After moving eight times between 1982 and 1998, Suzie and Graham Thompson were ready to settle down in a home where their family could gather and where they could assemble a collection of artwork.
The Arkansas natives moved to Baton Rouge in 1986 for Graham Thompson to become CEO of City National Bank. In the next 12 years, the Thompsons moved around the state, as he took leadership positions in several banks. Finally, in 1998, they moved back to Baton Rouge when he became city president of Whitney Bank.
When word got around that the Thompsons were moving back, friends began house shopping for them.
“Early in December 1997, Joel Safer called and said that a house was coming up for sale in an area that I was really interested in,” Suzie Thompson said. “We came up on a Sunday and saw this house. We recognized that it had good bones.”
Without knowing the price, Graham Thompson surprised himself when he said, “We’ll take it.”
And then he added, “By the way, how much is it?”
“He had never done anything without negotiating,” Suzie Thompson said. “It was the only time he ever did something like that.”
The Thompsons bought the house on a gated street just off Jefferson Highway and began a major renovation. They opened up a hallway and expanded a small sitting room to the right of the foyer to create their large dining room.
They converted the home’s original dining room into a keeping room open to the kitchen, which they modernized.
They carved out a portion of a large porch at the back of the home to make a study with beautiful woodwork. One of their major changes was to cover the home’s original slate floors with wood in the foyer, living room and dining room and to add Mexican tile in the kitchen, keeping room and study.
The foyer leads directly into the large living room with a welcoming fireplace and a comfortable seating area.
To the left of the foyer is the bedroom wing with an office, two guest bedrooms and the master bedroom with two master baths and two master closets.
“We would never have done this if we were building, but it is one of the best things about the house,” Suzie Thompson said.
The home is decorated in an eclectic style, antiques mingling easily with contemporary pieces.
Family friend and decorator Gary Fell has helped Suzie Thompson with colors, furniture placement and accessories. She recommended neutral colors to the darker shades as a backdrop for artwork, which has been carefully selected for various locations in their home.
“We planned for art when we redid the house,” Suzie Thompson said.
She loves color, so she wanted paintings in the dining room with strong hues. They selected abstracts by New Orleans artist Ida Kohlmeyer and three very large paintings by Robert Rector.
The chandelier and two small lamps are the work of local artist Winifred Ross Reilly.
The inlaid wood dining room table is a work of art in itself. The Thompsons wanted something big enough to seat 14 people — their three children and their families — so all could enjoy special meals together.
“No children’s table,” Graham Thompson said.
The Thompsons commissioned a painting by Dennis Perrin for their living room, but when the artist arrived with the painting, he brought a second painting of his wife. The two now hang together over the grand piano.
The study is decorated with paintings of the Thompsons’ beloved golden retrievers, and throughout the home are works by some of the area’s finest artists including Elemore Morgan, Clyde Connell, Allison Stewart, Libby Johnson, Margaret Rice, Donna West, Emerson Bell, Katherine Rutledge, Lisa di Stefano and Lauren Barksdale, among others.
“It’s just stuff we love,” Suzie Thompson said. “We don’t buy paintings or art for an investment. We buy something because we love it, but we both have to love it.”