The stately circa 1920s Uptown house is everything of which Kim Dudek dreamed. When she first went to see the three-story house, she stayed for four hours. Dreaming, no doubt. Kim is known to dream big—after all, her thriving Magazine Street business, Belladonna Day Spa, is singular in its concept, encompassing everything from spa services to elegant tableware to books that do not necessarily grace the shelves of big box bookstores. When the bedding and linen inventory outgrew the retail space, Kim readily dreamed up Bellanoche, a high-end bedding and linen store, also on Magazine Street.
Move in day was scheduled for August 28, 2005. With that information, New Orleanians can likely write the next chapter of this story. The house is situated in the Fontainebleau area, a section of the city where post-Katrina flood waters showed little mercy. The attic filled up with water and ultimately deluged the second floor, while water topped the air conditioning units underneath the house. Kim’s dreams for the big yellow house that sits gracefully back from the street were deferred.
But then, she is accustomed to taking a circuitous route to reach her goals. Born in Bronxville, NY, just north of New York City, her father worked in shipping, causing the family to travel frequently. After living in the Caribbean and Mexico, Kim landed in New Orleans to pursue degrees in education and psychology, and later on to LSU Medical Center for training in rehabilitation counseling, a field in which she worked for a decade in California. Eventually she was drawn back to New Orleans, and worked in rehab and case management.
Ultimately, Kim went to beauty school, eventually running a “funky spa” for a couple of years. She had spent two years in Mexico, where she developed a keen interest in such things as acupuncture, holistic treatments, vitamins and crystal healing. In beauty school, she found a mentor/teacher who introduced her to aesthetics.
It all led her to Belladonna.
Through it all, Kim always “lived where I worked.” When she operated a spa on St. Charles Avenue, she lived upstairs, and her ever-present dogs wandered freely through the spa. Until moving in to her current home, she lived in a house near Belladonna. After living in that house for 11 years that “never really felt like home,” this new house signals a new chapter in Kim’s life—it is all the way across town from the business.
“People used to tell me that when you finally find your real home, you’ll just know it, you’ll feel it,” Kim says. “I finally got that feeling when I walked into this house. It has a rich history —a very interesting family lived and died in the house and the mother was one of the original Newcomb potters, so a fortune of that was found inside.”
Kim says the 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom house feels like the house in which she grew up. “It has lovely crystal doorknobs, and big ‘ballroom dancing’ size rooms, and a lot of yard for my dogs.” Kim is a committed dog-lover who uses some of her precious spare time for dog rescue efforts. She still regularly goes to Lakeview to feed the homeless dogs. “It is emotionally draining, but I feel drawn to do what I can for them.”
Visitors to Kim’s dream house should be prepared for two things: first, entering is a vigorous exercise where the dogs check out all guests. Second, even though Kim sells exquisite decorative items, very few are found in the house. “I’m just not a tchotchke person,” she says. Instead, Kim’s effort have more to do with creating distinctive surroundings that complement the huge uncovered windows.
A pensive-looking Peruvian carousel horse is the only adornment in the spacious dining room. An Indonesian bed with exquisitely carved bed posts is almost the sole item in the master bedroom. A huge double farmhouse sink is the focal point of the completely renovated kitchen, where three of the original 1920s cabinets have survived the re-do. Indonesian water hyacinth couches dominate the massive living room, where a unique alcove was turned into a lovely space for a daybed. The sun-drenched room just off the entrance hall is now Kim’s cheerfully appointed home office.
“I just have such sense of peace here,” Kim says. “I love the light and open feeling. When I go outside in the evening and sit on the porch with the dogs, it’s just a great feeling.” •