Artful holiday decor enhances freshly designed interior

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

Ravennaside may be more beautiful than it ever has been in its history. That certainly is the way Jim Pippen sees it.

The highly ornamental house purchased in recent years by Bob Dean and his mother, Billie Dean, of Baton Rouge, La., has occupied much of Pippen’s time for the last 18 months.

“My relationship with Bob Dean began soon after he bought the Eola Hotel,” Pippen said. “I did all the public areas there and then did the Bentley Hotel in Alexandria for him.” Pippen, a decorator and the owner of an antiques store on Franklin Street, described the job at Ravennaside as one of his most challenging – and most fun.

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Several of the bedrooms remain to be furnished; otherwise, the job is complete and the house ready for the Deans to enjoy, he said. “They have given me carte blanche. Jobs like this don’t come around that often,” he said.

The near completion came as the holidays approached, and getting the house decorated for the season has been an added pleasure. “The Christmas decorations were done by Nichole Lefebvre of NIBO,” Pippen said. “She’s the only master florist in town.”

Like Pippen, Lefebvre loved the challenge – finding the fine line between overdoing and just right.

“It is a grand home and needs something grand,” Lefebvre said. “I didn’t want to overdo. I wanted everything else at Ravennaside to show.”

Indeed, Pippen, in his months of dressing the house from top to bottom, has brought a collection of furnishings he describes as eclectic but reflecting the highly decorative style of the late Victorian-era house.

Furnishings do run the gamut, from the 18th-century tapestry chosen as the first item for the house and from which Pippen used colors for his master scheme, to a spectacular Tiffany window that is original to the house. Natchez artisan Gary Conn made another art glass window for another part of the house.

The parlor features a set of Belter furniture in the Rosalie with Grapes style. The antique dining room table seats 18. And throughout the house are accent pieces of colorful Sevres and Old Paris porcelain.

“And there is a wonderful collection of 19th-century gasoliers in the house, as well,” Pippen said. To collect all the items for the house, he used some antiques already in the Dean collection. “And we began to acquire things from all over the United States.”

The owner is pleased. He has approved of the furnishings and the holiday decorations, also. “Bob said that he always knew it would be pretty but that it had far exceeded his expectations,” Pippen said. “And we wanted the quality of the Christmas decorations to reflect the quality of the interior.”

Lefebvre chose rich colors such as burgundy and gold and used plenty of green. She favored velvet and did not shy away from sparkly things.

“It was wonderful to be able to do something like this for someone who trusted you to do it right,” she said.

“He said he didn’t want it overdone so his fine antiques could be seen. He is pleased with everything.”