Grace family home ages elegantly, with help from BR legend A. Hays Town

Worth a move

— Dianne Grace got her first real look at her home at an antiques sale on the property.

When her husband, Dr. Jimmy Grace, later asked if she had found anything she liked, her answer was simple: “Just the house.”

It was late 1969, just after he had completed a family practice residency at Lafayette Charity Hospital. The Graces and their six little children were moving back to Plaquemine, where he grew up. With a seventh child on the way, they needed a house with a lot of bedrooms.

It took some convincing, but the home’s owner agreed to sell to the Graces. Before they made a final commitment, they took architect A. Hays Town for a look.

“Buy it and move it,” Town told the young couple. “I’ll help you get it back together.”

The plan was to take it three miles across cane fields to family property just off La. 77. Livingston Hayes, a house mover from Cecelia, cut the house into three parts for the move.

The first two pieces were moved within hours, but the third piece, the big one, got stuck in the fields.

“They took it on and off the trailer a couple of times,” Jimmy Grace said. In the end, it took from December to July to get the whole thing moved.

The home, which was built before 1875, features a wide center hall with a magnificent curved stairway at the back. Originally the living room was on the right with bedrooms to the left.

Working with Town and contractor Eustace Marionneaux, the Graces reconfigured the house to convert the downstairs front bedrooms to a large dining room and modern kitchen. The original dining room at the back of the house became the master bedroom. The old kitchen is now a study.

By adding a wall upstairs, the Graces made four bedrooms for the children.

The center hall and all of the rooms at the back open to a wide porch that overlooks Dianne Graces’ breathtakingly beautiful country garden with a pergola and numerous raised beds she plants with flowers. Something is always in bloom.

She developed the garden more than 30 years ago.

“The children were getting old, and Jimmy was in a solo practice with long hours,” she said. “I wanted the children to have their own interests, and I needed my own interest, so I did the garden.”

The home is filled with collections and unusual pieces she’s picked up over the years.

“Dianne has the uncanny ability to cut out pictures of furniture from magazines and put the pictures in a box under the bed and eventually find the item,” said Jimmy Grace, who retired in 2005 and now serves as Iberville Parish coroner.

She looked for years at a large antique display rack in a Baton Rouge shop. When the owner closed the business, he sold the piece to her for much less than he had originally asked.

“He even delivered it and brought his men to put it together in the dining room,” she said.

It now holds her large collection of antique copper and other interesting items.

A piece in the entrance hall is filled with Dianne Graces’ shell collection, a tribute to her childhood spent on the Gulf of Mexico in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

Sadly, the Graces lost son Robert Grace to cancer, but his imprint and that of his six siblings is everywhere in the house.

The laundry room contains the cubbyholes where the seven Grace children picked up their washed clothes. The walls of the large pantry are decoupaged with their kindergarten artwork. Their photos are on display.

“They laugh about all of it now,” Dianne Grace said, “but it was a wonderful house to raise seven children.”