Leisure on the levee

By giftshop  |  July 5, 2017  | 

Leisure on the Levee
Photography by Greg Campbell
Written by Brenda Ware Jones

  They built a cabin and named it Serenity, and family life ever since has been lived blissfully on “lake time”.

Erin and Mike Gilbow had lots of dreams, and lots of impromptu sketches on notepads, of the home-away-from-home they wanted to build on their land just down the road from the Mississippi River. They also had a nice long list of must-haves, according to Erin.

“Lots and lots of natural light,” she says, was the first priority. And small wonder; there is every reason to bring the outdoors in. The 13,000-acre Catfish Point Hunting Club is comprised of hardwoods and wildlife food plots, located inside the Mississippi River levee system in Bolivar County. Just one hour northwest of the Gilbow’s weekday house in Indianola, the land is blessed with paradisiacal views of forests and lakes in all directions. For the 62 member families who call Catfish Point home at least part of the time, life slows to the gentler pace of bygone days. The Gilbows very much wanted to capture this sense of history and timelessness in the architecture of their lakeside cabin, which was completed five years ago.

“We both felt inspired by the work of Louisiana architect A. Hayes Town,” she continues, “and we knew we wanted to incorporate old wood, salvaged antique brick, and other elements to suggest that feeling of the past.” All this pointed to the one man they knew who could translate their vision into three dimensions: architect Frank Tindall. “We went to him with our simple plans and ideas. He was sensitive to the setting, and to the nature of life on the River. He took our vision, educating us on options for antique versus new materials, and the result was a comfortable, inviting plan grander than we could have imagined!”

The 2,600-square-foot single-story lodge, set high on pillars, is crafted of vintage heart pine, weathered antique oak, and old St. Louis brick throughout. (“Our one uncompromising request was,’no sheetrock’!” laughs Erin). The cabin, aptly christened “Serenity,” commands a view of Lake Whittington, one of the many lakes on the preserve available for fishing, skiing, and party-pontoon floating. Tindall designed a glass-walled entry to allow the natural light to flow into the main living area; walking through this welcoming space signals to the Gilbows and their guests that they are officially entering a slower-paced world.

The grand centerpiece of the floorplan is the expansive great room, which shares with the bedroom wings soaring vaulted ceilings of oak planks and support joists. This visual weight above is balanced by the 10”-wide heart pine flooring, hewn by Keith Spealman of Indianola from beams harvested from an old warehouse in Georgia. A towering fireplace commands the main seating area, and a collection of Mike’s many mounted trophies testify to his love of the hunt.

Catfish Point boasts an abundant deer herd, as well as a large turkey population, but Erin notes that many of her husband’s prize trophies come from fields afar. Mike has crossed the ocean to visit his former doubles tennis partner, Louis Steenkamp, who owns Sofala Safaris in South Africa. From that continent, his kills include the impala, gemsbok, kudu, zebra, warthog, and duiker.   There is even a stuffed baboon in the entryway that, according to Erin, “greets (or startles) new visitors!” Many of these exquisite mounted heads had formerly been on display in the drugstore Mike owns in Drew, and seem happy to have found a more natural venue.

Many friends come for weekends of water fun, fishing, and outdoor grilling, but most of the time the guests are family members. Mike’s daughter Liz Thomas and son Reed Gilbow know that any trip back home to the Delta will include a few days of outdoor sport at Serenity, and Erin’s daughter Lesley Moore arrives often with husband Trey and their four-year-old son, Parker.

“Parker probably spends more time here with us than anyone else,” notes Erin. “His daddy and granddaddy recently took him on his first fishing trip, and now he’s hooked.” When he is not baiting a hook, Parker can be spotted wheeling around in his miniature battery-powered John Deere tractor, “plowing his farm.” Obviously, a true Delta man in the making!

The families who call Catfish Point their vacation home enjoy sharing a central clubhouse, known as the Big House, where weekend lunches and steak suppers are a regular social feature. “We spend two or three nights a week out here,” says Erin. “We love an evening ride along the River, especially in the cooler temps. We have seen 40 or more deer along the way, along with a few hogs, raccoons and even a black bear!”

Mike likes to invite friends and their kids to fish anytime, and overnight company is never a problem. In addition to two guest bedrooms, Tindall designed what seems to be everyone’s favorite feature: the “bunk nook.” Hand-made barn doors of antique pecky cypress slide open to reveal a cozy room housing two sets of bunk beds, always ready for extra kids or hunters.

The Gilbows used mostly pieces they have collected along the way, and they enjoy telling the stories of their finds. Before moving in, Erin called upon popular Delta designer Will Gray Edwards to look over their assorted pieces, and pull it all together. As for a color palette to unify the rooms, the choice was easy. “I wanted anything consisting of the colors of the Mississippi River,” she recalls simply.

All this come-and-go company has to be fed, and the large, family-friendly kitchen is more than up to the job. Open to the main living area, this room is centered by a large wood-topped work island that doubles as a bar for casual on-the-go meals. One of the couple’s favorite finds is an antique French fireback forged of cast iron, which they found in New Orleans. It now serves as the backsplash of their Wolf gas cooktop. Overhead, a tongue-and-groove ceiling painted a crisp white to echo the cabinetry is accented with more old beams.

“The building process was not easy,” Erin concludes. “When they say ‘you are at the lake, so you are on lake time,’ this applied to our building process as well! It took longer than anticipated to finish, with many bumps along the way. But when it came to naming our cabin, it took almost a year before it finally came to us: SERENITY. Defined, it means: the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. We have finally reached that state, and are enjoying life at Catfish Point. We love having our friends and family experience that serenity we know here!”


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