This Garden District mansion is the owners’ latest
Plantation shutters cover the windows in the large front parlor that’s furnished with antiques.
cheryl gerber photographs
James “Jim” Elzey, ASID, has had a long and successful career as an interior designer. His work has graced the pages of many prestigious publications, but none of the homes have been more beautiful than the ones he has done for himself. I have written about three of his past residences – a historic place with a large front yard and a vivid-colored interior on St. Mary Street, a magnificent cottage in Covington and a showplace overlooking the Mississippi River in One River Place. In-between, he created a second residence in Covington, four houses in Hawaii that he restored and sold and a penthouse in One River Place where he lived when he returned to New Orleans from Hawaii in 2008. Recently, Elzey and his partner John Poole purchased and renovated a historic mansion in the Garden District.
Located on a quiet corner on a spacious lot, Elzey’s current home is yet another display of his talent. Here he has assembled his unique collection of antiques and added some touches such as newly designed chandeliers and contemporary art, lamps and accessories to fashion yet another comfortable, picture-perfect home.
“There was a special joy in discovering this beautiful house,” he explains. “The 156-year-old structure had never been modified, so I peeled away until I found its core and then brought a new, fresh vitality to the grand old home.
Original gas chandeliers from the 1850 period were restored and electrified to reflect the character of the Civil War period.”
Three generations of family ownership had prevented the alteration of the original design by Henry Howard, a noted architect of the time. Built in the late Federal Period style with simple classic features, the 6,000-square-foot house has 14-foot ceilings on both floors, and rooms that are mostly perfect squares. “The renovation included replastering all the walls and ceilings; replacing all of the electrical and plumbing; and reconfiguring where a bedroom had been upstairs to create a huge closet and two elegant bathrooms,” Elzey says.
Once the structure was made whole, Elzey worked his magic. “Instead of heavy drapes, I used plantation shutters on all of the downstairs windows, thus allowing maximum light into each room while providing complete privacy when desired. For an added touch of elegance, gold leaf was used to cover the narrow strip of molding under the usual molding around the front parlor’s ceiling.
“I call the large room behind the living room the morning room, since it’s filled with marvelous sunlight to begin each day. This is where we relax, watch television and have our family meals.”
Covington artist Judy Merrell created the mural on the walls of the wide hallway. “It depicts interesting architectural details from places we have visited, including Venice and Greece,” Elzey says. “I added tall Ionic columns between the library and dining room in keeping with the period of the house. The columns are architectural gems that add interest to the rooms.” Merrell marbleized the columns and decorative painter Bekye Fargason faux-finished the walls of both rooms.
Elzey furnished the dining room with a mid-19th century Regency table. He also electrified one of the original gas chandeliers to provide a warm glow. Contemporary lamps adorn the matching pair of early 19th-century Chinese teak tables on either side of the fireplace. A painting by a famous Hawaiian artist is displayed over the mantel, lending the room an eclectic look for which he is known.
“Today I smile and say this is the last house I am doing over, but who knows. Each of our past nine homes has been an exciting challenge, and this one – our 10th – seems like the perfect place to relax for a while.”