Creole Cottage Goes Grand
1887 grandeur remains in modernized home
Painted antique doors provide an interesting headboard in the master bedroom, with antique European linens dressing the bed; a pair of painted white pedestals adorned with garlands serves as end tables under the French crystal sconces, while an oversize Julie Neill Designs chandelier of wood and iron with touches of gilt hangs from the exposed pine ceilings.
Cheryl Gerber photograph
It looks like a grown-up dollhouse from the curb – all pristine, with a travertine courtyard out front, an old olive jar converted to a fountain and a broad front porch, just made for sitting and enjoying life. It is another glorious example of the stock of historic houses that line streets throughout New Orleans. Imagine 1887: think about Maud Meares, wife of Thomas Elliot, who acquired the property that year and built the classic Creole cottage that remains today. There was nothing grand about this house back then. It was just four nicely sized rooms with a fireplace in each and a front porch to sit and catch a breeze from the Mississippi River just a few blocks away.
Today the house remains a beauty from the street. There are still four rooms and two front doors. One step inside and you’ll see how this house has grown to be a mini-mansion – the original four rooms still take center stage, but there’s so much more to tell about the house that exists today. It is a beauty, with the original back porch converted to a new dining room and kitchen. Then there’s a corridor that joins all of this to a completely new structure in the back that was built to look as if it had always been there, with a pathway outdoors between the two buildings and just enough room for a garden on either side of the path.
The newer house has a huge living space with triple French doors that open onto the rear garden, a bedroom, a bathroom and even a mini-kitchen. It is designed to be a multi-purpose space or even a separate apartment.
“I loved everything about this house the first time I saw it,” says Regina Lynch, who owns Ecru Antiques and Interiors on Magazine Street with her daughter Destiny Cowdin-Lynch. Fortunately, she was smart enough to purchase it the first time she saw it – just hours before it was to go on the market. “Some of the things that intrigued me about the house were the layers of paint on the original woodwork; the 12-foot-high ceilings; the original pine floors and the original hardware on the doors, even though I know now they’re hard to open at times. I immediately thought about the people who had called it home, and I knew I wanted to be the next owner of this historical jewel.”
What Regina discovered was a house, and then almost another house. “Much thought had gone in to creating the addition in the rear. It wasn’t just something tacked onto the original building,” she says.
“Making it a separate building with a new pitched roof and just a corridor that joins the two houses made it unique and open to many possibilities.”
A talented designer, Regina didn’t take long to put her unique stamp on the house. “I love neutral colors and the simple eclectic look of mixing fine antiques with contemporary art and fresh new accessories, such as the pair of lamps in the front parlor with shell bases.” She loves bare floors with cowhide rugs defining the seating and surprising chandeliers, such as the French one in the dining room that was fashioned from antlers.
The double parlors are a study in white linen-covered seating and the duplicate chandeliers that were once outdoor fixtures before she removed the glass, painted them white and hung them in the parlors. “I like surprises in each room,” she says.
Because Regina and her husband, James, the owner of Mansfield Auto World, also own a large house in Shreveport, where she still spends part of each month, she wanted something manageable, yet interesting and historical for their second home. “James was all in favor of getting a home in New Orleans since he’s from this area,” she says, “and it was like coming home for him.”