Gleaming Optimism: The Karen Miller home

Most side-gabled Craftsman homes are one or one-and-a-half stories and have a centered shed dormer (as Miller’s house does) or a centered gable dormer, according to Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society Landmarks documents. The decorative false braces are called triangular knee braces and are the most common type used for Craftsman bungalows.

Rita LeBleu

The 97-year-old Craftsman Bungalow at 714 Division Street was added to the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society Landmark list in 2002. It’s been on the Palm Sunday tour twice.

Originally the home of Dr. and Mrs. Louis Zelick Kushner, the house stayed in the family until 1992. It was home to Reverend John B. Lipscomb for six months. The current owner, Karen Mashburn Miller, has been in the house 25 years.

Miller, an Oklahoma native, fell in love with The South and was drawn to the charm of the homes in the historic district during her first visit to Lake Charles. After her divorce, she faced a tough decision: Build new or invest in preserving some of the area’s oldest and most charming structures.

She was familiar with the Kushner house. However, she never dreamed it would become available.

Fine traditional furnishings, unique interior architectural features, an abundance of light from the morning sun and a peaceful tranquility characterize the home of Karen Miller.

Rita LeBleu

Four generations of the Kushner family lived in the house, according to Miller.

“A lot of Jewish families lived in this area because it’s within walking distance of Temple Sinai,” Miller said.

Miller took a look at the house. She noticed the one-of-a-kind interior architectural features, built-in half-wall bookcases and large corbels separating the ample-sized living and dining areas.

“Anne Hurley once climbed up on those bookcases to see if she could determine if those arches were original to the house,” Miller said. “She jumped down, dusted off her hands and said, ‘Yes, I do believe they are.’”

The dining room is furnished with Chippendale chairs, a Louis XV style glass table with stone base and a Palladian sideboard.

Rita LeBleu

Door heights and widths wildly vary in Miller’s home. Trim around doors are not like any other. The angles and the overruns make the ceiling seem even higher.

 

“I’ve been told that the builder was also a shipbuilder,” Miller said by way of explanation. “Every older home in this area is unique in its way.”

Miller didn’t just look at the house before she made up her mind. She drove by the house at different times of the day and at night to take in the feel and the sounds of the neighborhood. The house is within walking distance from downtown businesses and across the street from Church of the Good Shepherd.

In some ways, the house embodies the same hushed silence of a church or library.

An heir of the Kushner family, the late Claire Kushman Sorkow, joined Miller in accepting the landmark plaque for the house. She could see that Miller loved the house as much as she did.

Karen Miller, sister and mother

Special to the American Press

It is gleaming and immaculate. Light filters in through shuttered windows onto light-colored neutral walls and gleaming oak floors. It looks as though the living and dining room were built for the furnishings: Two long classic English rolled arm sofas, two Louis XV bergere chairs, and a coffee table stacked with books that reflect a love of travel, history and art.

The dining room furnishings include a Palladian sideboard, Chippendale dining chairs and a Louis IV glasstopped table with stone base.

Miller, once an avid cook does less of it these days. She gutted the kitchen when she bought the house. On the wall is cheery blue and white William Morris wallpaper.

The style of the interior of the house has been described as traditional eclectic. The architectural style is Craftsman. The furniture is traditional. However, it’s not all from the same period.

The beauty of the house is not only tied to the fine furnishings and professional decorating. It is also tied to the light. It filters in on the east side through the many windows. Miller’s personality radiates when she talks about her love of promoting the area’s historic houses and hosting special learning sessions for the community’s elderly. In the master bedroom, the walls are bright yellow, an ideal color for starting the day with optimism and hope.

“Home is the place where you are free to be yourself,” Miller said. “It can take many years of living in a place for it to reflect you, your travels and your interests. Home, it really is where the heart is.”

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