Avoiding DIY Disaster
Local home renewal and design experts weigh in on new trends and old favorites
Photographed by Cheryl Gerber
Homeownership, even for those of us with only one property, can sometimes feel like a second job. Whether overseeing an emergency fix or taking the hobbyist approach by embracing one small project after another, getting your home in the condition you want can certainly be time consuming, and it can also be rewarding.
Recently, I spent a three-day, holiday weekend learning that pulling up floors and refinishing the hardwood beneath in a room of my house is actually more of a four- or five-day job, especially when DIY-ing it. A learning experience for sure, I must admit that the floors look great and when guests compliment the gorgeous old pine, I do feel a sense of pride.
As spring hits New Orleans and we open windows to welcome in the breeze, many also welcome the perfect time to spring clean, get organized or begin work on home renovations and design. From those looking to freshen up a single room to those beginning work on a new property, homeowners are fortunate to be in a region with so many experienced craftsmen and designers.
Organization is one thing Don Wise knows well. With nearly 20 years of experience designing closets, Wise knows how to tailor rooms, shelves, hampers, hutches and more to fit the needs of residents in South Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. Founder of Louisiana Custom Closets, Wise is known regionally for his commitment to customer service and attention to detail, carefully planning projects with clients, making sure they satisfy each of the customer’s needs.
“With solutions for any room of any size in any style, we’ll create something just for you. Virtually any space can be personalized,” says Wise. “Our professional design staff will be happy to work with you on your dream closet, garage, office, laundry room, hobby room, pantry, utility room or whatever you need to make your space as beautiful and manageable as possible,” he says.
According to Wise, some of the latest trends in closet design include using lighter colors with less wood grain. Additionally, they’ve been adding more cabinet doors to designs for concealing a variety of items such as jewelry safes, folded clothes and shoes.
Louisiana Custom Closets uses advanced software in design and provides clients with computer-generated images. They custom build each closet in their own warehouse – from the slanted shelves for shoes and the various rods and valets for hanging clothes to the spacious hutch drawers and cubicles for purses, sweaters and more.
For someone looking to simply freshen up the home or update its feel without involving power tools or contractors, Lee McKee, owner of The Linen Registry, offers up a few ideas.
The Linen Registry
“Because smell is the only sense that affects the memory and emotional part of the brain, it’s very important to have your linens smell clean and fresh. You can start by simply freshening things up by using LeBlanc linen products,” says McKee. “They offer linen wash, linen spray and dryer sachets that will help make your whole room smell fresh and clean for spring.”
LeBlanc offers six scents – Portfolio, Blue Violet, Lavender Lady, Summer Verbena, Fields of Green and Silk Petals – in addition to allergen-free and fragrance-free products. Aside from linens, McKee recommends using drawer liners in your closet for a similar effect on one’s clothing.
“Another really easy way to create a versatile space is to use a basic neutral color on your bed in the way of a coverlet, euro shams and dust skirt. That will provide the base for you to switch between a cozy, warm winter bed and a fresh, bright spring and summer bed,” says McKee.
Color is key in changing the look of a room, so switching out accessories, such as your standard or king pillow shams, throw pillows and duvet covers, will offer versatility in matching the look of the room with the season. McKee suggests applying the same idea to one’s bathroom by changing out the towels.
Another approach to freshening up the home for spring involves utilizing the great outdoors to accent the great indoors, which happens to be the focus of Chase Mullin, owner of Mullin Landscape Associates, a comprehensive landscape firm that offers a wide range of professional landscape services ranging from landscape architecture to landscape construction and maintenance.
Stafford Tile & Stone
“Your landscape should be treated as an investment – just like your home,” says Mullin. “The American Society of Landscape Architects (ALSA) recommends 10 percent of your property value to be put into your landscaping. It is the first impression when you arrive and the last impression when you leave.”
Some people look at their yards or green spaces as their worst headache – something that requires maintenance. But Mullin suggests this space can also be one’s escape from reality.
“One of the biggest trends as of late has been outdoor living spaces; not only do people want to have a beautifully landscaped yard, they want to create an extension of the home and bring the luxuries of indoors outside through outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, dining rooms, living rooms, etc.,” says Mullin.
Also, according to Mullin, water is a constant trend in landscape designs. Whether via a pool or fountain, the sound of flowing water is useful in creating a serene space. Mullin has also seen a rise in the modernist approach to landscaping through clean lines and minimalist touches in softscapes and hardscapes, meaning that less is often more.
Mullin Landscape Associates’ projects range from urban to rural and are a combination of residential, commercial and public parks. Landscape elements include pools, outdoor kitchens, structures, lighting, irrigation, plantings, decks and patios.
Those looking to renovate rooms indoors, such as the attention-stealing kitchen or bath, may want to check in with the tile and stone aficionados over at Stafford Tile & Stone, located Uptown on Magazine Street and also in Baton Rouge. From flooring, backsplashes, showers and tub surrounds, to exterior applications such as pools and fountains, Stafford has done it all.
“We cover a full spectrum of projects – from a hotel in Curacao to the restaurant Tableau in the French Quarter, to a pool waterline at a residence on the Northshore,” says owner Peggy Stafford. Stafford’s staff all hold design degrees, and she touts her staff on their ability to assess customers’ needs and personal style – what she sees to be the basis of recent trends.
“An exciting trend – if you can call it that – is that people are really wanting and demanding attention to their own personal style, whether it be a world traveler’s desire for a Moroccan bathroom or an LSU fan who wants a purple and gold theme,” says Stafford. “Whatever you want personally, your needs can be met. That’s a challenging trend because it can be so specific, but it’s also completely possible and manageable.”
For those considering a new project, Stafford suggests taking a look at what’s out there, utilizing magazines such as New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles, and websites such as Houzz.com as well as that of Stafford Tile & Stone. Also key is building the right team for the project, whether an architect and designer, or for smaller projects, your material supplier and a good contractor with experience and expertise.
Another important kitchen and bath consideration is cabinetry. Cabinets by Design offers design services for home and office, specializing in kitchen and bath with an extensive selection of fine cabinetry and appliances. The designers at Cabinets by Design can assist with projects from conception to completion. They also carry plumbing fixtures, decorative tile and hardware.
Owner Monique Poché Bennet, Certified Kitchen Designer, has seen a growing trend in kitchens that lean toward clean lines with bright white cabinetry and gray accents.
“Whether traditional or contemporary, white cabinets can be accented with grays in a variety of ways – an island or a decorative hood – even combining white wall cabinets and gray base cabinets is becoming popular,” says Bennet.
Bennet also notes the continued popularity of stainless steel appliances and the comeback of polished chrome hardware.
Furnishing a renewed room and finding the proper lighting is another step in the design process, a step for which many people consult the expertise of Orient Expressed, a Magazine Street mainstay that began as an importer of Asian antiques and now offers a wide array of home décor in the way of furnishings, antiques and lighting.
“One of the approaches and strategies we’re focused on is serving customers’ specific lifestyles,” says president and owner Deborah Vinson. “We excel at lighting – all overhead lighting and chandeliers in particular, and also lamps from a decorative perspective – and we’re also known for mirrors, sideboards and chests that would be perfect finishing a foyer, bedroom or powder room,” she says.
Orient Expressed also offers tabletop and other decorative accessories. One growth area for the company includes occasional chairs, and all furnishings are on display in the storefront of their Magazine Street location for decorators and customers.
“We’ve an eclectic collection,” says Vinson. “The core of the business has been focused on Asian antiques, but has evolved to have a New Orleans aesthetic combining Asian and French antiques and modern pieces as well.”
Finishing your home renewal means putting together the final touches, those flashes of color or thematic objects that contribute to the room’s overall artistry, things Kay Fausset loves to supply over at Judy at the Rink. Owner and chief buyer, Fausset seeks objects of elegance for the city’s entertainment lifestyle, everything from artwork and ceramics to glassware, lamps, photo frames and more.
One recent acquisition is new oyster-shell candlesticks that have an elegant yet rustic charm and show an appreciation for the city’s favorite bivalve.
“Neutrals seem to be big this year, but always with a pop of color, turquoise or blue,” says Fausset, “and Simon Pearce’s hand-blown, clear glass lamp would complement that scheme well.”
Other recent acquisitions include shimmering glass bowls, unique test-tube flower vases, pottery with metallic glazes and a new citrus-scented New Orleans candle, whose packaging was designed by local artist Alexa Pulitzer.
No matter how you choose to renew your home, use the renewal that is spring to get a head start on that project you’ve been aching to do. There are plenty of local experts ready to help you take it on and avoid a DIY disaster.
Cabinets by Design: 5201 Tchoupitoulas St., 899-2300, CabnietsByDesign.com
Judy at the Rink: 2727 Prytania St., 891-7018, JudyAtTheRink.com
The Linen Registry: 204 Metairie Road, 831-8228
Louisiana Custom Closets: 835-3188, LouisianaCustomClosets.com
Mullin Landscape Associates: 621 Distributors Row, 275-6617, MullinLandscape.com
Orient Expressed: 3905 Magazine St., 899-3060, OrientExpressed.com
Stafford Tile & Stone: 5234 Magazine St., 895-5000, StaffordTile.com