A street view of 813 Shell Beach Drive, home to Anne and David Reinauer. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, February 03, 2014 11:41 AMThe “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 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.”