Reader's Choice: Lasting Impressions By Carolyn Weber and Christina B. Farnsworth

Name: Oak Alley Plantation

Location: Vacherie, La.

Year Built: 1839

Architect: Gilbert Joseph Pili

Why it's relevant: No matter what the style, proper scale, proportion, and details can turn a good elevation into a great one.

The name of W.A. Lawrence's company, Period Style Homes in Ft. Myers, Fla., reflects his respect for historic architecture. The residential designer, originally from Baton Rouge, La., favors Southern architecture flavored by influences from Spanish, French, and West Indies styles.

Of all the antebellum plantation homes that line the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Oak Alley is Lawrence's favorite. Called the "Grande Dame" of the Great River Road, the 1839 Greek Revival home in a spectacular setting--at the end of an alley of magnificent evenly spaced trees--so impressed the teenage Lawrence that he went back to visit a number of times.

[Photo: Courtesy Oak Alley Foundation]

"It has always inspired me," he says. "I try to employ the same sense of classical details and proportioning in everything I design." In his work, Lawrence emphasizes the importance of getting the right details for the right architectural style--something so many builders and architects miss. "You've got to get the details right--properly sized windows, doors, shutters, and railings," he explains.

"They did it right at Oak Alley, and it is still beautiful after almost 200 years."

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