprise that her inspiration tends to be found while visiting the sugar sand beaches of the Florida coast. A crisp palette of white, sand, aqua and azure infuse the Green’s home with a distinctly high-style, coastal vibe. “I love the Florida look and tried to capture the colors of the ocean,” Rusty said, gliding past lighted built-ins expertly curated with cobalt treasures the couple have found on their many travels.
Dr. Green points out a primitive painting in the foyer. “This is a Clementine,” he says with a smile, referring to the internationally-known painter Clementine Hunter. “I had a plastic surgeon friend from Alexandria in the 1960s who would take us to see Clementine, and we would buy her paintings. And the painting above it is by Clementine’s grandson.” Across the generous hall is a large print acquired during a trip to Bali with local artist, tour leader and fellow Rustonite, M. Douglas Walton.
As guests pass through the foyer the room opens into a double height Great Room that includes an open concept kitchen, a formal dining area, a casual breakfast area and several comfortable conversational groupings. A unifying element throughout the home was one that nearly brought the project to a halt, says Rusty of her one-of-a-kind floor. The brilliant white porcelain tiles were laid with a unique, fiberglass epoxy grout that the tiling contractor had never used before. Unlike traditional grout, the epoxy was less forgiving and didn’t want to be wiped on like other applications. Nevertheless, instructions for the new materials were delivered and carried out and the finished tile ended up quite the success, providing a metaphoric sugar sand beach, if you will, for the Green’s home.
“When we were building the house, we would stand in the middle and see the whole house, but even so, we have more room now to entertain in than we did at our home on Llanfair,” said Dr. Green.
The kitchen is a study in restraint and order. Seamless cabinetry with smooth white quartz countertops is punctuated only by the cobalt blue of three well-placed pendants and a stunning glass backsplash created by Ruston Glass and painted in the same Sherwin William’s blue of the front door. While the end result looks streamlined and simple, achieving flawless modern design is much harder to do in reality. For example, a simple cabinet door, unadorned and without molding or bevels, can be the bane of a contractor’s existence, but not for the Green’s, who managed to pull off the sophisticated look without a hitch. “I didn’t want any handles on the cabinetry to mar the simplicity,” said Rusty. Leather counter-height stools with chrome bases and arms provide extra seating and were found at Chiasso.
Directly across from the kitchen is the formal dining area which is delineated by a tray ceiling from which hangs a 37 light chandelier, designed by Christian Cubiña for ALMA light. The ingenious dining table of Italian design with its Carrera marble base and glass top can extend to welcome more guests. A wall of mirrored cabinets is a throwback to the mirrored panels the Greens had in their former home’s dining room and reflect good times back to those who’ve gathered.
A small seating arrangement of white leather chairs of Scandinavian design are positioned near the dining area. A lamp of stacked river rock gives a distinctly Zen vibe. A Manel Anoro print found during a trip with Jodi Brotherston to Spain enlivens the walls with its bright colors.
Lighted built-in cabinetry are positioned to take advantage of sunlight streaming through large windows and are the perfect perch for the couple’s collection of art glass and objets d’art, including a pair of exotic bird sculptures created by Brazilian artist Peter Müller. These exquisite birds are hand sculpted from rose quartz and at least five or six kinds of semi-precious stones.
Throughout her home, Rusty has captured the colors of the ocean and sand, and nowhere is that more apparent than the comfortable seating area adjacent the home’s mirror-sheathed fireplace. Glass crystals in cobalt blue, taking the place of traditional gas logs, create a stunning and glowing visual treat in the gas fireplace. Said Rusty, “Our son lives in Los Angeles. When we saw gas fireplaces with colorful glass rocks in California, I knew I wanted to use them in this home.” A large, wrought iron “G” placed prominently above the fireplace box is a lasting reminder of Dr. Green’s childhood home on West Mississippi in Ruston. When that family home was sold, the “G” was salvaged from the house’s chimney. An elegant, curvilinear sectional sofa by Cantoni in a cream on cream patterned fabric provides a peaceful retreat. Fuschia-hued orchids atop a marble based, glass topped cocktail table provide a pop of unexpected color.
The breakfast area features built-in cabinetry which offers yet another opportunity for displaying the couple’s collection of ocean blue hued art glass. A conveniently located wet bar with an ice machine affords entertaining ease. A tall metal medicine cabinet with glass doors, painted a lacquered white shade, is a family heirloom. “It was from dad’s old office,” said Dr. Green. “My dad, Dr. Marvin T. Green, Sr., started Green Clinic in Ruston in 1948 with his brothers and others.”
More memorabilia from Green Clinic’s beginnings and Dr. Green’s medical practice have found a home in the Green’s home office. But the pièce de résistance in Dr. Green’s office might have to be what’s hidden behind a sealed door. In a climate controlled 8’ x 4’ space, the oenophile in Dr. Green shines as he gives a tour of the space, noting a special vintage secured on a trip to Napa and the intricacies of the state-of-the art-cooling system which can detect the wines’ temperature inside the bottle.
Cool blues of lapping Caribbean ocean waves come to mind in the master bedroom, with whitewashed bed dressed in soft blue bedding by Matouk and Sferra and side tables topped with sea glass blue lamps. Under foot, a plush rug adds another layer of softness to the dreamy master. The moon-like round mirror above the bed is fashioned of recycled glass. The Hope Chest at the foot of the bed was a graduation gift to Rusty when she finished high school. Rusty said with a laugh, “I love to spray paint. So I painted it and attached new hardware to give it new life.” Sliding glass doors open from the master bedroom onto a newly enclosed sunporch, adding to the couple’s enjoyment of their gardens on even the hottest or coldest of days.
In the en suite master bathroom, simplicity is the order of the day. White cabinetry with hidden handles routed into the tops of doors and drawers keep the lines uninterrupted. Graceful arching faucets spill into his and hers sinks. The serenity is punctuated only by soothing blues of the bathroom accessories.
An art lover and an accomplished artist in her own right, Rusty has her own art studio, which looks out onto the well-manicured lawn and gardens teeming with flora and fauna of all types. Painting mainly in oils and acrylics, Rusty’s subject matter is as varied as her interests, ranging from landscapes and still life paintings to non-objective color studies.
One of the guest bedrooms is positioned directly off the front foyer. Light and bright with floor to ceiling windows, the room is anchored by a chartreuse rug with a graphic connected oval design in white and white furnishings with island inspired details like stationary shutter louvers on the headboard. An abstract painting by Rusty adds a colorful focal point above the headboard. “This is the room our daughter’s family, who live in New Orleans, likes to stay in,” added Rusty.
Lucky for the Greens, the couple doesn’t have to leave Ruston to experience an island getaway. Piña coladas, anyone?