Louisiana Governor’s Mansion gets a refresh

The Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation was created in 1996 by First Lady Alice Foster for the purpose of updating the run-down Governor’s Mansion. The mission of the Foundation was to identify, secure, and manage assets dedicated to the refurbishment and preservation of the Mansion properties of the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion for the educational and cultural enhancement of the people of Louisiana. The Foundation is privately funded.No tax dollars are used for its projects. 

Fast forward 21 years, and current First Lady Donna Edwards realized the Mansion was, again, in need of a refresh.Edwards revived the Foundation, and worked with its Executive Director, Sandy McClelland, to create a new project for the state’s historic home. In 2017, the Foundation brought together 17 Interior Designers from across the state to design and refurbish the interior of the Mansion.The Designers volunteered their services to the Foundation, equaling hundreds of hours of work. The Designers also worked with numerous vendors to obtain donations on some items and deep discounting on other items, such as fabrics, furniture, flooring, and accessories. The overall project took about 18 months from concept to completion. Assisting McClelland with the overall project coordination were Heidi Meibaum of LA Coalition for Interior Design and Mary Mowad Guiteau of Holly & Smith Architects.

In addition to working on the overall project coordination, H/S interior designer Mary Mowad Guiteau was also part of the design team for the Jazz Room. The team included Guiteau, Judith Verges and Elizabeth Walther. The Jazz Room is the family room located on the 3rd floor of the Mansion. Previously, it had been used as a storage room, with 2×2 suspended ceiling tile, 2×4 fluorescent light fixtures, a utilitarian cabinet, and lots of attic space in the room’s 5 dormers. The design team wanted to create a space that was fun and family-oriented, a space for game night, movie night, relaxing, or studying with friends.The former palette of golds and reds was traded for an updated palette of creams and blues. Two zones were created:a lounge zone with a sectional, lounge chairs, and a wall-mounted TV; and a game zone with an antique poker table, antique foosball table, and large wall-mounted Scrabble board game. The old suspended ceiling was removed and replaced with a painted gypsum board ceiling with recessed light fixtures and 2 decorative pendant fixtures. New millwork provides ample storage for games, snacks, and books, as well as serving areas for entertaining. The end result is a space the First Family enjoys spending time in together.

*Of note:

The name of this room was inspired by a ceramic statue of a musician playing the saxophone. The First Lady found the statue in the Mansion, and thought its appropriate place was in the family room, which was then dubbed the Jazz Room. While going through the Mansion storage space, she also found a clarinet lamp. The base of the lamp was crafted from an old clarinet, it was wired for electrical and had a simple lampshade. She placed the lamp in the room just as the designers were completing the space. It wasn’t until the Mansion Showcase on March 23 that the real story was unveiled. One of the Governor’s security personnel, Evan, is the grandson of the late great Louisiana jazz musician Pete Fountain. Evan saw the lamp and realized it was from his grandfather! In the 1960’s, clarinet manufacturer Lambert would send Pete Fountain many clarinets to try out and use. The ones Pete decided not to use would then be made into lamps and given as gifts to several Governors and other friends. Since the instrument is hollow, it has a perfect space to run electrical wiring.Evan recognized the lamp in the Jazz Room and realized it must have been a gift from his grandfather to either Governor McKeithen or Governor Edwin Edwards. It had been stowed away in the Mansion attic for many years. Now, it has a prominent place of display in the newly renovated Jazz Room!

The collaborative effort of the renovation project was quite a feat. The Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation did an excellent job coordinating 17 designers between 6 different rooms, and assuring that all of the designs were cohesive and timeless. The finished product is a refurbished landmark that will serve the state of Louisiana for many years to come.