Greener BeeGreen HolidaysLife in the Hart land: Hart, Devall call multi-storied estate home

Last Modified: Sunday, August 14, 2016 6:39 PM

By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Creating a secluded retreat on property declared wetlands can add cost. But it can also offer the opportunity for creating
a one-of-a-kind home, environment and view.

“I always wanted to live on the lake and thought I couldn’t afford the property,” said Randall Hart, with a chuckle. “But
this place makes me feel like I come home to a resort every evening.”

Only a glimpse of Hidden Oaks, home to Randall Hart and Debra Devall, is visible from the gate that keeps it private. Hart
planted 100 bamboo plants, in addition to existing trees, between his 26 acres and Hwy. 90.

The gentle rise of the levy and rolling contour of the pond form a beautifully curving waterway around the south and west
exposures of the multi-storied 3,600-square foot, four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house. Grounds are golf-course green
and meticulously manicured.

He credits Devall for the landscaping.

“We have our own ecosystem out here with bull frogs to help sing us to sleep at night,” Hart said.

“We have fully-flighted mallards who have known nothing but this pond.”

Snakes and racoons often get the duck eggs before they can hatch. Hart promised his two children he’d bring an alligator to
justice who dined on a duckling.

“We harvested and feasted on the tail meat,” Hart said.

He told his children he’d display the hide as a warning to other alligators who might want to hang out on Hart land. And he

A bounty of nice-sized bream greedily assembles as soon as feet hit the boardwalk to the gazebo surrounded by water. They
hope the sound of those feet mean they are about to be fed. The pond is also stocked with bass.

Fulfilling all the requirements necessary for building on wetlands, in addition to paying for the process, wasn’t the only
challenge Hart faced in building his retreat. Work began on the house in early 2005.

“It was framed and a good deal of the
first floor work was done before Hurricane Rita,” Hart said. “After the
hurricane, if
you didn’t have contractors legally bound and under contract, some
of the new quotes went up to three times the original amount.
Their time became more valuable.”

Before becoming an attorney, Hart was an engineer. He also had his own construction company.

He didn’t want a McMansion. He said he wanted a comfortable home for his family with an open floor plan to make it possible
for someone to be working in the kitchen and still enjoy the TV and fireplace, which he situated in corners of the living

“I moved into this from an 1,100 square foot house,” he said.

The first night spent in the house, it seemed enormous, he said.

The master suite layout includes a large bedroom, bathroom and closet, area with a stitting area to enjoy a morning cup of
coffee. The master bedroom also accesses the outdoor almost private, arbor-shaded Jacuzzi.

“It’s visible from the tower,” Hart explained.

Hart used materials made to last with
an eye on future maintenance. He attended to detail and design
continuity. For instance,
the house features a combination of dark green raised metal
roofing and architectural asphalt shingles. He used the same green
raised metal roofing on his barn and gazebo.

“I’ve seen great-looking houses with just any old barn thrown up,” Hart said. “I didn’t want that.”

One of the best features of the
interior of the home is the custom tower and spiral staircase. The
staircase to the tower
doesn’t begin on the house’s first floor. To save room and to
create a unique feature – the look of the spiraling, design-punched
steps from below – the tower is accessed via catwalk from the
second story landing.

The landing wraps the north and east of the family room and kitchen. The ceiling of this space is over 19 feet.”

This landing serves as a stage when Hart’s brothers, sister and their families get together with the Hart family during the

“We sing Christmas carols, but we make up the words (using the tune of traditional songs) to see who can create the best one,”
Hart said.

The top of the tower is wrapped in windows.

“It’s the perfect place to watch a storm roll in,” Hart said.

It is also ideal for appreciating the view of the pond, including the outline of a few turtles, the view of the landscape
tended by an owner who admits to having an obsessive compulsive nature and the view of the property’s periphery, a natural
wooded habitat with a variety of trees, carpeted in some areas with pine needles.

The wall decor is mostly photos of Hart’s children, except for a striking piece of art which features glass mosaic work hung
on a tower wall.

The house’s lighting also demonstrates Hart’s engineering design background and desire for a house that is far from cookie

He credits Kenny Smith for being the kind of craftsman that could make the design work.

Using 12-foot segments that could be bent to any shape, pendulum lights hang from above the family room in a design that manages
to be evenly spaced and perfectly aligned, yet organic.

Hart recessed some colored LED lighting in the tower walls.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “When those
lights go on it can help make the transition from the work week to the
weekend. I think
that some people would find fault with how I’ve combined some
Victorian era architectural elements with contemporary features,”
Hart said. “It’s what I wanted,” he said, shrugging with a grin.

His current work-in-progress is fashioning a zip line for his children.

When asked what makes a house a home, Hart responded:

“It’s like the difference between an acquaintance and an old friend who’s earned your trust” he said. “Home is a refuge, the
place you go to pull back to repair from the world’s conflicts. That’s what you do. You go home.”

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