This Certified Financial Planner’s Historic Lake Charles House Mixes Original Architectural Details and Modern Updates

published Mar 30, 2022
Money Month

This Certified Financial Planner’s Historic Lake Charles House Mixes Original Architectural Details and Modern Updates

published Mar 30, 2022
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Bedrooms
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Name: Danielle and Andrés Nava, twin 22-month daughters, and Niko and Ludo, the cats
Location: Charpentier District in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Size: 2,344 square feet
Type of Home: House
Years Lived In: 6 years, owned

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Danielle Nava is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the co-owner and vice president of Toujours Planning, a wealth management firm based in Lake Charles. I’ve personally known her since we were kids (we’re both from the same town), and it was a delight to see her gain a huge online following when she lived in New Orleans years ago, where she blogged about food and travel. Now married with two adorable daughters and back in her hometown, she’s still inspiring audiences, but this time she’s sharing wealth-building education and a look at raising twins, all in a stunning historic house she also shares with her husband, Andrés, and cats, Niko and Ludo.

“When we moved back to my hometown from New Orleans, we knew we wanted to live where the most culture was, and having established our love of old homes in New Orleans, we were really interested in the historic Charpentier District from the start,” Danielle begins. “During our house hunting, my sister-in-law, Lauren Granger, was redesigning an old home in this neighborhood for the most part of the year, so during visits to see the progress, I would always eye this yellow — now pink — home that had a for sale sign in the front. It was originally out of our price range, but when we decided to go from starter home to potential forever home, I asked my real estate agent about it. He told me it was in the process of being sold. My heart broke a little and I thought, well, whoever is gonna live there must be someone special. Fast forward a few more months and the for sale sign was still there. I quickly called my agent and he asked about the address then said, ‘Oh that yellow house?!’ Needless to say, the rest is history and the wait ended up working in our favor.” 

Danielle and Andrés have spent the past six years lovingly personalizing and modernizing the older home, while also respecting and honoring the house’s architectural history. “Our home was built in 1885 by the Levy family and it’s on the national historic registry. The Levys built just two blocks away from Temple Sinai, the Lake Charles synagogue, so they could walk to temple. Their family eventually built two homes next door for other members of the family,” Danielle explains.

“My favorite parts of the home are the ones that typically aren’t recreated: the windows (which I’ve heard can only be replaced with glass from Germany), the tall ceilings (ours were actually lowered right before we bought it to make room for central air), the crown molding, and believe it or not, in a world of endless open concept modern homes, I kind of love that our home takes you on a journey. I love that it looks small from the front and then you’re shocked when you walk through it. I learned in 2020 that I love the way it is built and the way it was made to accept and then release moisture — we got away without major damage during Hurricane Laura. They truly do not make homes like this anymore. To us, she is a gem, and we’ve loved shining her up.” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Like most people, my style is a mixed bag and I am admittedly intimidated by this question but will try my best! I’m very inspired by the vibrancy of global and bohemian design, but I also like to stay grounded with simple motifs and neutral colors. We mix these two concepts throughout our home, along with combining vintage and modern, always. I mostly go with my gut and only purchase things I absolutely love. I’m great at picking out individual pieces, but when it comes to putting it all together, I definitely recruit the help of my talented sister-in-law/designer, Lauren Granger

I think the common denominator in each room is that it reflects something personal to our family, our history, and our travels. In the front room, it’s my dad’s vinyl albums and a painting of our wedding venue. In the nursery, it’s the quilt I grew up with, my old piggy banks, and a small painting we purchased on our honeymoon in Jamaica. In the dining room, it’s a dangling oyster that was our wedding party favor and the teak wood Thai artwork my dad brought home from his duty overseas. In our back family room, it’s our New Orleans and Maracaibo artwork and our love of cats and plants. It’s important to us that our home wraps our guests up in our story. 

Favorite Element: I have a few! I lived in a pink house in New Orleans, and have a little obsession with them, so when we finally painted our home pink last year (courtesy of Hurricane Laura) it was an actual dream come true. Every time I pull into our driveway, I smile. 

I also love the windows in my girls’ nursery. There are three giant windows in top-of-a-hexagon formation and they make a real unique statement. All of the original windows in the front part of the house are still intact and have that cool wave/ripple look when you get close to them. This type of glass was made by heating the glass and blowing it, forming a ripple effect that contributes to the wavy characteristic of every window pane that was produced during that time period.

The nursery (old office space) and the dining room are actually connected by a GIANT single pocket door. I’ve never seen a single one so big — and I like to think of it as a badge of honor — like it’s showing off its history!

In the back of the house, we have a Mexican Saltillo tile floor that made me squeal when I first laid eyes on it. This back part of the house was an addition so the ceiling is much lower, but it’s perfect for cozy nights and piling up on the couch to watch a movie. 

Biggest Challenge: When we first bought our home, we became house-poor right away, meaning at that time a large portion of our paycheck went to the mortgage, so our budget was very low in the beginning. We were fortunate that the previous owners — who had purchased it to flip — made a lot of the heavy duty updates the house needed, but there were a lot of things that we wanted to change aesthetically. We also barely had enough furniture to fill the house, so it was very hodge-podgey. This is where my estate sale and Facebook Marketplace shopping skills really came into play. We simply made do with what we had and brought in these vintage pieces to reflect our style while also saving up and waiting for sales on the bigger pieces we really wanted. It’s easy to get into a mindset that everything has to be perfect immediately, but in reality what made financial sense to us was waiting until we could afford the updates we wanted.

Unfortunately and fortunately, the hurricane pushed us to finally do all the things we wanted. Since we had repairs to do, we decided to tack on some upgrades to get it all done at once. Part of those upgrades were hiring a carpenter to make us more storage. The downside of these old homes is that they typically don’t come with a lot of storage space. I had several people tell me they looked at the house before us and declined simply because of lack of storage. So we finally fixed that. We built ourselves floor-to-ceiling closets in the primary bedroom with space that just wasn’t being maximized properly, custom vanity and storage in the primary bathroom, floor-to-ceiling shelves and cabinets in the pantry and the same in our guest bathroom/laundry room. With the help of Lauren Granger again, we re-thought the space and made it work better for us. Unfortunately, the doors to the cabinets weren’t ready in time for the photoshoot, so you’ll have to visit my Instagram page for those updates when they’re finished — yes they’re still not installed as I’m writing this!

Proudest DIY: A true early DIY was our upstairs guest bathroom. It only had a tub, and my husband’s family needed a shower. So we bought a beautiful converter for it and slapped on a new coat of paint along with some accessories to make such a cute vintage bathroom look. This converter was a BIG investment for us at the time, and Andres and my uncle installed it together — that was stressful! lol

Biggest cost: Our recent upgrades, which included the installation of custom carpentry, custom window treatments in a couple of rooms, new quartz countertops, and new lighting throughout the house. Grand total for all of that is about $30,000. And that’s with pulling favors and getting the best deals. Because we are in a much better financial situation than we were six years ago… yes, 110 percent worth it. Being in a space that truly feels like your own is priceless. Not to say that you can’t do this on a low budget… because we made it work until we could afford the big things.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? We use the big office downstairs as a nursery! This room actually has an exterior leading door, which is another aspect of this old home that is so unique… soooo many doors that lead to outside. Five, in fact. We just closed off that big pocket door and put a dresser in front of the exterior door in the girls room et voila… a nursery! We like to dream about extending our upstairs one day (there’s actually plenty of room to) so the girls can move upstairs and we can restore the big office and use the pocket door again… we’ll see! 

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The investment in new, modern lighting has transformed our home. I don’t think I could have taken the various boob lights a day longer. Lighting just elevates everything else you’ve worked so hard on. I found Mitzi on Instagram, and I think the prices are very fair considering the quality and uniqueness you get.

I also have to mention my favorite piece of artwork in the home: a giant Egyptian tapestry hanging above my girls’ cribs. I was shopping at my cousin’s shared shop in Houston, Texas while I was pregnant and it stopped me in my tracks — I had to have it for the nursery. As I was justifying the splurge, my cousin surprised me with it as a baby shower gift. I think it’s beautiful and strong, just like my girls. 

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful tips you have when it comes to money and investing: When it comes to purchasing a home, throw out the old rules. You don’t need 20 percent down, but it’s also wise to put at least 10 percent down. That one simple shift can open doors you thought were slammed shut. Most everyone is averse to debt, but you need to start looking at debt as a tool. The lower the interest rate, the cheaper it is to borrow. As long as you’re confident you can pay the monthly amount and that it won’t prevent you from doing other important things, like investing and saving, you can lock in that lower interest rate and get to work on increasing your income. 

While we’re on the topic of debt, it’s always a good idea to look at getting a loan for upgrades when interest rates are low and even when you can afford it. We waited until we could afford our upgrades, but we still got a Personal Line of Credit. Why? Because it’s cheap to borrow and it frees up our money so we can put it to work in the stock market for our future and the girls’ education. It’s a reframing of the mind: a switch from “debt is bad — full stop.” to “how can I use debt to build my net worth?” The important part of this is there is a spectrum, so remember that high interest debt should be avoided. If you have a good foundation and plan in place, you’re able to use debt as a tool instead of seeing it as the devil. 

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? The best finds are at estate sales in smaller cities and regularly check your local Facebook Marketplace and antique shops. There’s more competition in bigger cities, so if you live in a big city, a journey into the suburbs or next small city over will be worth it. I’ve gotten all of my favorite pieces at the estate sales here in Lake Charles. Vintage cane chairs (2 for $50!) , gold leaf and black mirror, oval oil painting, and china dessert plates. 

My golden rule of thumb is to never pay full price on retail items. I will stalk my coveted furniture and decor pieces like prey and wait until they go on sale. I’ve been known to wait up to a year to buy something on Black Friday. It’s always worth the wait. 

Resources

PAINT & COLORS

  • Front Formal Living Room/Client Meeting Space — “Alabaster” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Nursery — “Alabaster” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Dining Room — “Cascades” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Hallways — “Alabaster” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Kitchen Walls — “Alabaster” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Kitchen Cabinets — “Riverway” by Sherwin-Williams
  • Back Family Room — “Alabaster” on walls and “Greenblack on trim, both by Sherwin-Williams

LIVING ROOM

NURSERY

DINING ROOM

  • Tulip Pedestal dining room table — Restoration Hardware (Katy, TX outlet!) 
  • Abate slated mirror — Anthropologie
  • Rug — Overstock
  • Bar cart — Target
  • Glassware — Estelle 

KITCHEN

  • Bailey 6 light chandelier — Mitzi
Credit: Jacqueline Marque

BACK FAMILY ROOM

Thanks Danielle!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

This piece is part of Money Month, where we’re covering everything from side hustles to down payments to a beginner’s guide to investing. Head over here to read more!