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Brandon Conner of Westlake created this cigar box-top bar in his home. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

Brandon Conner of Westlake created this cigar box-top bar in his home. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

Smokin' idea for a bar

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 11:35 AM

By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But in the case of Brandon Conner of Westlake, the cigar was just the thing to give him the inspiration for a distinctive bar countertop in his Westlake home, which features many one-of-a-kind standouts.

Conner doesn’t smoke. Nor does he dip. But he does light up a good cigar on occasion, usually when he’s in the mood to celebrate, he said. “A good cigar is normally considered an aged cigar that has had time to mature, rolled by a master with hand-selected tobacco, not machine-made or mass-produced,” he said.

For quite some time, Conner has been noticing various countertop applications — even before he and wife Natalie decided to build. He’s seen plenty of ceramic tile designs, noticed pennies under coats of polyurethane, bottle caps at a local casino and while on vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, he saw an entire bar covered with cigar papers with a clear-coat topping.

That’s when he came up with the idea to use cigar box tops to surface his bar countertop, something he has not seen. He had a couple of cigar boxes and, in a nod to nostalgia, even used the King Edward box that his grandfather had used to store coins. Some of the box tops were from Cuban cigars that aren’t sold here. He got those at shops in Mexico. He also asked Cigar Club’s Robin Halker for a few. Other cigar box top brands used include National Sportsman, My Father and Admiration.

Conner arranged the tops and applied the protective coating, an application process that involved mixing two separate packages, which results in a chemical interaction that creates a hard lacquer finish regardless of humidity.

The wood chosen to create the cabinets, shelves and wine rack is walnut. Conner chose a dark stain and the drawer pull is an iron handle from a circa 1800 grain cart that Conner picked up from an antique dealer in North Dakota.

Currently he’s on the hunt for the perfect vintage mirror glass.

Photos of his uncle, his grandfathers and the American flag are displayed, along with other popular bar-branded items.

Conner said that Natalie would only give him the go-ahead to design two of the home’s living spaces. She took care of the rest.

In the second space, the outside living area, he used large-beamed rough-cut lumber for window headers and recycled tin for the porch ceiling. These items were re-claimed from an old hay barn. Antique industrial lights found on eBay work perfectly with the beams, the tin and the porch columns. The columns appear to have a verdigris finish. Conner said the material is actually unfinished steel-coated pipeline. It’s a perfect fit for this third-generation oil field worker.

He was a fireman for years. Now he does oil well completion work in North Dakota where the temperature this past week dipped down to “50 degrees below zero with the wind chill factored in,” he said.

On his wife’s side of the family, there’s a connection to famous oil well firefighter Red Adair upon whom the John Wayne movie “Hellfighters” was loosely based. Among the Conners’ art prints is a signed, framed photo of Adair.

The pièce de résistance in the outside area designed by Conner is a gate welded of rebar that includes crossed pistols from Ricky’s Welding, formed from the same cast as those used when refurbishing the decorative ironwork on the Lake Charles I-10 bridge.

Other standout features include a TV in the bathroom. (Conner doesn’t want to miss a single play when his teams are on. He joked that growing up, he thought his dad was anti-New Orleans Saints because of the disgust he expressed when watching games. Later he found out that his dad was just disgusted at the team’s performance.)

The fireplace has hand-carved corbels and some of the bricks are from the old city hall that burned.

The light fixtures do more than shed brightness. Not the typical builder’s package, these add ambiance and many were selected locally from Joseph’s Electrical Center.

Signed and numbered Mardi Gras prints, and a signed and numbered Eddie Morman print are displayed in the home. (The latter was acquired when Morman surprised the entire fire department by showing up with signed prints after the department put out the color-blind painter’s studio fire. Hand-carved corbels grace the kitchen and fireplace mantle woodwork.)

Wrangler Construction built the Conner’s home located in the Augusta Village Development near the National Golf Course of Louisiana.

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