It is symbolic that Studley the cat is the first thing a visitor encounters at the front door of Loretta LaRoche’s contemporary home, because he represents so much about LaRoche, an international stress-management consultant who lectures using humor.
She recently rescued Studley, “a big, bad male cat,” after her 23-year marriage ended. “Hey, I’ve got to sleep with someone,” she says, demonstrating the lighthearted manner she instructs others to employ during tough times.
LaRoche teaches workshops throughout the country on “stress, lifestyle, and the ability to be happy.” She has worked alongside Dr. Phil, Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Dole, and Lance Armstrong, the five-time Tour de France winner who has survived cancer. “Always there’s an underlying message — get a grip.”
Take, for instance, her comparison of Studley and many Americans: “The cat grooms without products, stretches intuitively with no personal trainer, meditates constantly by staring out the window totally in the present, and we’re a nation of nut bags running around trying to feel good and look good,” she says.
So where does LaRoche go to relax? Any number of places in the home she had built for only $52,000 in 1980 by Plymouth architect Bill Fornaciari and builder Brian Callanan, who returned four years ago to perform a major renovation. She raised her three children, now all adults with children of their own, in the smaller ranch home. LaRoche, who has 11 grandchildren, states her age as “12 going on 11; I’m going through menopause in reverse.”
The house, now twice its original size, is a multilevel home with three original bedrooms plus a master bedroom suite, a large office over the garage, and an open-designed living room, alcove, dining room, and designer kitchen, complete with Viking stove, granite countertops, and a cathedral ceiling with cross beams.
Designed with lots of glass (“I learned from Californians to bring the outside in; I like light”), it all looks out onto landscaped grounds complete with gazebo, a pond with a waterfall inhabited year-round by carp, and massive hostas cozying up to mature perennials.
In 1980, there was no landscaping, “just a little deck off the kitchen the size of a playpen,” she says. “Now I created a monster — I’ve got the Botanical Gardens.” She also has back problems and can no longer do garden work, leaving it to professionals.
When decorating her home, LaRoche tapped into her old artistic skills. “I’ve always had a propensity for color and visually putting things together so they make a statement,” she says. “Most people don’t incorporate enough whimsy — it’s not about whoopee cushions! A house should be a place where you walk through and things catch your eye and create a sense of joy.”
Some of her most whimsical and colorful pieces include an angel made by a Sausalito “hairdresser turned artist”; a tall sculpture from Giving Tree Gallery, a gift shop in Sandwich, which represents a totem pole; and a series of naked dancing ladies from California artist Judie Bomberger, “who started making these in her 50s,” LaRoche says.
Among her furnishings (most of which come from Dillon and Company English Country Antiques in Plymouth and are antiques or reproductions) are mahogany and leather antique chairs and an old English sideboard table displaying a Buddha and a fire pit from China, which holds her “spirit rocks” — stones painted with symbols and messages. One wall showcases brightly colored paintings of a Dublin bar she visited in the Shelbourne Hotel.
“There’s a story behind so many things in this room,” she says. “My home is a combination of my travels, reading, work, and talent for art and design.”
And for the ever-present Studley, in the process of curling into a ball on LaRoche’s couch: “The Cirque de Soleil,” she says and laughs her hearty, famous guffaw.