Henry Howard Classic
Famed architect designed this royal residence
The 20-by-40-foot ball room features fine antiques and accessories.
Cheryl Gerber Photos
The home of Andrea and David Bland is a jewel in the historic Garden District. The architecture of the 1859 mansion is attributed to Henry Howard, a leading architect of the time.
Filled with fine antiques that have been handed down by ancestors of the couple, it’s a true showcase in a neighborhood known for grand mansions. “We were drawn to the house because of its inherent beauty,” says Andrea, head of Cygnette, a real estate development company that specializes in restoring significantly important historic homes in New Orleans. “It was a preservationist’s dream with almost no modifications made to it. Although most of the original elements to the 6,500-square-foot home were preserved, it was in dire need of restoration.” She smiles when she tells that they received a sack of large brass skeleton keys from its previous owners for the original mortise locks that were still in place on all the original 42 doors. “When this house was built it was state-of-the-art, with beautiful huntsman gasoliers that are now hung in the new family room. Even eight of original marble mantels were still in perfect condition when we purchased our home.”
Andrea is well known in preservation circles, having received the “Preservationist of the Year” award for Louisiana for 2013, and the “Garden District Association Renovator of the Year” designation for ’13 and ’16. She did a meticulous renovation of their prior stately mansion on Sixth Street just blocks away before falling in love with their current home and taking on yet another enormous preservation project. “Since we have designated this our ‘forever’ home, we also added a new addition to the rear where we demolished a 1974 townhouse to restore the original lot and create a beautiful garden,” she says. “Sarah Stehil Howell and Ivan Mandich, our architects, did a great job, as did Dragan Segvic, our prime contractor. The final design created a new kitchen, added an onyx bar, a family room and a circular freestanding stairway in the elliptical opening to the second floor.” It is definitely the new gathering place for the Bland family, which includes their adult children David Jr. and James Elwood “JEB” Butterfield and Rachel, along with five Cavallier King Charles Spaniels: Millie, Rex, Saint, Daisy and Buckley.
A handsome porch was added across the back of the home, with a new pool that showcases the tile art of Enzo Ghenos, from Tuscany, Italy. He also designed the tile backsplash behind the stove in the kitchen that was inspired by a 16th century painting by Vincenzo Campi called “La Cucina.” It portrays Andrea with a bunch of persimmons for luck, as well as portraits of beloved dogs Daisy and Buckley.
The Blands commissioned artist Luis Colmenares to design the eight metal chairs for the porch table. “We think the chairs are a wonderful addition and we love that each chair back is adorned with a different flower from our garden,” she says. Colmenares also designed the metal arched rose trellises in the garden. A favorite new feature of the couple is the side rose garden that was designed by landscape architect Byron Adams in collaboration with rose experts Eddie and Sue Sanchez.
David’s favorite space is his office. “I rise early and my office is always cozy and welcoming,” says the attorney with his firm Bland & Partners. “I start my day with music, a cup of coffee and at least one of our dogs.”
For Andrea, her favorite space is the 20-by-40-foot ballroom. “I feel great pride in its restoration, which I undertook personally on scaffolding with a small team of plaster artisans and artists,” she says. She also provides information about some of the New Orleans Carnival portraits and proclamations adorning the walls of their home, including their daughter Rachel, who served as queen of Twelfth Night in 2011, and the participation of more than a century of noted Rex royalty, including David’s great-grandmother Ella Sinnott, the 1893 Queen of Carnival; his grandmother Dorothy Clay, Queen 1921; and his mother Henriette Vallon, who carried on the tradition by being named Queen in ’47. Both Dorothy and Henriette also reigned as Queens of Twelfth Night, thus opening and closing the Carnival Season. Also George Clay, David’s great-grandfather, ruled as Rex 1912.
While David’s lineage to Mardi Gras royalty is proudly displayed in the home, he’s quick to mention other members of his family who have been in the Rex Court. “Will and Clay, my brothers, and Peter and Scovie Martin, my cousins, all agree that our grandmother Dorothy Clay would love her new place of honor as her life-sized portrait hangs over the mantel in our ballroom,” he says. “We all shared many dinners in her home under her portrait that hung in a similar place of honor above the same dining room table with the very chair covers she needlepointed by hand.”
David and Andrea Bland with their Cavallier King Charles Spaniels: Daisy, Rex, Saint, Millie and Buckley.
Built in 1859, the design of the mansion is attributed to noted architect Henry Howard.
A new kitchen was added during the renovation and addition to the back of the house.
Metal artist Luis Colmenares designed the chairs for the back porch table.
The unique backlit onyx bar features handblown glass and metal pendant lights made by glass artist James Vella and metal artist Luis Colmenares.
Architects Sarah Stehil Howell and Ivan Mandich are credited with designing the new freestanding stairway added in the renovation and new construction of the rear of the house.
Italian artist Enzo Ghenos designed the tiles behind the swimming pool.