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Owner’s Touch

George Benedetto designed many elements of his Metairie showplace

Cheryl Gerber

Tn a quiet street in Metairie Club Gardens, George Benedetto created a unique new home that’s a showcase of his many talents. A fine craftsman with a keen eye for architecture, Benedetto designed his home and created many of the unique features in the interior, He also made sure even the smallest detail met his exacting specifications. Benedetto’s designs and workmanship are evident throughout the 5,500-square-foot home. For example, he designed the kitchen’s unique woodwork and did much of the finishing work himself. “I was on the job most of the time while my home was being built,” he says, “to make sure everything was done to my satisfaction.”

Demanding, maybe, but it would be better to call him a visionary who knew exactly what he wanted and made sure he got it. Today the house is a post-Katrina mansion on a street of fine homes that wraps part of Metairie Country Club’s Golf Course. Designed in the Mediterranean style, the exterior is influenced with a distinct Tuscan flavor. “I wanted something unique but not trendy,” says Benedetto, an entrepreneur with many business interests. “The blend of colors used for the stucco exterior came about as I experimented with finding the perfect combination to get the look I wanted.”

Fortunately, Benedetto could arrange his schedule to spend a great deal of time on the construction site. “One advantage of being on hand over the five years it took to complete the project was being able to make instant changes as the work was being done,” he says. “The ceiling in foyer was my design that was created as we built the space. Artist Tim DiVincenti, my long-time friend, perfectly executed my wishes to make the ceiling something truly unique. The compass rose he included in the design was done at my special request. I trusted Tim completely since he had done work on my boats for years. He is truly a true craftsman.” (Benedetto owns several boats, including the 66-foot grand yacht he keeps in Key West, Florida, that was originally built for the Bacardi Rum Company.)

The ceiling in the foyer is a showstopper and that same room boasts a very unique stairway. Designed by Benedetto, the handrail on the stairway is of hand carved white oak, while the metal work, done by his good friend Brett Thibodeaux, is solid commercial bronze with a special high copper content to cast a rose patina. Each of the 200 pieces were shaped and formed on site.

The front bay room is the library, with a grand dining room making a grand statement in the open floor plan. Large mahogany columns, designed by Benedetto and milled at Riverside Lumber, define the space off the foyer. A herringbone-pattern inset of fine mahogany defines the center floor that perfectly accommodates the dining room table and chairs. Lighted cobalt blue windows featured on either side of the columns are framed in old cypress.

The large living room opens onto the deck surrounding the pool, hot tub and rear porches through four sets of mahogany. “I did most of the finishing work on site on the doors,” he says. “Some of the large openings between spaces in the house are elliptical arches. The arches are derived from soft ellipse math. They were very difficult to achieve. In fact, the computer couldn’t get it, so we had to lay each one out by hand using string, two nails and two pencils.” Also of special interest are the ceiling fans that are leather belt-driven. “I was able to purchase the basic components and Brett (Thibodeaux) made the towers in his shop.”

Benedetto calls the space at the rear of the house his chart room, because the ceiling background is finished in nautical navigation charts. “I designed the pattern of the mahogany floor to mirror the detail of the ceiling,” he says. The grand chandelier in the room came from Fischer Gambino, owned by Laurie Labruzzo and Patti Fischer. “Laurie and Patti were terrific to work with me on all of the light fixtures for my home,”

The drama of the house continues in the kitchen where floors are quarter-sawn white oak, with panels of copper for the ceiling made on the construction site. Unique cabinets of Birdseye maple, with the fronts all individual solid tambour that was milled on site, add interest to the space. The solid copper and bronze old deck cargo lights hanging over the island are from a ship salvage yard in south Florida. “I enjoyed restoring them; I think they add something special to the room,” he says. The island is made of old teak wood from a factory that had made the decks for World War II aircraft carriers, while the countertop is marble from Carr Stone.

The art deco fireplace in the kitchen was cast from a hand carved mold by Lynn Swartley, a local artist, with Benedetto collaborating. “We worked together on the design for two months,” he says.

The master bedroom wing opens onto a porch overlooking the pool. The floors in the grand master bathroom are travertine, while the vanity tops are onyx from Carr Stone. Randy Powell, another longtime friend, did the design for the ceiling. “He is extremely talented and passionate about his work,” Benedetto says. The ceilings took three month just in the framing. The finish is actual Cementous stucco applied by a team from Honduras.

Benedetto had high praise for the workman who did each job. “I do need to mention Bruce and Garrett Soileau, my great finish carpenters who did much of the woodwork. Their work is always perfect,” he says.

Upstairs there is an office, an exercise room and two bedrooms and bathrooms.

“My house was a labor of love and it was well worth the time and effort,” he says. “Now it is time to relax and enjoy it.”

 

The onyx vanity top in the master bathroom came from Carr Stone; Randy Powell is credited with the design of the ceiling that was done by a team from Honduras and took three months to complete.

 Large mahogany columns, designed by Benedetto and milled at Riverside Lumber, define the dining room off the foyer; a herringbone-pattern inset of fine mahogany indicates the center floor that perfectly accommodates the dining room table and chairs and lighted cobalt blue windows framed in old cypress are featured on either side of the columns.

The handrail on the stairway is hand-carved white oak, while the metalwork is solid commercial bronze with a special high copper content to cast a rose patina; each of the 200 pieces were shaped and formed on site by Brett Thibodeaux.

Located in Metairie Club Gardens, Benedetto designed the exterior of his home in the Mediterranean style, with a distinct Tuscan flavor, on a lot where a house had been torn down after Hurricane Katrina.

The handrail on the stairway is hand-carved white oak, while the metalwork is solid commercial bronze with a special high copper content to cast a rose patina; each of the 200 pieces were shaped and formed on site by Brett Thibodeaux.

George Benedetto

 The panels for the copper ceiling in the kitchen were made on the construction site; unique cabinets of Birdseye maple, with the fronts of individual solid tambour, were milled on site, and the solid copper and bronze old deck cargo light hangings over the island are from a ship salvage yard in south Florida and restored by Benedetto.

The large living room opens onto the deck surrounding the pool, hot tub and rear porches; the leather belt-driven ceiling fans were fashioned from components obtained by Benedetto and assembled by Brett Thibodeaux.

 

 

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