Designer Shauna Leftwich softens industrial edges of warehouse district condo
When the owners of a condo in the Warehouse District hired Shauna Leftwich, they were already familiar with her work and that of her teammate Julie Skiles of Ashley Hall Interiors. Leftwich had helped finish their primary home in Sorrento, but the assignment for this urban pied-à-terre was a departure from the directives given for their full-time residence on the water. While the Sorrento home is polished and feminine with Tiffany Blue and white according to her tastes, the New Orleans condo was to be more masculine and industrial according to his. Within reason that is.
“They wanted it warehousey,” says Leftwich, of the condo, which was previously owned by a bachelor. “But she wanted a softer version of industrial. I encouraged her to think outside of her comfort zone and look at this project as a way to enjoy a different style.”
The busy owners, who use the condo for a weekly date night in the city, for attending Saints games, cultural events, and festivals, and for weekends that often include their two teenage children or guests, wanted the condo to be comfortable for all who enjoy it. That called for brightening its under-lit interior and making it functional for teens and adults. Leftwich added both recessed lighting and decorative lighting throughout, toned down the exposed brick walls with a smear of plaster and weathered the natural stain of the beams. She worked with a neutral palette of grays and chose high performance indoor/outdoor fabrics that could stand up to the regular traffic of family and friends. She also changed the kitchen counters — replacing the old dated granite with new, lighter — more contemporary granite; re-finished the bathrooms with new cabinets, counters, mirrors and sconces; lightened the dark barn doors that close off the bedrooms; and added rice paper to the barn doors’ glass panes for privacy.
The condo’s durable concrete floors, stainless steel kitchen cabinets and appliances and the partition of mirrored glass above the kitchen cabinets were kept as is.
Once the bones of the unit were upgraded, Leftwich further refined it with fixtures and furnishings. At the front entrance, she installed a series of large, dramatic lanterns, a pair of reproduction consoles and two mullioned mirrors that act like windows, visually expanding the corridor and reflecting light.
The same sophisticated touch is carried through to the rest of the condo. True to its industrial roots as a warehouse, the two-bedroom, two-bath residence has a framework of exposed pipes, duct work, beams and brick, but the addition of high-end design elements against the primitive quality of the backdrop makes the space appealing to both husband and wife.
Customization was key to creating a living space that feels roomy enough when inhabited by four or more.
“Every aspect of design is about size and proportion,” says Leftwich, who’s worked for Ashley Hall Interiors for 36 years (in 2010, she took over as lead designer for the firm, now in its 50th year of business). “Everything is a calculation. But the smaller the space, the more thoughtful the plan needs to be.”
The large sectional sofa that anchors the central living area, the entertainment center that houses the television, the dining table (which seats six for entertaining) and headboards were all custom designed for the dimensions and needs of the condo. Even the small balcony lives large thanks to its downtown rooftop views and its suitably sized furnishings, including a portable galvanized-aluminum table that is used as an outdoor bar.
Ready-made pieces, such as the console behind the sofa that doubles as an indoor bar (with cabinet space for storage), were likewise chosen for appropriate scale and flexibility of use.
Leftwich finished the project with muted artworks — mostly abstracts selected to complement the industrial aesthetic and monochromatic color scheme, as well as pieces that impart a sense of place. The latter includes a series of sepia-toned photographs depicting New Orleans settings and a framed blueprint of a Mardi Gras float built by the husband’s grandfather.
While tailored shapes and shades of gray are the mainstay in the condo, the master bedroom has a more glamourous, formal look. Built around a medallion-patterned rug chosen by the wife, it includes walls of deep mineral blue, a mirrored armoire, a tufted headboard and a crystal-beaded chandelier with a drum shade.
Still, the main mandate for this home-away-from-home, according to the designers, was more “his” than “her.”
“This project really started as a place for the husband,” says Leftwich. “I wanted him to feel he was a big part of this. We made sure it would pass the wife’s test. But we wanted it to be a place that he would like too.”