Elements of a plantation and a London pied-à-terre are combined in Ruth and Michael Burke’s French Quarter home.
The dining room adjoins the living room and features an 1820 English rosewood round table. Vicente Wolf designed the gilded, French-influenced bench.
CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPHS
When Ruth and Michael Burke owned historic Richland Plantation near Natchez, Architectural Digest came calling. The result was a magnificent 10-page article. Not to be outdone, House & Garden soon followed with its own 10-page story, then Southern Accents featured an article on the Burke’s pied-a-terre in the Kensington neighborhood of London. Now, much of the contents of the 1840 Natchez plantation and the London flat are at home in a cottage on a quiet residential street in the French Quarter. The setting is still as picture-perfect as when the Bibles of architectural magazines captured the beauty of the Burke’s earlier residences.
“For many years we owned a condo in the French Quarter,” say Michael, a designer and licensor of home furnishing collections. (He has teamed with museums and historic preservation groups such as Historic Natchez Foundation and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, and created the historic Royal Retreats Collection of great British manor houses such as Blenheim Palace and Woburn Abbey.) “We always loved the French Quarter and New Orleans,” he says. “It was only natural that at some point we would make it our permanent home.”
Several years ago they discovered the ideal Creole cottage just a couple of blocks from their condominium. “We sold our plantation home in Natchez and moved everything to the French Quarter,” he says. The Burkes’ new home was upgraded with a completely new courtyard plan and improvements to both the cottage and detached dependency.
“After living in Manhattan, London and Natchez, New Orleans seemed to offer us the urban, sophisticated lifestyle we enjoy,” says Ruth, who enjoyed a long and successful career in the fashion business, including an extensive stint working for Bill Blass, specifically with his couture line. She also works with Michael as licensors of home furnishing collections. “Our home is an oasis in the midst of an interesting city. It meets all of our needs, including a courtyard that allows us to enjoy the mild New Orleans climate, and a separate building for Michael’s office, with comfortable guest quarters upstairs that has its own charming balcony overlooking the garden.”
The four main rooms of the cottage are a study in elegant interior design, with living and dining rooms overlooking the courtyard, a library-dining room on the front of the house, with a small, yet efficient, kitchen nearby. The quiet master suite is tucked away from the open entertaining area and boasts a large closet and a completely redone master bathroom. Furnishings and accessories blend perfectly from room to room to create a magnificent tout ensemble design.
“We enjoy the way our home is filled with light from the large windows and French doors,” Ruth says. “The large walled-in patio and garden gives us complete privacy in one of the most historic neighborhoods in the country.”
Michael agrees. “The house relates perfectly to the courtyard that has two distinct areas – one for dining and entertaining, and a rear retreat that has a pond with a fountain and lush tropical greenery,” he says. “This is a perfect place for us. We love the privacy, the comfortable and peaceful setting, and the fact that we are just steps away from fine restaurants, shops and friends, not to mention the many festivals that are centered in or near the French Quarter.”