Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Featuring This Family


My favorite house in Cow Island is a little green craftsman style structure, shaded by the limbs of oak and pecan trees. It has been there since before I was born, yet I never really noticed it until a few years ago when I moved back home. At first it was subtle changes, like flags blowing in the wind, and boat paddles mounted on the side of a small red barn that grabbed my attention. But it was on clear summer days, when I’d catch glimpses of a pond, fountain and sailboat that I knew this house was special.

“The red barn is my office and work shop,” says Carol Hebert Harper, design consultant for the businesses, Feature This and Curb Appeal For Dummies.com.


Harper runs the two businesses, which opened in 2008, with her daughter, Michelle Molinari. The mission of Feature This is to provide direction to people who would like to redesign their home for living, or would like to sell their house and need help giving it a make over.

“We make sure that a house doesn’t say, ‘Time and money,’” says Molinari. “We offer staging techniques that make it say, ‘I’m worth my price.’”

Curb Appeal for Dummies.com is tailored to help clients who want to make the outside of their house more attractive to potential buyers. Molinari and Harper design a strategy package of simple ways to increase the selling price. It may suggest a paint job, adding more plants or small renovations.

“We super-impose the suggestions on a digital photograph that the client emails to us,” says Harper. “Our customers are from throughout the U.S.”

Harper studied design in California, and has consulted on both commercial and residential spaces in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Houston. Molinari is a painter, who commissions her work. She trained with Certified Staging Professionals, where she is now an instructor.

“I train brokers and real estate agents how to use staging efficiently and effectively,” says Molinari. “This helps sellers receive a greater return on investment.”

Harper’s mother, Audrey Jerome, inherited the little green house from her parents. It remained unoccupied for several years until 2000 when Harper and her husband moved to Cow Island.

“The house has to be over a hundred years old,” says Jerome. “It was originally a lot smaller, but my dad added on pieces as time passed.”

Molinari moved to Vermilion Parish in 2006 after her home in Texas was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. She wanted to learn more about her Cajun roots and to be closer to her mother.

“We motivate and feed off of each other,” says Molinari. “It helps make us a great team.”

Jerome recently moved back to Cow Island after Hurricane Ike destroyed her home in Bridge City. Harper and Molinari renovated the front part of the little green house and made a small apartment for Jerome.

BEFORE


AFTER


BEFORE


AFTER

My mother and I visited the house recently, and while she talked with Jerome in her living room, I interviewed Molinari and Harper in the back of the house. I was inspired by their design choices like bamboo ceilings, cabinet doors made from old shutters, and framed paint by number scenes of New Orleans, all lit by antique kerosene lanterns.

“It’s kind of funny because you don’t hear of many people who move to Vermilion Parish to get away from hurricanes,” I said. “In a way, this house and two of the Gulf Coast’s biggest storms brought your family together.”

“I’m very grateful to live here,” says Harper. “I love having parties, and especially putting on little parades.”

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Fourth of July party at the property one summer, and knew of the parades. Both children and adults dressed in red, white and blue marched around the pond while their families cheered them on.

“This is my favorite house in Cow Island,” I said to Harper. “Even though this is my first time inside, it feels familiar.”

The little green house provided both a space for a mother and daughter to run a business, and a refuge for families to reconnect. Harper and Molinari are definitely talented artists who can make a property more beautiful on the outside. But their best work is the home they’ve created within.

For more information on the services of Harper and Molinari, call 337-652-3983 or visit their Web site at www.featurethisdotdotdot.com.

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