Bonnie Warren Photographed by Craig MacalusoOur favorite movie is Gone With The Wind,” says Jack Lyles, as he sits on his wicker porch swing overlooking St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, “And this is our Tara.” His wife, Pam, adds, “I grew up in New Orleans and the one street I always wanted to live on was St. Charles Avenue.” The couple married in New Orleans 1981, but it was more than 20 years later before they left Jack’s hometown of Houston to come to the Big Easy in search of their Tara.
Opposite page: Built around 1850, the St. Charles Avenue Italianate mansion in New Orleans has undergone a complete renovation over the past 10 years.
Jack sold his business in Houston and Pam quit her job in senior management for a national cosmetic company and they headed for New Orleans along with Taylor and Jeff, their two young children. “We found a place to live in Metairie while we searched for months for the perfect house,” Pam says. Never a couple to be discouraged, they trudged through many houses before the fateful morning when they were sitting at a Camellia Grill counter having breakfast and reading the for-sale ads in the newspaper. “We spotted the ad for a house on St. Charles near Jackson Avenue and we rushed through breakfast to see it,” Jack recalls.
“It was love at first sight,” Pam says. “We only walked 10 steps into the wide front parlor when we looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’” Although the house hadn’t been updated, inspections proved that the structure was sound. “We immediately made an offer and as soon as it was accepted we asked for a quick closing,” Jack says. “We had the closing on one day and our furniture was delivered the next.”
This page: The dining room provides a perfect setting for elegantdinner parties where Pam and Jack enjoy dressing the table with familyheirlooms.
Once the last box was unloaded from the moving van, the saga of living in a huge mansion while the renovation was in progress began. “We have lived in every room in this house as we moved around to avoid construction crews,” Jack says.
The raised Italianate mansion was built around 1850 by George W. West, a Philadelphia native. Historical records explain that it was a center hall structure built on a masonry basement with arched openings. In a later transaction, the home was listed as “in a beautifully located and aristocratic neighborhood.”
This page, top: A state-of-the art kitchen was created at the rear of the house. Metal artist Luis Colmenares is credited with fashioning the wine table base and chandelier, as well as the three hanging lights over the counter.
Today it would be proper to describe the grand mansion as beautifully located on the parade route. “Yes, we would definitely list one of the advantages of living here is that the main Carnival parades pass our house,” Jack says.
Almost 10 years after Pam and Jack purchased their home, construction is nearing completion. “We are just finishing up the front ballroom as our last big project,” she says. “Now that work is in progress to complete it, we’re beginning to talk about whether we will just keep the grand piano and some interesting chairs as minimal furnishing so we can have wonderful parties in the room.” (A new master bedroom is in the final stages and a few other smaller projects are still on the to-do list.)
Left: Pam and Jack Lyles with daughter Taylor.
Pam showed a large photo album featuring photographs from 1998, when they moved in. The mansion now has a large, state-of-the art kitchen, a unique wine cellar, a front hallway that was transformed by artist Joel Dyer into something reminiscent of Versailles and an elegant front parlor and dining room.
Opposite page, top:The elegant front parlor is furnished with fine antiques;
“Our objective was to maintain the architectural integrity of the period,” Jack explains. “We wanted the front to be formal like the palace of Versailles and the back den area to reflect our family’s casual personality,” Pam adds. “We enjoy the fact that our home is affectionately known by family and friends as Hotel Lyles because of our love of entertaining with great food and wine. It is definitely our Tara but it’s even better because it’s on St. Charles Avenue where we never miss a parade.”
Bottom left:Crystal sconces provide lighting above the elaborately dressed bed;
Bottom right: A favorite space in the house is the 1,000-bottle winecellar where the couple keeps their outstanding collection ofCalifornia wines.