Home on the Bayou
Cathy and Mark McRae Discover Mid-City
Built it 1850 by Christophe Morel, the historic home has been a rowing club, a fencing club and a movie production studio over its long history; it was purchased by the McRaes in 2011.
Located in a picturesque setting overlooking Bayou St. John, the historic raised cottage on a large corner lot has been a visual gem since it was built it 1850 by Christophe Morel. It addition to being a fashionable residence, it has housed a rowing club, a fencing club and a movie production studio. Today, Cathy and Mark McRae are the owners and caretakers of this magnificent gem. “Our home is a place that has a history, yet I feel that it’s definitely very comfortable and informal,” says Cathy, Shell Oil Company’s Vice President of Upstream Americas Deepwater Capability. Then she adds, “It is totally livable. The floors, plaster medallions, pocket doors and the brick fireplaces all give it a sense of history in a very approachable manner.”
“I love the ambiance of the mature trees, activities on the footbridge and along the banks of the bayou,” she says about the house they purchased in 2011 in an almost poetic manner. “It all adds up to an overall laid back atmosphere of a very eclectic neighborhood. When we look out from our porch, we see birds of all types, people walking their dogs, kayaking, paddle boarding and cycling, all creating a very calming and pastoral setting.” She continues, “I can walk over to the footbridge and see the Central Business District in a distance and know I’m very close to a vibrant city.”
Mark, a retired Shell Oil Company geophysicist, agrees with Cathy’s assessment and adds: “The location is great for exercising and engaging neighbors, not to mention how nice it is to be near the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and other events in City Park and on the shores of Bayou St. John.”
When the couple decided to do a top-to-bottom renovation of the property, they called in NANO LLC to do the architectural and interior design and Doug Matthews of the Concordia Group, LLC, to serve as contractor on the project. “The progressive mindset of Mark and Cathy aided us in creating modern 21st century living spaces within the historic residence,” explains NANO partner Terri Hogan Dreyer, an architect and interior designer. “Our team did over 80 percent of the house, making sure to maintain the historic integrity of everything, with any construction materials removed thoughtfully reused or reinstalled.”
“Terri and Ian Dreyer and their staff quickly understood the directions we wanted to go, and they helped guide us through the options,” Mark says. ”We were fortunate that Doug came to us highly recommended and his team finished all work in our high regard.”
The couple has many antiques, yet their favorite furniture is what was handcrafted by local craftsmen. They were pleased that Ian Dryer, Terri’s husband and partner in their company, built the bookcases in the family room and master bedroom, and he also made the light fixtures in the family room from cypress slats removed from the upstairs hallway during the renovation. “We love local artists and try to highlight their work in our home and yard,” Cathy adds.
Now that the construction is over, Cathy and Mark are relaxing and enjoying their home with four guest rooms where family and friends stay when they visit. “Everyone enjoys coming to New Orleans, and we love to host people,” she says. “We have had friends visit from Australia and Norway, and this year we have a full house coming for both weekends of Jazz Fest, and that’s how it should be.”
Mark marvels that such a massive construction process went so smoothly. “Now we have a house for a lifetime,” he says. “We intend to enjoy living here as shepherds of this unique home for many years to come.”
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