Heaven on Carré Court
A forgettable "green shoebox" house becomes an elegant showstopper with the vision and tenacity of this derring-do couple.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
So Harry relented and the couple toured the house, noting that the floor plan inside also resembled a shoebox. The rectangular living area consisted of one long room, with cramped bedrooms off to the side.
Still, there was that amazing yard. Wouldn’t their two large dogs love it? And maybe, maybe, with lots of work, the house might have possibilities. Built in 1945, at least it had nine-foot ceilings…
“Think of it as a clean slate,” said Adriana.
The couple purchased the house in 2014. Three years later, it’s no longer overgrown. Garden paths meander through the yard, winding their way through beds planted with roses and lilies. The green color of the house disappeared under a deep shade of charcoal with elegant white trim.
The house can no longer be compared to a shoebox – inside or out. A large screened porch living area has been built off one side, while an addition on the other made way for a spacious master suite.
The house now possesses a sleek contemporary feel, yet, the stone foundation and chimney seem to indicate that it’s historic, perhaps from the 1920s. While the architecture defies pigeonholing, the overall effect is striking. Most longtime locals who pass it now wonder why on earth they never noticed this beauty before.
Adriana, who lived on the upper East Coast most of her adult life, says she wanted the house to have the feel of “a lake house in the northeast.”
“We had no plans,” Harry says. “The house took on a life of its own as we worked. We knew some basics, but it just grew.”
“Growing” included several unexpected projects. When they ripped out the popcorn ceiling in the main living area, they discovered that the structural supports needed to be completely replaced.
Plans to simply add more windows on either side of the main room’s fireplace to allow for more light, changed to allow for French doors instead, which in turn, led to building the screened porch on the side – now their favorite room in the house.
Along the way, household plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems had to be replaced and a whole house de-humidifier was installed. The kitchens and baths were remodeled from the ground up.
Outside, the driveway became part of the garden and parking was moved toward the back. They closed in the carport, which became Harry’s workshop and Adriana’s gardening shed. A stone patio ties in with the stone foundation they had installed around the perimeter of the house.
“People don’t really notice the stone foundation or the chimney, but it seems to register with them subconsciously,” says Adriana. “They always think the house is a lot older than it really is, but they can’t put their finger on why they get that impression.”
Other details in the house help create a more classic feel, like the deep casements around many of the windows.
Other details in the house help create a more classic feel, like the deep casements around many of the windows. Adriana credits those touches to her own deeply embedded sense of design.
“I was born in Rio, in Brazil, so I’m the original girl from Ipanema,” she says, with a smile. Since her father was in the Air Force, the family lived in Italy, Germany, England, Canada and New York while Adriana grew up, finally settling in Florida near Cocoa Beach for her high school years. She says she carries with her fond – and very detailed - memories of the historic European houses she lived in.
“What’s old here is young in England,” she says. “I loved all the stone work there.”
After college, Adriana married and settled in New Jersey, within commuting distance of Manhattan, where she became a senior vice president for the Aon insurance corporation. One of the few women working in the high-powered field of malpractice insurance and risk management for international law firms, she traveled around the world during a career she calls “tremendously rewarding.”
As a corporate V.P. of an international company, her office in Manhattan had one of the most prestigious addresses on the planet. It was located in the World Trade Center.
On the 104th floor.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, when the unimaginable news came through, she was on a plane in the air, heading for a meeting in Houston. She never saw most of her co-workers again.
The experience had the executive longing for life back in Florida. Since her job required only that she be near an airport, Adriana and her husband sold their mid-1700s historic home in New Jersey and relocated to Winter Park, Florida.
After her husband passed away in 2009, Adriana retired. But eventually, she began to miss having a companion, someone who’d enjoy cooking meals or playing golf. When she met another New Jersey transplant, “it just clicked.” Soon, she and Harry were spending all their time together.
Harry had grown up in Philadelphia, then served in the Marine Corps. When he got out in 1968, he joined the police force on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where he’d spent vacations growing up. He worked for the city 11 years, earning a degree in Criminal Justice from Temple University. Eventually, he went to work at casinos – first in Atlantic City and then Dubuque, Iowa.
When fellow employees began taking jobs at a new casino on the Mississippi Coast in a little town called Bay St. Louis, Harry first thought they’d be disappointed and come back. But his friends seemed thrilled with life on the coast.
The first time he visited, in 2003, Harry understood why people were defecting to Mississippi. He accepted a job at what was then Casino Magic. A few years later, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in Waveland, he felt rootless. He tried moving to the Ozarks, but longed for a coastline. He eventually relocated to Florida, where he met Adriana.
“My goal at that point was to never own another house,” he says, smiling at the irony. “I wanted to downsize and eventually own only a fishing rod and a toothbrush.”
But when Adriana and Harry met in 2010, he abandoned his downsizing plans. In 2011, the couple built a new house in Florida.
A few years later, the couple was driving to New Orleans for a vacation when Harry spontaneously asked Adriana if she’d like to see where he had lived. She was up for the sudden side trip, but wasn’t expecting much. She wasn’t even especially fond of the Gulf Coast of Florida. In her opinion, the east coast had the only “real” beaches.
Harry pulled off Interstate 10 onto Menge Avenue and followed the road to the beach. The landscape of the gulf made an instant convert of Adriana. A few hours later, after they had toured Bay St. Louis, she made an announcement.
“She said, ‘I want to live here!’” Harry remembers. “I said, wait, we just finished building a house in Florida!”
But it didn’t take much to persuade Harry to make the move. They began renting in the Bay in 2013 and purchased the Carré Court house several months later.
In the search for a contractor who could handle the extensive remodeling, they met Eddie Clark who came recommended by an old friend of Harry’s.
“We hit it off immediately. Eddie just got what I wanted to do,” says Adriana, smiling. “It’s like we had a Vulcan mind-meld.”
Harry laughs. “Live long and prosper!” he says.
That’s exactly what the couple are doing.
Now the project is complete, they both believe it’s their dream house. The close proximity to the water allows Harry to fish on a whim. The yard is an evolving art project for both of them. Their rescue dogs – three of them now – have room to range on the property and comfortable couches inside. Both Adriana and Harry love to cook, so the state-of-the-art kitchen makes entertaining a joy.
Occasionally, Harry will tease Adriana, saying that the Carré Court house can’t possibly be as nice as her 1740s home in New Jersey. She doesn’t hesitate to disagree.
“Are you kidding?” she tells him. “We’re in heaven here.”