Written by Autumn Krause
It’s time to introduce Project House Louisiana: a set of abandoned villas in Minden, Louisiana, that are ripe for rescuing.
This year’s Project House isn’t a house at all. Rather, it’s a series of historic 1930s villas that were abandoned and overtaken by the slow crawl of nature. Enter Sara McDaniel, an entrepreneur, real estate developer and social media influencer at Simply Southern Cottage. But the golden thread stitching all these titles together is visionary. Sara stumbled upon the villas in her hometown of Minden, Louisiana, and immediately saw beyond the crumbling structures and overgrowth to an opportunity to preserve Minden’s 1930s history while also serving the area by transforming them into a boutique hotel.
Project House Louisiana: Transformation Challenge
But the pathway to the endeavor seemed closed before Sara even set foot on it. “I knew the villas at Spanish Court were something special,” she says. “However, there was no way I could afford the project.” That’s where Cottages & Bungalows and American Farmhouse Style came in with the proposition of turning the villas at Spanish Court into the subject of our next Project House. It’s an ambitious venture: instead of one home, this is a sprawling two-acre property (which includes a creek!) with eight villas spanning three buildings. But editors Kelly McMaster and Victoria Van Vlear are patron saints of old houses and big challenges, and are thrilled to partner with Sara.
The villas were not listed for sale, but Sara learned who the owner was and, once Project House came onboard, made them her own. For Sara, it was a powerful moment, one that reflects her life. When she renovated her own cottage, she had just gone through a heartbreaking divorce and was in the process of renovating her life as well. “Taking an abandoned property that no one wants to touch and bringing new life and beauty to it is metaphorical for the work I’ve done in my own life,” she says.
Laying a Foundation
Now, the challenging work begins on Project House Louisiana. The initial phase will focus on elements beneath the surface: asbestos, lead paint and a sewer system in need of complete replacement are at the top of the list. But the vision is already clear and bright in Sara’s mind. Each villa will have a different theme. A few of the possible concepts are farmhouse and mid-century modern, along with more adventurous aesthetics like cottage core and grand millennial styles. The different themes will allow Sara to stretch her creative muscles and inhabit a variety of looks.
Just as the visionary that she is, Sara is already excited for when the hotel will welcome its first guests. The project will take a year to complete, just in time for Minden to be in the spotlight. “HGTV is doing a show called Small Town Kick Start, and Minden will be featured,” Sara says. Already known for its friendliness, charm and peaceful pace of life, this small town is ready for its closeup, and Sara knows viewers will fall in love with it. “I’m excited to be on the show and after it airs, it will bring a lot of visitors to our town. We’ll be ready to welcome them with open arms at The Villas at Spanish Court,” she says.
Stay tuned to see the Project House Louisiana continue to take shape. Meanwhile, see last year’s completed Project House in Franklin, Tennessee. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!