Ballentine Beach House Revival
- story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
The experts agreed. They all said the same thing: Tear it down.
Although only a few inches of water had flooded the little cottage at 313 Ballentine during Hurricane Katrina, the storm’s winds had ripped off whole sections of roof.
By the time Kevin Cardamone drove by and saw it for the first time, it had been languishing unattended for nine years. There was no sign to indicate the house might be for sale, yet something about it captured his imagination. True, he was looking for a renovation project, yet, surely he’d find something more to his liking in better shape.
At Home in the Bay
Yet as 2014 came to a close, 313 nagged at him. Other houses he considered over a 10-month shopping period fell short in one way or another. So he checked with the Hancock County tax assessor’s office and discovered that the owner lived right next door.
Kevin knocked on her door, introduced himself and expressed his interest. He learned that the owner and her four siblings had grown up in 313. She and her husband had purchased the house next door where she still lived. At the time of Katrina, her brother had been living in 313, but ill health prevented him fro returning.
A few weeks later, he purchased his new home.
This wasn’t the first time Kevin had sought out a derelict property and brought it back to life. The first two were in New Orleans, which he’d promptly adopted as his new hometown after visiting friends for the 1978 Mardi Gras. A Pennsylvania native, he’d been living temporarily in Michigan, working at the national headquarters of the Kmart corporation. The mild New Orleans’ winters were part of the attraction, but the “frustrated architect” had a love for historic buildings.
His first New Orleans apartment was in the Bayou St. John neighborhood, where he noticed an abandoned cottage that was going to ruin. He looked up the owners at the tax office, made an offer and set to work on what eventually became a neighborhood showpiece. His career in corporate optical sales kept him on the road, but he managed enough time at home to work with the architect and contractor during the renovations.
Kevin named the B&B after the family who had built the house and lived in it for the next century – Glaudot. After he purchased the building, he discovered the caretaker had left many things not deemed of value, including dozens of paintings by an early resident, Mary Glaudot (born in the early 1900s). Mary had been very talented, yet much of her work ended up decaying in a trunk stored in the guest house, including a stunning self-portrait.
Kevin, who had developed an eye for arts and antiques through the years, saw the beauty in her work and had each of the paintings framed, then used them to decorate the walls of the bed and breakfast.
The Glaudot House was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina, so Kevin spent the next several years renovating for a second time. Ready for a change, in 2011, he sold it and moved into an apartment. While the prospect of bringing another house back to life provided a constant temptation, he wasn’t sure it would be in New Orleans. In fact, he’d always wanted to live in a beach town, why not now?
Although he’d been a frequent visitor to Bay St. Louis before Katrina, he didn’t return until 2014. A newspaper ad for a cottage for sale sparked his interest, so he drove over and fell for the town all over again. It was during that first visit that he spotted 313. It took another ten months before he owned it.
Only one contractor had the vision and understood the commitment, David Rush. Kevin worked with Rush over the next nine months. The house required everything – plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing and walls. The original doors and windows were stripped down and refurbished. Wood that Kevin had salvaged was put to good use in the interior. He was able to move in just before Thanksgiving in 2015.
Outside, a reconfigured roof line was built over the front porch, giving the cottage a fresh new look from the street. Inside, the basic floor plan remained the same, although an inventive placement of doors allowed for a more spacious feel. The house is split down the middle by a wall, with each side opening onto the screened front porch. An open living/dining/kitchen and laundry area takes all of one side.
The master bedroom features a large master bath at the very back of the house, which opens into the laundry room and the living area side. The arrangement allows privacy for Kevin and any guests – each can enter and exit the house without disturbing the other.
The ceiling on the living side of the house vaults to the peak of the roof, thanks to foam insulation that allows former attic space to be captured. Salvaged bead board that’s been lightly sanded and finished gives a warm glow to the entire room.
Kevin is not afraid to mix fine antiques with more rustic feeling pieces. The crystal chandeliers hanging from the wood ceiling are a case in point. The overall feeling is fun, interesting and definitely not stuffy.
Antique clocks, gifts from friends in Paris, Mary Glaudot’s fantastic paintings and an amazing array of antique dishes combine to pay homage to the past with a light-hearted attitude. This is no museum. It’s a house meant to spark conversation and good times.
Kevin’s planning to tackle the yard next, and has in mind a redesigned back porch, a vegetable garden and a pond. Meanwhile, the front screened porch is large and inviting, while a back deck and gazebo area make it easy to entertain. The yard stretches back to a storage shed that Kevin built.
“The family had considered tearing it down after Katrina, when the Corps [of Engineers] was doing it for free," says Kevin.
“I’m sure glad they didn’t.”