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RETRO REVIVAL

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Home
Oct 4th, 2022
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For Ron Barron and his wife Gwen, a cohesive adaptation has been the underlying modus operandi for their mid-century modern home, one that has been shaped to induce a place where friends and family will feel welcomed.

ARTICLE BY VANELIS RIVERA | PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY MOORE CLARK

Our homes often become a microcosm of our experiences. We often strive toward some personal aesthetic by highlighting objects we have kept and curated throughout our lives. Some of us try to organize our homes, while others layer the accumulated and collected. In this way, decoration becomes more of a cohesive adaptation than a systematic formula. For Ron Barron and his wife Gwen, the former has been the underlying modus operandi for their mid-century modern home, one that has been shaped to induce a place where friends and family will feel welcomed.

Ron and Gwen are living in a self-fulfilling prophecy that was set in motion in 1984. At the time, they were dating while students at Louisiana Tech University. When delivering an item to a friend on one of Ruston’s charming, quiet neighborhoods, they noticed the house across the street. As a New Orleans native, Gwen had particular taste and was instantly drawn to the Mediterranean-style arches, brick exterior, and latticed windows. “If I could live on this street, I might live in Ruston,” she said to her future husband. Fifteen years later that house became available and they were faced with two options. One would keep them in town, and the other would tilt them away from the hustle and bustle.

Having moved back to Ruston from Germantown, Tennessee in 1999, they knew their plan was to build a house. “That had always been sort of a dream of ours,” says Ron. But when the house became available, they had to at least give it a look. What they found was a well-built, quality home in the form of solid wood frames and doors. Even the intricate fittings–nuts, screws, hinges, plumbing, electrical–was impressive. Constructed in 1967 by the Jones family who were builders, the single story home is not only built like a tank, but has “good bones,” says Ron. It wasn’t just the eclectic home with its generous square footage that pulled them to stay in the neighborhood they had so casually visited as college students. At that point in time, they had also become friends with the neighbors and were drawn to the lush green of the street and its quaint homes. In choosing to stay, they also chose community. And so began the slow process of turning a house into a home.

The long, low-pitch roof line and large windows mimic a ranch-style house, but its accents are heavily Mediterranean, namely the five semi-circle arches, reminiscent of Romanesque architecture, which lead to a hidden fountain area lined by clay-colored bricks. “The front doors came out of a French Quarter home,” says Ron, referring to the half-glass double-doors. Stained dark brown, they leap out in contrast to the surrounding brick while their intricately carved frames and beveled window panels cry out vintage charm. “We still have the original doorknobs,” he states.

Even then, they had inventions to adapt the space to their lifestyle, which began with a few significant renovations. “The first thing we did was [we] ripped all the bathrooms down to the studs,” says Ron, explaining that an extra bedroom was then converted to the primary bath. Open space was the goal, most apparent in the kitchen which used to be four different rooms. Now a single spacious area with three different entry points, it calls for a communal experience. Having worked with architect CP Drewett, also a cook, made the layout even more intentional. 

The long kitchen island sets the flow of the space. Decorated minimally, its wooden base is designed with compartments, and the quartz top features a deep sink. Adjacent, a dark wooden table seats four in wood-frame lounge chairs, while overhead a stunning crystal raindrop chandelier further modernizes the space. The stainless steel stove is complemented by a rhomboid diamond, mosaic-style backsplash, and lined with walnut-colored top and base cabinets. Strategically placed in front of a tall window, an upholstered, winged-back loveseat has a scenic view of the backyard, a wonderland that also went through its share of improvements.

This spacious picturesque area is accessible through glass sliding doors in the living room. Immediately, the vibrant green from the neatly cut lawn and manicured shrubs is a soothing backdrop to the most relaxing space of the home. A slate pathway lined with wine bottle lanterns leads to the pool area where a Grecian-style pool, rectangular with diagonal corners, features a water fall and tanning ledge. The poolhouse, which was part of the couple’s personal renovation is a few steps away, complete with a modern outdoor cooking area and fully furnished guest house. Truly, a space both for sharing and finding retreat.

“Our tastes sort of evolved,” says Ron, referring to the progression from dark wood to eclectic furnishings. With the help of interior designers Connie Howard and Kiki Wardlaw, the rooms brightened and opening up visual space for layering old with new. One of the lounge spaces naturally corralling guests is the living room. Designed by Wardlaw, its pops of color are inspired by two paintings mounted on opposite walls. Both in the abstract style, they scream with color and set a permeating poetic tone. Ron is particularly drawn to the Butch Anthony piece, a recreation of Picasso’s “The Women Of Algiers” with Butch’s signature outline of skeletal parts which he calls “intertwangleism.” Harmonizing with the art in the living room are two mid-century, tan leather sofas, emerald green accent chairs, and a walnut coffee table with interlocking pieces of wood inspired by old ship hatches. “This was kind of the first foray into more modern style,” says Gwen, revealing that the rest of the home’s decor is in a more traditional style which is most apparent in the dining area.

Spacious and filled with natural light, the dining room is marked by a long oval dinner table encased by eight, maroon upholstered chairs. Around the room, dark wood, vintage display cabinets and chests of drawers help accentuate deep beige walls. Punctuating one of the enormous windows, two colonial armchairs stand between one end table, each an exact replica of chairs from George Washington’s former estate, Mount Vernon. “I tend to go more traditional,” admits Gwen, explaining that most of the dining room furniture has been with them since they got married. Which is to say, in many ways, this room is the traditional backbone of the house.

The adjoining room is a cozy, multi-textured parlor. From bright floral prints to the geometric, golden hues to pastels, it is a blend of classic features and contemporary ideas. Another small space with a big personality is Ron’s study. This narrow, intimate hideaway used to lead to the primary bedroom, but is now closed-off and filled with books, personal trinkets, and a dimly glowing half bath.

From room to room, what presides is varied tastes coalescing and being layered with an attention to approachability. “It doesn’t look like every other show house that you see,” says Ron, adding, “We’ve always wanted to try to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable being here.” Gwen agrees, explaining how their love for entertaining has contributed to the tone and mood of their surroundings, shaped slowly and deliberately. “I want people to come in and feel very welcome here.”