A View from the Top
Do Clyne found the 10-foot sofa at Renaissance Interiors and the Milo Baughman barrel back chairs at Neal Auction Company. The Oushak rug is from NOLA Rugs.
On a clear day, from the balcony of her penthouse located atop the Cotton Mill Condominiums, Dorothy Clyne—known as Do to her friends—can see the Superdome, the Crescent City Connection, the National World War II Museum and plenty of other recognizable, downtown landmarks. On the Fourth of July, she can pull up a chair and enjoy a front row seat to no fewer than four fireworks displays. And during inclement weather, she has a dramatic panorama of nature at work. “There’s really never a time when I don’t like the view,” says Do, manager of private banking for Regions Bank in New Orleans. “I love to watch a nighttime lightening storm. It’s a great time to lounge on the sofa.”
Do relaxes outside on her porch. The Crescent City Connection is in the background.
Three years ago, when Do decided to move to a larger living space, the condo’s fifth floor balcony was a selling point even before she’d entered the building. “I was parking my car and I looked up and saw the balconies and I knew I’d like to have that,” she recalls. Once inside the 1,840-square-foot condo, she immediately connected with its wall of windows, its open, loft-like floor plan and of course, its views. Though she had grown up with traditional furnishings and decorated half-heartedly with them in the past, she’d always been attracted to a cleaner, more modern aesthetic.
Built-in, open shelves provide display space and camouflage the stairs leading the lower level. Soft shades of green and sunbleached floors were chosen to enhance the condo’s abundance of natural light.
As a child in Houston during the 1960s, she admired houses by architects like Hugo V. Neuhaus Jr., modernist structures that are still lauded today—and for years, without even fully realizing the common thread that ran through her choices, she had been clipping and saving pictures of mid-20th century modern interiors. The condo was the perfect place to finally put her love of modernist ideals to work. “As a banker, I didn’t have much opportunity to develop the kind of creativity that you use in interior design,” says Do, who hired designer Melissa Rufty of MMR Interiors to help flesh out her ideas. “Melissa gave me a blueprint of where we were going and figured out the color scheme and the fabrics. But, it was definitely a collaboration,” she adds. “I learned a lot about something I wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to be involved in.”
The condo’s open floor plan and views are conducive to entertaining, a feature that works well for Do, who likes to have informalget-togethers for friends. The painted Chinese screen on the wall is from Orient Expressed.
Rufty, who credits Do with having a natural eye for mid-20th century modern details, likewise found the collaboration to be a fruitful one. “This is such a perfect example of how a designer can work with a client to bring their vision out and to package it well,” says the upbeat, energetic Rufty. “There are plenty of clients who have good taste, but it’s rare that you find someone not in the business who has such a keen understanding of lines and scale. And Do was not afraid to take certain risks that most designers would have to push them to take. At the end of the day, she wanted it be her house and we never lost sight of that.”
Floor-to-ceiling curtains cover the glass doors leading to a second balcony. Do found the vintage sofa and Murano lamps locally; designer Melissa Rufty designed the leather ottoman and found the mid-20th century chairs online. The one on the right is by Plycraft.
Over the course of the last few years, the project suffered several setbacks. The first occurred when a portion of the Cotton Mill’s roof blew off during Hurricane Katrina and the second occurred when a pipe broke and water damaged the condo’s floors. Yet Do manages to put a positive spin on the inconvenience. “Not everybody gets to stay at the Windsor Court Hotel for six weeks,” she says of the elegant hotel that became her home away from home after the flooding incident. In fact, Do views both episodes as blessings in disguise because they allowed her to make changes that were closer to her original vision.What began as a boxy, light-filled space with yellow walls and golden floors is now a sleek, yet soothing abode floored with satiny, pickled maple and colored with whispery soft shades of silvery sage, which change with the light throughout the day.
Silver birds add sparkle to the coffee table.
From the beginning the layout required only a few minor adjustments. With Rufty’s help, Do turned an open space located behind the kitchen into a cozy den where she spends most of her at-home time. A closet at one end of the room was turned into a focal wall of built-in shelves and cabinetry. The two also changed out the kitchen’s countertops and added architectural interest and much needed storage by building a lattice-like screen of open shelving in the living room. Rather than build a closet in the guest room, located on a lower, downstairs level, they added still more storage with a wall of curtains, which serves as both a backdrop for the bed and conceals a 12-foot-by-4-foot space.
Do found the china cabinet shown here at Renaissance Interiors, then had it spray painted black and mirrored on top to match the bottom.
Beyond that, most of the transformation inside the condo was achieved with furnishings, decorative accessories and art. Do found the living room’s slim-lined, circa 1950s sofa, the den’s 1940s channel back sofa and the china cabinet located near the front door at Renaissance Interiors, a consignment shop, and reworked each to have fresh, modern-day appeal.
Do’s calico cat, Olympia, peers out of a cozy corner in the bedroom.
The living room sofa was so large that she had it painted and reupholstered onsite to avoid damaging it during moving, while the china cabinet was spray painted black and mirrored on top. She updated her favorite find—a pair of vintage Murano glass lamps purchased on Magazine Street for a bargain price—by replacing their worn, brass bases with Lucite ones and finishing them with new drum shades. Rufty brought in the Chinese music bench used as a coffee table and the antique Oushak in the living room, suggested the pale green draperies that envelope both the living room and den, and found both of the den’s mid-century chairs online. She also designed the custom leather ottoman in the den and purchased the kitchen’s bamboo counter stools at an estate sale. Coincidentally, both Rufty and Do had clipped the same magazine picture from which the master bedroom’s upholstered headboard was made, clear evidence that both were literally on the same page.
Notes of silvery gray mixed with white, brown and blue color the serene bedroom. Do and Melissa Rufty both clipped the same magazine picture that inspired the upholstered headboard.
And in the end, the designer and client’s smooth, in-sync relationship resulted in a home that is everything Do hoped it would be. “I love the outcome,” she says. “I sit in my house and I say, ‘I can’t believe this is my home because it’s so beautiful.’ It’s elegant, whimsical and fun.”