In case you missed it in their August issue last month, Southern Living Magazine revealed their annual home awards honoring the South’s best architecture and design, and revering who and what defines the new Southern style. Included in this year’s accolades, Southern Living announced its first-ever prize named after the late A. Hays Town, well-regarded as the South’s premier Architect whose distinctive design style captured the essence of classic Louisiana residential architecture.
Some of the finest elements of Louisiana’s rich architectural past and diverse culture are said to have inspired Town’s traditional residential designs. His earlier residential projects reflected colonial and Georgian influences while incorporating his keen sense of proportion and symmetry, as well as using beautiful old salvaged materials that added texture and created interest in new construction. The cultural ways of life in south Louisiana were primary inspirations that became apparent in his later style of work, reflecting designs reminiscent of the classic Acadian cottages, historical Creole houses of New Orleans, and time-honored Spanish interior courtyards and fountains.
And, his signature use of reclaimed and recycled old building materials continually give a relaxed, graceful character to his new houses with modern-day amenities. Mr. Town certainly had an innate ability of bridging traditional architecture with modern living, where it is noticeable in the kitchens that he designed.
Of over an estimated five hundred residences that Town is noted to have designed, only twenty-five homes were selected and featured in the book, “The Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town,” with text by Cyril E. Vetter, and beautiful photographs by Philip Gould. It was published by Louisiana State University Press. This is one of my favorite pictorial reference books in-house, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the traditional architecture of Louisiana. There is not a whole lot of text in this book, however, it includes two hundred images, so it’s sort of like having a printed out version of a Pinterest board. But even without a litany of descriptions about the architectural details, and that his design intent is not always spelled out for you, this collection of lovely pictures alone speaks volumes about the essence of Town’s concepts and foresight. I have always been captivated at how much information is being conveyed through the color photos in this book, and I often refer to its pages for design inspiration.
Although all of the houses in this book are different from one another, there is definitely a common recipe, a distinctive Creole flavor, a typical list of ingredients of French-Acadian features found in each home. In local Cajun cooking, lots of fresh onions, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, parsley and green onions are the vegetable seasonings that are important to almost all dishes. Similar in concept, below is a short list of only eighteen trademark design features of an A. Hays Town style house, which included exterior elements that were just as important as the interior spaces to the overall design:
- Slate Roofs with Ridge Tiles,
- Large Gallery Porches with Deep Overhangs,
- 13’-high Ceilings with Old Warehouse Wood Beams,
- Exterior French Doors with Full-length Operable Shutters,
- Large Gallery Porches with Deep Overhangs,
- Walls of Large Windows,
- Interior Brick Walls Painted White,
- Arched Doorways,
- Antique Brick Floors with a Special Beeswax Finish,
- Reclaimed Old Wide Plank Heart Pine Wood Floors,
- Antique Cypress Doors and Cabinetry,
- Bevolo French Quarter Gas Lanterns,
- Porch Swings, Wooden Rockers, and Old Church Pews,
- Massive Antique French Olive Jars,
- Hand-carved Religious Artifacts and Niches for Statues,
- Landscaped Interior Courtyards with Fountains and Crepe Myrtles,
- Weathered Fences, Concrete Statuaries, and Sugar Kettles,
- and, a Pigeonnier (dovecote) in the Yard.
This list above is not all-inclusive of the design ‘ingredients’ that Mr. Town used in his residential projects. But from it, you get a sense of what he typically included in his design ‘recipes’, especially using salvaged and recovered old building materials from warehouses, barns, and railroad yards. Here’s a visual breakdown of these components:
You have probably already figured out that over the years, I have researched and compiled a list of local vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers for the types of building and construction materials found in the design features of a Hays Town style house. Many of our clients who admire his work have asked about where they might find antique brick, reclaimed wood, lighting fixtures, and accessories that are typical features a Hays Town style house. The following are a few local resources that might be helpful to you, especially if you’re a treasure hunter or scavenger of old building materials.
- Bevelo Gas and Electric Lights – www.bevolo.com
- The Bank Architectural Antiques – www.thebankantiques.com
- St. Joe Brick Works, Inc. – www.stjoebrickworks.com
- New Orleans Brick Co. – www.neworleansbrick.com
- Old South Brick Company, Inc. – www.oldsouthbrick.com
- Lafayette Wood-Works – www.lafayettewoodworks.com
- Higgins Company – www.antiquewoodsource.com
- Will Branch Antique Lumber – www.willbranch.net
- Albany Woodworks – www.albanywoodworks.com
- Antiques de Provence – www.antiquesdeprovencellc.com
There are so many more incredible local resources that I could not list all of them. Do you have any favorite ‘go-to’ antique stores or places where you have come across old salvaged building materials that can be recycled or re-purposed into a new home or renovation project? Feel free to share!