Designed with style, function in mind

When a building started rising early last year at the corner of Woodbury Drive and Barry Drive, its all-steel support beams and frame had neighbors speculating it was a maintenance facility for the adjacent BREC Jefferson Terrace Park.

Eventually, its function as a house became apparent, although it little resembles anything else in Jefferson Terrace or the mini-subdivisions that surround it. And that is just fine with Phillip and Mandy Tebbutt, who moved into their self-designed home in March.

“Some people, they’re not sure,” Mandy Tebbutt, 37, said. “‘Oh, it’s different.’ Different is good. We don’t care if you like it or not. We like it.”

Neither of the Tebbutts is an architect, but both are interior designers: Phillip is an associate professor in LSU’s Department of Interior Design; Mandy works for Commercial Design Interiors. They set out to create a home that incorporated their ideas of how they’d like a home to look and function for themselves and their daughter, Delilah, 3. They also wanted it to be environmentally friendly.

Steel construction helped with all of that. They liked the strength it provides against hurricanes, the low maintenance, speed of construction and its imperviousness to termites. Cypress exterior siding and bamboo flooring are the only wooden parts of the house.

“Rigid frame construction has been around for a long time,” Phillip Tebbutt said. “Perhaps in Louisiana it is not considered the mainstay of residential construction, but certainly lots of architects have been tinkering around and playing with it.

“This kind of construction gives you freedom to do what you want with the interior walls. Pretty much everything you see is not structural apart from the painted beams, so we could put walls wherever we wanted and create the spaces we wanted. We wanted an open plan.”

They achieved that, with nothing separating the large kitchen from the living and dining areas that face the park.

A stand-alone gas fireplace creates some definition between the dining table and the couches. The fireplace turns on with the touch of a button, and though it doesn’t get much use this time of the year, the Tebbutts moved into the house before the heat pump was ready and the fireplace was able to sufficiently warm the kitchen-dining area.

“I guess it’s my hangover from coming from England,” said Phillip Tebbutt, 52, who has lived in Baton Rouge for 17 years. “I like a warm, cozy fireplace. I always think of the fireplace as the heart of the family.”

Light also pours in from the 9-foot-tall, tinted, double-paned windows and glass doors along almost the entire west side of the house, which faces the park, and smaller windows on the opposite side. The windows reduce the need for artificial light, much of which is provided by energy-efficient LED fixtures. Some of those lights are inside kitchen cabinets with translucent glass doors, providing a dramatic effect.

There are other more substantial energy efficiencies. Spray foam insulation is used extensively in the ceiling and solid wall areas. Solar panels generate enough electricity to run everything but the air conditioner. The solar water heater is so effective that its output is mixed with cooler to keep it at a comfortable temperature.

The Tebbutts considered seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the house, though the expense and paperwork involved caused them to change those plans. But they kept building by the standards.

“The performance of the building itself and some of the mechanical systems we used are not that typical,” Phillip Tebbutt said. “Hopefully, they will be soon.”