A timeworn Irish Channel cottage is polished to perfection
The tall cabinet in the living room has glass doors with fretwork that references the geometric pattern on the chairs. Both have a Chinoiserie feeling. Cabinet from Renaissance Interiors
Sara Essex Bradley
When Sarah Thorne was looking at homes to buy five years ago, she saw one that held promise in what she considered a sketchy neighborhood. She believed in both the house and the neighborhood, and has moved forward turning it into a jewel box filled with pretty furnishings, for herself and her two dogs Bella and Lola.
“I see the beauty and potential of what a home could be,” says Thorne, a medical device sales representative that loves to restore old, dilapidated homes. “I love working on a house and putting my stamp on it.”
Thorne loved that the house was on corner lot with a large backyard and off-street parking. The age of the house is a bit of a mystery. It is believed that it used to be a triplex that looked like a barn. Thorne is not sure when it came to look like the cottage it was when she first laid eyes on it, but she ran with it, and enhanced the charming look making it the standout it is today.
All of the exterior and interior doors and windows were replaced. Thorne also had the house painted inside and out; gutted and renovated the bathrooms; replaced all of the plumbing and electrical; refinished the floors; added a marble floor in the foyer; built new steps in the foyer to provide access to the main level of the house; added a back porch; and finished it off with professional landscaping.
Top, left: Thorne had a new back porch built onto the entire length of the house that overlooks a large garden. Top, right: A vintage bistro set on the new back porch. Bottom, left: The house on the corner has a pretty front door. Bottom, right: The dining room is a deft mix with a French chandelier that Throne custom painted (from Armstrong Lighting); antique gilded sconces (from Le Lapin Velours); sideboard (also customized by Thorne), tall cabinet (from Le Lapin Velours); dining table and chairs from World Market
After completing construction and renovation, Thorne got to tackle the fun part of working on her house: decorating.
“I would say my attitude is very eclectic,” says Thorne. “I love the history and richness of old pieces sprinkled with little pops of color. My general style has elements of Hollywood Regency and Chinoiserie, along with midcentury modern coupled with antiques from around the world.
Thorne shops locally, spending many hours combing antique stores, consignment shops, home furnishings stores and art galleries for that special piece. She will also customize a piece if she can’t find exactly what she wants. For example, she took a nondescript sideboard in the dining room, had it painted it glossy white and added gilded starbursts to the doors.
The open floor plan on the first floor starts in the living room, follows with the kitchen in the center and the dining room flanking the other side of the kitchen. Thorne added French doors in the living and dining rooms to open onto the new back porch and large garden. The porch is now the de rigueur additional outdoor room enjoyed by many New Orleanians.
Furnishings are not matchy-matchy, but chosen to relate and weave a thread that tells a story. The large cabinet in the living room has glass doors with fretwork referencing the geometric pattern on the chairs. Both have a Chinoiserie flair, so by the time the eye travels to the dining room, the visual story becomes apparent in the large piece of artwork over the sideboard and the china cabinet in the corner. A natural linen sofa anchors the room with Florentine side tables, a French chandelier, gilt sconces, gutsy artwork, a mirrored coffee table, candlesticks, fresh flowers and a wonderful array of interesting objects.
Top, left: A mix of Florentine side tables (from Antiques on Jackson), a black and white stripe rug, Chinoiserie-print toss pillows (from Perch), a gilded mirrored coffee table, anchored by a Belgian linen sofa (from Restoration Hardware). Top, right: Lime green geometric print on the slipper chair (from The Shops at 2011), plays to the color in the portrait (done by local artist Nancy Rhodes Harper) hanging over the chest. Bottom: The master bedroom has a large tufted linen custom made headboard (by Leonels), mirrored nightstands (Renaissance Interiors), and an oversized antique mirror leaning against the wall (Restoration Hardware).
The house is romantic and welcoming with a master bedroom featuring a large tufted linen headboard, mirrored nightstands and an oversized antique mirror leaning against the wall. Upstairs there are two bedrooms, one a guest room where Thorne continues the pattern play.
New Orleans still has plenty of houses in up-and-coming neighborhoods that need tender loving care. Imagination, vision, passion and hard work are the requirements needed long before the financing. It’s a journey not a sprint, and one that affords one the opportunity of having a lovely home and the good feeling of preserving the unique residential heritage of the neighborhoods.