The dormer in the master suite—a collaboration between the Williamses and Davis Jahncke of Jahncke Architects—was added during the renovation. Ann turned the sunny spot into a sitting area anchored with an English settee.
Ann Williams is the kind of person who never does anything halfway. A mother of four, an antiques dealer, civic activist, student of the arts, and veteran renovator of four residences, she speaks passionately, knowledgably, and often at a pause-free pace about everything from classicism to the finer points of moving duct work. Even Hurricane Katrina, which blew into town the very morning that she and her husband, David, were to sell their historic Garden District house, wasn’t able to dampen her enthusiasm. In fact, the storm had just the opposite effect. The Williamses sold their house as planned and in the months that followed, Ann put her can-do resourcefulness and detail-oriented nature to work, turning the spacious St. Charles Avenue condominium that the couple had chosen as an interim residence into a lovely showplace well worth occupying for the long term.
The porch has sliding glass windows overlooking St. Charles Avenue.
It is shaded by striped canopies made from Sunbrella tarps that were ordered online. Ann Williams gave the 19th-century, Louis XVI style settee a casual touch by covering it with a retro-inspired, tropical print, Brunschwig & Fils “Plantation Linen.”
“Anyone who’s honest about the things that go on when you put personal attention into renovating will tell you that there are mistakes and delays on every job,” says the energetic Louisiana native, who, like Katrina, could easily be described as a force of nature. “But because I was able to take care of a lot of the details, it moved pretty fast, even after the storm.”
The Williams condo is directly accessed by an elevator, which gives it a New York penthouse feel. A curved stairway, added during the renovation and faux marbled by nationally known artist Nicholas Crowell, leads to the top floor’s master suite and storage spaces. Since this photo has been taken, decorative artist E. Lee Jahncke added a tone-on-tone stripe to the walls.
The elegant, 4,500-square-foot condominium the Williamses now call home occupies the top two floors of a four-story, six-unit building built in 1982. The couple purchased it in 2005 and planned to live there while looking for a smaller, more manageable house Uptown. Once Katrina struck, they quickly realized that this condominium has plenty of what they were already looking for: enough square footage, classical proportions, ornamental details like ceiling medallions and crown moldings, and a floor plan that flows openly. The space is also easier to maintain, something that helps as the Williamses—David is a legal consultant and retired judge—neared their empty nest years. (Only the Williamses’ son—a high-school junior and the youngest of their four children—still lives at home.)
Ann Williams designed the master bathroom around the octagonal window, which was part of the third floor’s existing architecture, and drew the template for the arch outlining the cove. The tub’s mirrored apron panels tie in with vanity cabinets located on the opposite side of the room.
“One of the nicest existing features was the relationships of the rooms,” says Ann. “The new wave in design is fewer, bigger, better designed rooms. The rooms flow together and borrow space from each other—you can see one from the other.”
Custom curtain designer Katie Koch created the cornice drapery treatment above the bed in the comfortable guest room. A 19th-century, French daybed provides place to lounge and can serve as an extra bed.
Good bones in place, the Williamses decided to enlarge the condo, which only had two bedrooms, by turning the third-floor attic into a master suite with pleasing, bird’s eye views of the neighboring rooftops and the avenue below. That required, among other things, building a staircase between the two floors, adding a dormer, finding a way to move and conceal ductwork housed in the attic, and working with some awkward angles caused by the slopes of the roofline. There were other challenges as well. The property is located on an historic street, so exterior alterations had to be approved by the Historic District Landmarks Commission. And, because it is accessed by an elevator, all of the sheetrock, steel, lumber, and large pieces of furniture had to be hoisted by crane and brought in through the broad windows that surround the third-story porch.
A bust of Apollo Belvedere, considered to be the ideal male form, is stationed in the living room below a Directoire fruitwood console and a large trumeau mirror from the French Antique Shop. Most of the furnishings in this room are from the living room in the Williamses’ previous 19th-century home.
A crown-like chandelier found on 1stdibs.com hangs above the dining room’s mahogany table, given to Ann by her parents. Displayed on the Scottish sideboard is an antique, silver tea service handed down from David’s parents, who collected fine silver.