Shell Beach Drive 'house' transformed into Reinauer 'home'

By By Rita LeBleu / American Press

The “house” at 813 Shell Beach Drive is the “home” of David and Anne Reinauer. The quotes around house and home are a nod to

Reinauer who concluded the interview with a few remarks about how the American Press Home and Real Estate Section stories don’t always use those two words correctly in her opinion.

She understands why real estate professionals, like her husband and son, sometimes use the more evocative word to market empty

and/or unfinished structures.

“Even so,” she said, “it’s an

inaccuracy that rubs me wrong.” To Reinauer, “home” denotes the more

personal connection and

not every house, apartment or building-in-progress is one. By the

same token, any one of these places can be referred to as

a “home,” but only by or in connection to, the person who lives

there.

Reinauer is not one to mince words.

The tour of her Shell Beach home began in the kitchen, painted a sunny yellow with blue gingham curtains, which she made.

It is a cook’s kitchen, a warm, inviting hodgepodge of beloved art and humble treasures. A single fresh flower was on the

butcher-block island. Much-used cookbooks, pots and pans dominated the area.

nothing matched, everything belonged

Reinauer considers cooking to be an artistic expression and hasn’t bought a store-bought cookie in years. Her husband comes

home for lunch. “I think there is something so satisfying about seeing people’s pleasure when you feed them,” she said.

Baking and preparing lunch were common enterprises for women in the ‘50s, along about the time when the vintage lady-head

vases, just one of the many interesting collectibles in Reinauer’s kitchen, would have been popular. “You could get these

from your neighborhood florist and they would hold a small spray of flowers,” she said.

However, the home’s unifying design element isn’t the vintage decor. Nor is the house dated. And Reinauer doesn’t seem a bit

old fashioned. In fact, the quality that most describes this Shell Beach Drive home’s interior is “timeless” and if there

must be unifying design element, it is Reinauer herself. “In this home, I am surrounded by a plethora of things that speak

to me from earlier times,” she said.

Artwork and other décor throughout the

house are mostly from people that Reinauer cares about. Over the mantle

is an oil painting

by Lisa Reinauer, a McNeese visual arts professor who has created

many of these panoramic paintings of Lake Charles area landmarks.

On the kitchen table was the just-arrived package of signed and

numbered Mark Shaw photographs recently ordered by Reinauer’s

husband, David.

A red convertible sits on the kitchen

mantle, a gift from the late Bobby Boudreau who had the reputation for

giving unusual

Christmas gifts. A “rock man,” a simple art project by a Reinauer

grandchild, assumes the driver’s place. Also sharing space

on the mantle are coffee-filter flowers, crafted by grandchildren.

Lithographs from Charlie Huang and sculpted figurines by Bill Mixon can be found in the sitting room.

Antique dolls from Reinauer’s mother, a

favorite mish-mash of china and hand-crafted glassware from a niece

fill two glass-fronted

Eastlake bookshelves.

Classic, hardbound books, Provence “Santons” figurines and small paintings of the Reinauer residence grace the foyer shelves.

Art, an antique flag and a few family photos hang in the Reinauer office. One of these is a collection of some of the family’s

expired passports.

The chairs hanging on the kitchen wall are not an artistic expression, as one young art student guest inquired, but simply

a way to conserve space.

There’s a lot to look at in the Reinauer home.

During the interview, Reinauer

mentioned that she was in the process of figuring out how to hang a

collection of English Staffordshire

plates from the ceiling. When asked how that’s done, she laughed.

“I haven’t figured it out. I will hang them. I just don’t

know where.” (She’ll probably find a place. She used a kitchen

pantry door for hanging one of her prints.)

An actual costume and many framed drawings of dance costume designs by Reinauer’s mother, Emily Coleman, for “The Nutcracker,”

and other ballets line the burled-pine staircase that was salvaged from a Hodges StreetLake Charles home.

Coleman and Ida Clarke worked together

from the mid-50s through the ‘80s to popularize ballet in the Lake Area.

Recently their

mark on the arts was honored with an exhibit and documentary at

the Old City Hall. MSU sponsored Colleen Benoit’s restaging

of “The Nutcracker” in the style of Ida and Em, ordinary women

with a grand vision. Benoit was a past student of Clarke’s

and a local dance studio owner and teacher.

Needlepoint, rich with color and texture, dots the landscape in several rooms. This is Reinauer’s work. She is in the process of doing the second of two

pillows that uses drawings of her grandchildren’s hands. The new one shows hands that are now larger.

You get the impression from listening to Reinauer that she’s not idle much. A petite, energetic, fit woman, she peeled off

her shoes at one point during the interview, hopped onto a chair, put one foot on each arm, and righted a framed print far

overhead. Though you can’t call it dumpster diving exactly, one of her larger needlepoint pieces is the top of a “1930s barrel-tufted

sewing bench” that she salvaged from “neutral ground. “It was beat up and held an ant’s nest,” she said. She admitted that

she’s always looking for such things.

The rear of the Reinauer home has been remodeled to include a master suite that features a small sitting area where the lake

can be viewed. “The water is extremely restive and restorative and it gives an activity for the grandchildren,” she said.

The remodel

The rooms in the back of the house are

as relaxing as the front of the house is lively. Colors and materials

are natural and

subdued, the textures comforting. The bedroom’s wainscoating is

pecky cypress. A bed frame fashioned from old cypress by

a Natchitoches cabinetmaker anchors the room. Cypress doors were

crafted by Crookshanks, a Lake Charles woodworking company.

Furnishings include a yellow pine lift-top desk made by Anne’s

great-great-grandfather.

One could imagine washing away the

cares of the day in the master bath. In this room, textured wallpaper

beautifully joins

wood flooring, watery greens and earthy tans, thick terry cloth

linens and pebbled and standard tiling. Natural light streams

in from huge glass windows far above which follow the ceiling’s

angle.

A couple of landscapes that belonged to

Reinauer’s mother, framed Valentines from grandchildren, an antique

door with leaded

glass and McCoy pottery are other highlights of the master bath.

Though these things quite possibly go under the heading of

“things that speak to Reinauer,” the overall tone of the room is

hushed and soothing.

According to her research, the house

was constructed in the early 1900s and the property passed from John L.

Farque, who purchased

the lot for $1,600, to Charles Schrubbe in 1923. It was sold to

Henrietta Clark in 1958 and to Jack Watson in 1969.

When the Reinauers bought this raised-center-hall cottage in 1971, it had been “mostly unoccupied” for around 14 years, Reinauer

wrote in the 38th Annual Palm Sunday Tour of Homes program.

It’s not the only fixer-upper the family has tackled. The other is in Provence. The Reinauer’s have always loved France and

spent their honeymoon and many vacations there.

Through the years they made contacts and finally decided to purchase a piece of property. “It was a 1789 stone farmhouse,

sight unseen, a true ruin,” Anne said. “David’s heart sank when he first saw it.”

The Reinauers and two of their four

children lived in the house as they plastered, tiled, painted, wired and

plumbed. It would

be quite a transition for any family without adding that the

children were teens at the time. Anne and David only had rudimentary

French and the children had none.

“Richman and Mary Amanda attended the village school and within six months spoke better French than their parents ever would,”

Anne said. The older children, Rob and Mike, were in school in the U.S.

The house became a bed and breakfast

with the children pitching in to serve breakfasts. The Reinauers managed

to make friends

and learn to communicate as they worked to bring the place to 20th

century standards while still preserving some of its unique

history.

In the pigeonnier of the farmhouse, (an area used as a pigeon roost), the openings were simply covered with plexiglass. The

lavender field was tended, the blooms harvested and processed at a nearby distillery, a process that continues today. The

large outdoor wood-burning bread oven (probably used to prepare bread for the whole neighborhood) was left standing.

It came in handy after the Reinauer’s started their French cooking school, in operation up until just a few years ago.

The French cooking school

The school’s instructor was Chef Daniel

Bonnot, well-known New Orleans Chef Susan Spicer’s mentor. Students

stayed on the

premises. During the day, Anne and David played tour guide on

various excursions to food destinations like a vineyard, a goat

cheese maker and a chocolatier. “These were people who were not in

the habit of having visitors,” Reinauer said, making it

the kind of excursion usually unavailable for tourists. Afternoons

and evenings were spent learning to prepare the foods that

made up the five-course meals served and eaten by the students.

The Reinauers assisted and Anne said, “You can imagine the

amount of clean up that went on.”

When asked how the couple hit upon the notion of opening a cooking school, Reinauer said, “We were relaxing one day and her

husband came up with the idea. He is happiest when he is working on a project. But if you ask him, he’ll say I did it.”

Whether David or Anne came up with the idea for the school may never be known but after a tour of their home, one thing is

clear. They are experienced at fitting more into their schedules — and into their home.

Keeping and displaying the things that speak to us throughout the years of our lives may not work for every homeowner, but

when it does, it makes for interesting conversation — and helps tell the stories of who we are, what’s important to us and

how we’ve made our “houses” into “homes.”