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Amanda McKey fills her starter home with pass-along treasures |

Amanda McKey fills her starter home with pass-along treasures

When it came to furniture, Amanda McKey always knew she could rely on the family “stash.”

“I am the second of five children,” she explained. “When someone moves, we shuffle items.” 


So when she bought her Southdowns home 2½ years ago, those pass-along treasures came her way, creating a spectacular right-out-of-a-design-magazine look.

“Every item in this house is a hand-me-down or something from my travels,” said McKey, who does political fundraising. “I also get a lot of things from estate sales and yard sales.”

McKey feels fortunate to have found her three-bedroom home, which was built in 1973. She purchased it from a New Orleans family whose children lived there while they attended LSU.

“I wanted something in Southdowns, and I wanted enough space to be able to work from home,” she said.

The house is not large, but a 100-foot by 200-foot lot means there’s plenty of room to expand.

“I wanted something flexible for my first house,” she said. “This house can completely evolve with me.”  

The home was in such excellent condition that McKey was able to move right in and only made one major change by adding a fireplace to the living room-dining room, the major public room of the house. With white walls and parquet floors, it is perfect for showing off her treasures, including a dining room table and chairs, china cabinet and plant stand.

“I refinished the furniture and covered the chair seats with fabric using a staple gun,” she said. “These pieces mean so much to me because they belonged to my great-grandmother. “

At the entrance to the room are two mounted hunting trophies — a deer killed by McKey and another by her grandmother, Betty Phelps. Between the two is a mirror in a frame from an “ugly picture” McKey found at a garage sale. She tossed the picture and used the mirror “to make the area more formal,” she said.

The back wall of the large room is a “budget-conscious” photo gallery of friends, family and travels. Using an X-Acto knife, McKey and a roommate cut mats out of poster board and finished the photos with frames from Hobby Lobby, all on one Saturday afternoon.

In the kitchen, a few minor changes, like adding two brass light fixtures, replacing the cabinet hardware and putting a coat of paint on the lower cabinets made a huge difference. The top cabinets are white, so McKey used a light grayish blue on the lower cabinets.

“I saw a picture in a magazine that I liked, so I had paint custom-mixed to get the same effect,” she said. 

Off the kitchen is a sunroom that overlooks the patio and large backyard. On one wall is a map with pushpins marking all the places McKey has traveled.

Her home is filled with art and accessories she found on those trips, many to exotic places like Thailand, Australia and Dubai. Some pieces are from family swaps. 

“My sister and I trade around,” McKey said. “I’ll take things for a while and when she’s ready for them, she will take them back.”

There’s also art done by prisoners acquired by her grandfather, the late C. Paul Phelps, who served as director of the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

Comfortable seating in the sunroom includes two chairs and a sofa that “have been recovered more times than anyone can count,” she said. “I love that those pieces bring that history and that love to my home. For me, the most valuable pieces are the family pieces.”

At the back of the sunroom is a patio table McKey painted silver to serve as her workstation. She found the table on the deck under a layer of pollen at her family’s camp in West Feliciana Parish.

“I wanted something big for my workspace but not overpowering,” she said. “My mom taught me that a can of spray paint can really change the look of anything.” 

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