Today’s Tchefuncta Club Estates and Tchefuncta Country Club are located on land that was originally a Spanish land grant. The land eventually passed into the hands of the Suter family. In the 1950s, businessmen Kent McWilliams, Charles Cary, Bill Vice, Sandy Saer and Damon Wingfield spearheaded the acquisition of the land and began developing what would be the first phase of Tchefuncta Club Estates.
On Aug. 20, 2005, just days before Hurricane Katrina, a second phase of Tchefuncta began, along with plans to build a new clubhouse. Charlie Barnett, Brian Storm, Ricky Thomas, Jim Harp and Brian Pellissier put together a package to buy 167 acres from the Slaughter family. The new phase has the security of the Tchefuncta neighborhood, three new golf holes and 124 home sites, all with beautiful views.
Charlie Barnett was the first to complete his house and move in as part of Phase 2. At the same time, the new clubhouse was under construction. Architect George Hopkins was the architect on both projects.
Charlie was very hands-on in the building of his house, which is a combination of old and new elements. He found an old church, c1840, in Bogalusa that was originally built by the Goodyear family. All the wood for the new house came from this church. Charlie crawled up and down the house, determining if and how he could use the cypress beams, floor boards, rafters and joists. The floor joists were so thick he had them milled to make two boards out of one. “Back in those days, 2 x 10s were 2½ inches thick and over 10 inches wide,” says Charlie. “The underside was left rough.”
The bricks were procured from a World War I parachute factory in Columbia, Miss. “When you look closely, you can see a purplish hue (patina) to the bricks, which tells us they were made in Slidell at the Chamale Brickyard around 1870,” says Charlie. All of the bricks, both inside and out, are from the factory. “I hand selected the queen-sized bricks instead of the purple patina for the inside to be able to use a creamier color.” The stucco on the house was left the original, un-tinted color to age outside and retain its cream color inside.
Time-worn European antiques and classic antique oriental rugs fill every room, but because Charlie and his wife, Mary, have four children between them and always entertain lots of guests for football games, these spaces must be comfortable. In the entrance, a marble-topped burled chest, c1860, beneath a gilded mirror holds two gold-leaf candlestick lamps with stenciled brown silk shades and an antique marble clock. Two Empire pedestals are topped with bronze urns. An antique Hamadan rug lies on the brick floor.
Huge cypress beams run across the 12-foot-high ceiling in the main living areas, making a big impact. In the dining room, a Welsh dresser, c1840, is filled with antique pewter plates and antique china. A French buffet holds two contemporary glass-and-bronze lamps. Charlie could not find an antique table to seat his many guests, so the expandable walnut table is from EMB Interiors. Surrounding the table are chairs upholstered in a floral-patterned chenille. Moss-green leather armchairs sit at either end. The room is anchored by a semi-antique Heriz rug. Two monumental stone pillars create a divide between the living and dining areas, while still leaving an open feeling.
The wine cellar is every oenophile’s dream—just large enough to hold 600 bottles of red wine, with a wine cooler for white wines. An antique Kazak oriental runner covers the brick floor.
On a near wall between the living and dining rooms is a bibliotheca, which houses books behind its wire mesh doors. On top is a collection of antique pewter wine stoppers, a cut-glass wine bucket filled with corks and a collection of vintage vintners’ tasting cups. A Michalopoulos painting hangs above. On the floor stands an iron Boston bulldog.
The living room’s view of the new golf course creates an expansive horizon that does not call for window coverings. The seating area is centered on a large brick fireplace with a pecky cypress mantel. Comfortable chairs upholstered in velvet and a moss-green sofa make a cozy area. An antique hand-carved duck sits on an antique chest of burled yew beneath another Michalopoulos painting.
The kitchen cabinets are cypress with oiled bronze hardware and granite countertops in Absolute Black and Tropical Brown. A mosaic of elongated sandstone tiles forms the backsplash. A Wolf gas stove sits beneath a custom stucco vent hood. The refrigerator sports custom-designed panels in cypress. Two topiaries and an antique dough bowl are on the bar. “We entertain a lot, and this house is perfect for guests,” says Mary.
Charlie’s “man cave” holds several trophies from his many safaris in Africa. Audubon prints hang above an antique English chest. A tufted leather Lancaster chair, two upholstered French arm chairs and a sofa with Kilim throw pillows make for a cozy retreat.
The rear entrance to the house is paneled in pecky cypress on the walls and up the staircase. In the alcove next to the stairs, a blue wildebeest trophy hangs above a leather-and-copper-framed mirror. Beneath the console table is a Plexiglas box with mounted Chinese wood ducks. An antique Kazak runner covers the floor. Up the cypress stairs, an iron railing leads to a grouping of Gould and Gould prints hanging at the stair landing. Two bedrooms on the second floor are for Charlie and Mary’s college-aged children.
Leading into the master bedroom is a small library with a French chair, upholstered in a tapestry fabric and painted glazed cabinets, which hold books and carnival memorabilia. A Garland Robinette portrait and a Robert Cook landscape hang in the room. A zebra rug, shot by Charlie, lies on the antique cypress floor.
The master bedroom showcases a king-size bed in carved walnut, reminiscent of the Mallard beds that were so popular in the early 1800s. Two small chests with gold-leaf lamps flank the bed, which is covered in sage-green chenille accented with a rust-and-copper pillow. The kudu-hide pillow is also from Charlie’s trip to Africa. A walnut writing desk sits beneath the shuttered windows. At the end of the bed is a richly textured tribal antique Sarouk rug made of camel hair.
“Charlie and I got married recently,” says Mary. “My friends have asked what I would change in the house, and I say nothing at all. Charlie put it all together, and it reflects who he is—and that is wonderful.”