Paul Greenberg; photos by Sara Essex
If one were to design the perfect bachelor pad conventional wisdom dictates furniture with beer stains, poorly-placed, big-screen TVs and deep kitchen sinks to accommodate lots of dirty dishes. While that holds up nicely in sitcoms and college towns, Jon Sherman had a better idea. Sherman, 36, bought a 120-year old Treme shotgun double that had clearly seen better days and somehow decided the above-described stereotype needed a makeover as badly as the late 19th-century structure needed his help. The result of Sherman’s efforts stuns visitors who see it for the first time and includes just enough artistry in the design to, well ... find itself in the pages of a magazine.
“The main reason I was interested in a wreck of a house was that I had no problem gutting it, doing what I want to it and creating,” Jon says. “Since the place had no historical significance of any sort and it had deteriorated to the point where everything had to come out of it, I decided to completely redo it with a more open feel.”
The result of Jon’s decision is a one-time, single-story double with an attic now refashioned into a two-story residence with a loft overlooking the living area. The centerpiece is clearly the brushed metal stairway situated in the center of the house. Designed by local sculptor Steve Kline, Sherman describes his avant-garde structure as “a pink brushed metal organized stiletto with a Swiss cheese effect, and fluid in kind of a sexy way.” For those who have seen Kline’s creation, the description is perfect. For those who have not, Sherman says, “Well, it’s one of those pieces you just have to see to appreciate.”
From the stairway one has the best vantage point to see Jon’s imaginative spirit put to work. An entire wall is stocked with LPs—leftovers from Jon’s full career as a DJ—and turntables suspended in an architecturally-pleasing way from the ceiling. Music has played a recurring role in Jon’s life, including his years in San Francisco working as a talent manager, booking names like Etta James, Stanley Turrentine and Jimmy Smith. While in San Francisco he also worked as a private chef and ultimately fell in love with the food of New Orleans and eventually with the local culture.
For anyone who mistakenly believes Jon is a fully right-brain character, it was his left brain that led him to Tulane University to earn an M.B.A. and ultimately open Flavor Paper, a company that recreates and re-issues “funky, hand silk screened wallpaper.” Last year Jon and Flavor Paper won accolades as “Best of Show” in the New York Times after participating in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. His wall coverings now grace musician Lenny Kravitz’s home in the French Quarter, as well as the Kravitz and Lawrence Fishburne-owned KOS nightclub in New York City. He has also done some work for Nell’s, another Big Apple club that recently hosted a highly-publicized birthday soiree for Stevie Wonder’s wife.
So it is no wonder that Jon’s own living space defies categorization, and still retains a lively and distinctive ambiance. The great room features a circa 1969 white plastic “Bubble chair” designed by Eero Aarnio. The extreme, yet somehow appropriate piece is surrounded by understated Natuzzi leather pieces and a table from New Orleans Cypress Works. The living area winds easily into a spacious kitchen with Paneling Factory cabinets that Jon stained purple, and avocado-green Corian countertops. Stainless-steel appliances lend a contemporary/industrial feel. The floors throughout the house are heart of pine, some original to the house and some salvaged from other houses. A brick chimney separating the kitchen from the entrance hall is also original, but was leaning sideways five feet. “I strapped it to the edge of the house, cranked it back, stuck some conduit through it for lighting and filled it with cement,” Jon says.
Walls throughout are done in a soothing rust/orange, accomplished by Jon with three different oil glazes sponged and stippled. Lighting is appropriately retro, especially the circa 1960s Sputnik lamp Jon bought from a New York City toy store window display, and the Verner Panton VP Globe lamp from 1969. A powder room near the front of the house is painted blood red and includes a glassed in photo of Louis Armstrong that Jon bought in San Francisco for a dollar. Another full bathroom is done in shades of royal blue and features a strategically-placed photo of Little Richard. Artwork throughout the house suggests Jon’s love of music and New Orleans. A Michelle Ellmore photo of a second liner was chosen for its spirit “and the colors match my countertops,” Jon says. A focal point of the great room are oversize windows acquired at Ricca’s Architectural Sales. “These were from a 150-year old warehouse,” Jon says. “We salvaged all the windows and doors and shutters and redid them.” The windows look out to the patio, complete with a hot tub and palm trees.
And about that loft? As it turns out the bachelor has three bachelor brothers who visit—“Eventually it will be a guest room,” he says.
Still, it was the neighborhood that captured Jon. “I can sit in my backyard on Sundays and hear gospel music from the nearby church,” he says, “and second lines come down my block all the time. I love this neighborhood because of its history of jazz, it’s spirit of creativity and the family energy. This is the place.”
Jon Sherman wanted the master bathroom to give the impression of water.
The master bedroom walls are painted in cool blues by Ralph Lauren that contrast with a ceiling painted in a custom-mixed Benjamin Moore orange from Helm paint..
The faux finish in the kitchen was done by Jon Sherman.