Drive up to the home of Gwen and Paul Loria in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood, and marvel at the unique structure that includes a three-story tower and multiple buildings joined together to create a somewhat mysterious streetscape. One thing is immediately evident: This isn’t your usual cookie-cutter architecture. Gwen, a young architectural designer who attended Tulane University School of Architecture, is quick to explain in her professional vocabulary what is going on with the house she designed for her young family, which includes four children under the age of 7: “Growing up in the New Orleans area, I have a love and appreciation for local architecture. I love the ad hoc assembly of the local vernacular. I wanted to design a house with an ad hoc feel with the cityscape in a single residence. It resulted in programmatic puzzles but allowed rich interactive spaces to be manifested.”
Step inside the house, and Gwen’s vision becomes evident. There is a reason for each space with the total result presenting a floor plan that validates her talent and fits her family. A lagniappe factor that further accounts for the success of the house is Paul’s talent as a construction specialist. “It was a huge advantage to work together on the design phase, thus allowing us to work out potential construction issues before the project began,” he says.
The foyer space, created by two solid walls with exterior windows, is your first introduction to the unique interior. The open floor plan allows for a large kitchen-dining area to the right and a large living room at the core of the house.
You are immediately introduced to the pièce de résistance – a 15-foot-by-15-foot three-story stairway core fashioned with steps cut from huge pine beams resting on a steel base that creates a visual impact. “The concept for the ‘stair shaft,’ as we call it, came from the tower in the old Falstaff Brewery in New Orleans,” Gwen explains. “In our case, the design provided a multifunctional space that serves as access to the first-floor master suite, second-floor quarters for the children and my third-floor studio/office.”
The couple agrees that the stair shaft always creates a wow factor for first-time visitors to their home. “Everybody comments on the stair shaft,” Paul says. “There are 51 steps on three levels, and we both love the look of the raw steel 38-inch-high banister that we left in its natural state. It is protected from rust with an automotive clear coating.”
The master suite on the first level offers a unique bathroom that is separated by a clear wall of glass, while a built-in closet occupies the entire space behind the bedroom. “Function was the key to the closet space as we did not want to walk through the bathroom to get to the closet,” Gwen says.
Camille, the Lorias’ 2-year-old daughter, has a standard bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, but their three boys – Nathan, 7; Micah, 6; and Jude, 4 – share a special creative space, complete with lofts on both sides of the room and a large core space that is flanked by a bathroom and built-in “locker room” that takes into consideration space for toy storage. “One of the lofts in the room is called the LEGO World,” Paul says. “It’s due to the fact that there are three generations of LEGOs up there.”
Step outside from the living room, and discover a large patio that provides plenty of space to entertain and for the children to play. Don’t miss the secret guest suite that can only be entered from the patio. Here Gwen conducts her own “schoolhouse” as she home-schools the children.
“Our home is a perfect fit for our family,” Paul says. “It is alive with the happy voices of our children who love exploring the stair shaft and scampering up the ladders to the lofts in the boys’ bedroom, and I take great pride in having the pleasure of designing a house that is unique and tailored to our every need.”