Home: Cork and Park

An imaginative wine cellar is part of this Audubon area cottage.

The historic cottage on Audubon Park has a broad front porch. Right: The lush greenery of Audubon Park becomes an extension of the front yard of the home.

photographed by cHERYL GERBER

ith Audubon Park as his front yard and a charming historic cottage as his home, it’s easy to see why Michael Johnson likes where he lives. Sit on the front porch swing and look over the seemingly endless lawn and huge oak trees at the park, and you’ll understand that it doesn’t get much better than this in New Orleans. “One thing that makes this house unique is the peaceful view from the front of the house,” says Johnson, managing director of Advantage Partners. “The secret is that I also have the same size porch on the back of my house overlooking my rear garden that I enjoy just as much.”

Johnson purchased the property in 1999 and called interior decorator Penny D. Francis of Eclectic Home to guide him through a total remodeling of the sturdy 2,000-square-foot cottage. He gave her a shopping list of what he wanted, topping it off with a request for a wine cellar. Step inside Johnson’s house today and the first thing you’ll see is his handsome new wine cellar that was added to a corner of the living room.

“I loved the challenge when Michael requested that I figure out how to incorporate a wine cellar in the remodeling,” Francis says. “He is an avid collector of wine, and it was only fitting to provide a cellar for his collection.” She came up with the idea to position the door of the cellar to line up with the front door of the house. “It creates an interesting focal point when you enter the home,” she says. The wine cellar was taken from a walk-in closet in the guest bedroom and the new bump-out in the living room. As a touch of elegance, Francis had Abbey Iron Doors create an insulated glass and iron door. “It adds a memorable statement to the project,” she says.

Adding the wine cellar bump-out to the living room still left plenty of space for Johnson’s grand piano in front of a window overlooking Audubon Park. “It’s my favorite spot in the house,” he says. “Playing the piano while looking at the park is very relaxing.”

The remodel included a completely new contemporary kitchen and the reconfiguration of the master bedroom and bathroom. “Penny was able to deliver exactly what I wanted without really me telling her what that was,” he says. “I wanted someone to do it all and only bother me with the big decisions, and I wanted her to hit a home run in the end – all of which she did perfectly.” Johnson also praises Juan Molina of Molina Brothers Construction for his excellent work as project contractor.

Removing a wall between two bedrooms created a new master suite. “We left the fireplace intact in part of the suite that became a small office,” Francis explains. “For the master bathroom we wanted it to have a spa or resort hotel feeling. We had the space for a Jacuzzi tub but we didn’t want to obstruct the space by adding walls. The shower and tub proportions were large enough to pair the two together to create a wet area. A floating frameless glass partition created a wall so a shower could be incorporated into the space.”

Landscape architect Michael Patrick O’Connor of Virere is responsible for the rear yard. “it is a quiet oasis that is the first thing I see when I come home since I park behind the rear fence,” Johnson says. “I do enjoy my private garden, and it seems to be a fitting finish to a house that has everything I want and need.”

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