Amber and Jacob Donnes became friends in college at LSU, but after graduating they went their separate ways. Fortunately, they reunited later at the wedding of mutual friends.
The rest is the beginning of their history together. Amber, a native of Shreveport, and Jacob, who’s from Thibodaux, fell in love and got married, and job opportunities brought them to New Orleans.
All at once they were newlyweds with new jobs in a new city where they bought their first home. Located in Broadmoor, the house is about 80 years old. It’s an unusual and interesting split-level floor plan in a cottage style. The first floor of the house was flooded during Hurricane Katrina and subsequently completely gutted and renovated by the seller. The hard part was done, so the fun part of decorating could start right away.
The Donneses have owned the home for about three years. They didn’t have much in the way of furnishings when they came together as a couple, and though the house had a clean slate, it did not have their emerging design personalities and developing point of view yet stamped onto it.
Friends recommended a new interior design team, Logan Killen Interiors, comprising Katie Logan and Jensen Killen. The Donneses’ home was one of the firm’s first projects. Logan Killen Interiors offered plans and punch lists; suggested furniture layout and colors; planned and executed schedules; offered shopping tips and welcomed meditation during a stalemate, eventually steering the newlyweds toward discovery of a style that suited their personalities and their home. “We were excited to take the journey with them,” says Amber. She and Jacob believe hiring a decorator is of great value to new couples.
They got the ball rolling by finding inspiration on the Internet, in shelter magazines and books. They shopped online and in local bricks-and-mortar stores with their design team.
To get a lived-in, collected style, they sought vintage furnishings and accessories. They chose investment pieces with classic lines for quality and longevity.
Jacob Donnes requested that the home contain a large-screen television for the living room and surround-sound wired throughout the house. A sleek built-in bookshelf unit was added along one entire wall of the living room to accommodate the television. Later, the decorators suggested painting it a deep charcoal gray. It was the perfect way to visually integrate the large television into the room. They chose a soft, neutral paint color for the rest of the downstairs. Logan Killen added a sensual green grass cloth wallpaper for the hall along the stairs.
The kitchen had undergone solid and attractive renovation, but it still needed a little something more. Budget had to be considered, so new ceiling pendants were added, along with a tile backsplash that was installed just behind the stove and the sink. They used classic subway tile all the way up to the ceiling. The addition of gray grout made the simple materials a striking design focal point.
The couple loves living in New Orleans: “Shreveport and Thibodaux are quiet. New Orleans is so expressive, where quirky is good. It transfers into the way people decorate their homes here,” says Amber. Because the house has three bedrooms, the couple is able to accommodate out-of-town family members on frequent visits to the city.
This is not the couple’s “forever” house. Amber thinks they will stay in it for around 10 years or so. There is a nice outside deck that they enjoy entertaining on, but no yard for future children to play in. Jacob is easygoing about the direction and progress of the design and decoration of the house. Amber says, “If he doesn’t like something, he says so; otherwise he goes along with the choices. Comfort and function are the most important things to him.”
Phase 2 of doing up their home involves converting the present garage into an office and den and adding another bathroom to this suite of rooms destined to become Jacob’s domain, the “man cave.” The upstairs master bedroom will be revamped with more help from Logan Killen. Amber will have the final say in the master bedroom, and Jacob will have his way in the office and den.
It took about a year to finish Phase 1 of decorating the home. The couple wants to add artwork as time goes on and the budget permits. For now, attractive prints and vintage paintings add color to the walls, along with some of Amber’s grandmother’s plates from the two sets of china she gifted to her.
There’s a sweet lull right now. The couple enjoys their new pretty and stylish downstairs rooms. The war chest is being replenished to carve out a budget for Phase 2. Amber says she misses the daily emails from her decorators. “It was always so exciting to see what they had for us to look at.”
5 Tips For Decorating A First Home
1. Choose transitional pieces. The Donneses have a pair of chests in their living room that could work in any other room of the house. They could also be used as nightstands, office furniture, a changing table in a nursery or additional storage in any room.
2. Invest in quality classic pieces such as your couch and arm chairs, the larger pieces that anchor a room. If they have solid construction and classic lines, they can always be reupholstered years from when they were first purchased.
3. Cowhide rugs are inexpensive and the most durable. The Donneses use one under their kitchen table and one by the front door. Amber loves the organic shape, and she says, “They are pretty and unique and easy to keep clean. I just sweep them off!”
4. Vintage adds personality to a home and is budget-friendly. The dining room table with four chairs was only $400. Use different host chairs when a set does not have enough chairs.
5. Tried-and-true things often crop up in first homes, like the director’s chairs around the kitchen table. They are affordable and you can remove the seats and backs and throw them in the washing machine when they get dirty.