Phyllis and Billy Loftin and Loftin, Cain, & LeBlanc, Gold Sponsors!
Why "house heros?" Wyman points out that the Loftin remodeling story is the home version of many current reality shows: the ugly duckling makeover story. These makeover shows are popular not only because the stories are true, but because they are inspirational.
Whether it's the tale of a person wearing bad clothes with a bad hair style or a person who needs to shed a few pounds and shape up, the result is the same. An unattractive duckling, with a little guidance and the right attitude, becomes a beautiful swan. The Loftin's house version of this story took place at 115 Park Avenue. The house they were purchasing was a victim of poor 60s style, desperately in need of a makeover. But this particular story is extra special because behind the facade was a historic house, dying to get out.
And this makeover story is a perfect example of how willing and courageous homeowners, desiring to move into a historic neighborhood close to work and school, can, with the right attitude and little guidance, both realize the dream of having a beautiful home in town, and in the process, improve the street scape of their block and enhance an entire neighborhood. The Loftin's success is an example to others who may need a little encouragement to do the same. Their house, now becoming a beautiful swan, is one of a type that can be found in every city in America. These houses are called "bungled bungalows." In the case of 115 Park Avenue, the once stately Arts and Crafts look of the original house had been almost completely obliterated: it had become a head scratching amalgamation of many mismatched and poorly chosen "improvements" inflicted upon it over the years. The one thing that did remain of the original house was the house's form, its distinctive bungalow lines: the sheltering deep overhang with exposed rafters (hidden by aluminum gutters) deep front porch (with posts replaced by incongruous wrought iron, half hidden by a four foot high brick planter), and the flattened roof angles . . . only these clues indicated the home's previous life.
But when the Loftins bought the house, they didn't know about all of this. They did know something needed to happen to change the house's appearance. The Loftins were leaving a beautiful custom built home in Kings Point Subdivision in South Lake Charles, built by Phyllis' brother, Christopher Pearson of 4P Construction, LLC, who has also done all of the Park Avenue renovations. They appreciate beauty and their new house was not beautiful. So they had plans drawn up to improve the curb appeal and to accommodate their family and entertainment needs. And since it was in the Margaret Place Historical District, their plans had to be approved by the review committee. Barbara Wyman states, "Review committees are house heroes too . . . they want to save old houses or bring them back to life. But all the committee can do is encourage and guide. The homeowners need to have the vision and the proper attitude for the outcome to be win-win. After being presented with the Loftin's plans for exterior changes, and being familiar with the architectural styles of Margaret Place, I decided to take a chance and contact the Loftins and they agreed to meet.
There was nothing wrong with the Loftin's submitted plans per se, but the plans were just one more "fix" to a renovation weary bungalow. The plans did not reflect what the house could be. Armed with photos and educational resources, Wyman met with the Loftins at the law offices of Loftin, Cain & Leblanc, LLC on Dr. Michael DeBakey Drive, only one block away. At first skeptical, the Loftins were more than willing to be convinced. There was a time crunch, since their other house was already sold and they needed to get started on the renovations. And there were no existing photos of what the house looked like originally, except for those all but hidden bungalow clues.
Barbara took the time to do field research, driving around the old part of town to find houses that were similar in form that might prove a pattern for the house. A few houses were found, and an alternate idea for the front of the house was presented, a plan more in keeping with what the house might have been.At the second meeting to see what she had come up with, everything clicked! Both Billy and Phyllis used their imaginations and their good will, and jumped at the opportunity to resurrect their bungalow. Their first exterior front plans were scrapped, and new plans were drawn up. The results are nothing short of amazing!
Of the experience, Phyllis Loftin states, "When Billy and I ultimately decided to sell our home in Kings Point, it was with the idea that we would build again. We even purchased another lot in Kings Point. I was not really ready to make the move from South Lake Charles or Kings Point but knew that Billy had a huge desire to move to the downtown area. Although he was willing to build again in Kings Point to make me happy, I felt that we needed to try the downtown area while the opportunity was available. Being a real estate agent with ERA Moffett Realty, I already knew there was nothing in the area that I was interested in so we began our search for a lot to build. We actually found a couple of options and I started working on house plans, all in a matter of 3 or 4 days.
One evening, Billy said he found a house and wanted me to make an appointment to view. When he told me it was 115 Park Avenue, I actually laughed and said "thanks but no thanks! That is the ugliest house I have ever seen!". He called another agent and they went and viewed the house without me. After many, many discussions, I agreed to go and view the home. Although I was still not sold on the home itself, the location was attractive and we began discussing the home's potential with some renovations. We met with our architect, contractor, etc. and ultimately got a contract on the house, finalized our renovation plans, set a budget and submitted our plans to the City and Review Committee for approval.When we received the call from Mrs. Wyman to meet about our plans, I must admit that I was not excited at all about listening to someone else tell me what my home needed to look like. I even attempted to get out of the meeting but ultimately agreed to attend and listen. While I thought that Mrs. Wyman had some neat ideas for our home, I did not like the fact that the cost of her ideas could possibly reduce my decorating budget. As I stand today, Mrs. Wyman's knowledge, effort and ideas were brilliant as to the street scape changes to our plans! Although we are still in the middle of renovations, we love, love the location and are excited about the beautiful "swan" Mrs. Wyman helped us create, and Billy tells me that I still have money for decorating. Yeah!" Billy comments, "as City Attorney for the City of Lake Charles, I have seen the tremendous effort of the volunteers in this Historic District over the past decade. My primary goal was to move closer to our office and our children's schools. Because of my position with the City, I felt like I had to at least make a good faith effort to listen to Mrs. Wyman's suggestions and determine if they were feasible. However, I did have to carefully balance this effort with my wife's desires for the interior and my family's needs as it related to the renovations all within a budget that did not require an unreasonable investment in the property based on its ultimate value. The only changes she was suggesting were for the street view of the house and reclamation of its bungalow architecture. The cost of these changes amounted to approximately an additional $25,000.00, over our original submissions and I think the end result was well worth it. I believe it is important to the future of Margaret Place to assist in promoting these types of renovations which perpetuate the appeal of this neighborhood and strengthen the purpose of the Historic District. Phyllis and I are very happy to be a part of the Margaret Place Historical District."
Why Palm Sunday Weekend heroes? Cheryl Fullington, Sponsor Chairman for Palm Sunday Weekend, explains. "While the Palm Sunday Weekend events are over 5 months away, the search for sponsors began in late August. Just as Billy and Phyllis were open relative to their house design, they enthusiastically volunteered to be Gold Sponsors as soon as they heard that a Sponsor effort would soon be underway. This show of support means so much to the success of our project and particularly to the joint committee.The Loftin's enthusiasm for the Palm Sunday Weekend and for their new home in the district is contagious and should be saluted."
The beautiful landscape work is a product of A New Leaf Landscaping.