By T. Scott Boatright
Sometimes the best gifts of all are worth waiting for.
And often, creative ones are the best of all.
That was the case for Ruston’s Dave and Sharon St. Andre, who received one of their best Christmas gifts ever after spending the past six years slowly putting together a new home that finally all came into place only a couple of weeks ago.
“We had an existing structure that was a garage with a small apartment upstairs that we built around 2005,” Sharon St. Andre said. “We had a plan to turn it into a larger house about 10 years after that. Well 10 years rolled along and we hadn’t started. Our family was growing and we were outgrowing that tiny little space upstairs.
“So it sounds crazy, but I was driving to a friend’s house at Briarhill Farms listening to an advertisement for general steel buildings. They were on sale, and while I was still driving, I called and bought one, sight unseen.”
The company she bought the building from had specialists who told her they had contractors nearby that they worked with who could help put the building up. An architect friend drew the specs for the house and put the floor-plan together the building process began and as far as walls being put up and the house being wired for electricity.
After that shell to start the home was complete, the rest was up to the St. Andres.
“Maybe around 2013 we had started saving house parts — things we could use in a new build that we wanted to look like it was old,” St. Andre said. “Just by word of mouth people who call us and say, ‘Hey, we’re about to take this down, do you want to come see if there is anything you can use?’ Sometimes we might pay them $100, sometimes we might pay them nothing because they didn’t want anything. We’d go do that every Tuesday and Thursday because we didn’t work those two days, and on Saturdays.
“We harvested as many house parts as we possibly could — flooring, doors, lots of shiplap (wooden boards often used for constructing sheds, barns, and other rustic buildings) and lots of tongues and grooves (a method of fitting similar objects together, edge to edge, used mainly with wood, in flooring, parquetry, paneling, and similar constructions — tongue and groove joints allow two flat pieces to be joined strongly together to make a single flat surface).
“Everyday we would come home and measure and catalog what we had added and group like things together. We cleaned them, sprayed them for bugs, demolded and ran them through the planer before starting to install them.”
Slowly but surely, a dream began being built piece by piece. And by Dec. 17, the inside of the house was finished, just in time to celebrate Christmas.
“For four or five Christmases we said it would be finished, but it never happened,” St. Andre said. “We could only work on it on our days off. We’re talking about harvesting, preparing and installing. All of that took a lot of time. That was working two or three days a week, sometimes less if something else was going on.
“But the further along we got the more it started snowballing. And eventually it all came together.”
The St. Andres showed off the new home during open houses they held last Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s not the most convenient location,” St. Andre said. “You have to be coming here. It’s not like you just drive by and stop in. We say our door is always open and that anyone who wants to come see it can do it now. So many friends have heard about it for so long, and now it’s finally finished.
And on Christmas Eve, the St. Andres hosted a family Christmas for son Dustin and daughters April and Allie along with their families, including eight grandchildren, for the first time in six years.
“I hadn’t decorated for Christmas in six or seven years,” St. Andre said. “I can’t remember the last time I had done it. This year it was a family effort. The kids helped. My sisters came from Bossier and helped. It was a lot of family time spent getting the little things done to get what I started calling ‘The Beast’ across the finish line.
“Doing that was a long time coming, but the whole process has really been a blessing.”
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