Big Easy Does It
Courtney and Mark Cangelosi transform a French Quarter pied a terre into a striking home away from home
The kitchen is anchored with an 8’ island with black honed granite counter tops. Custom cabinetry hides the modern appliances, creates height, and enhances character features such as the hand-painted ceramic tiles used on the backsplash. Tiles, from Walker Zanger. A polished brass faucet adds shine to the understated finishes.
Houston native and resident Courtney Cangelosi grew up with a love of New Orleans. With close family ties to prominent New Orleanians (among them: her great-grandfather Archibald Higgins was a member of the Louisiana Supreme Court and her great uncle, WWII veteran Archibald Higgins Jr., was a founding member of the WWII Museum), she and her family visited New Orleans often. As an interior designer, she also worked on design projects in New Orleans. After marrying, Cangelosi and her husband Mark, who is an entrepreneur in the industrial market, made it a goal to own a home away-from-home in the French Quarter. Six years of looking and another year of renovation later, they say the dream was worth the wait. Today, the Cangelosis, their two young children and friends enjoy escaping to the historic beauty and slowed pace of the Big Easy in a home of their own.
The Cangelosis had several things on their must-have list while searching for a suitable property: a prime French Quarter location and a covered balcony, where they could spend time relaxing. “Even though this city has a lot of things to do, for us, it’s about not having do anything,” says Cangelosi. “We usually don’t have an itinerary. When we’re here, we don’t worry about our phones or our computers.” They ultimately found an upstairs condo in an 1880s masonry building in the center of the Quarter. One of just two units in the building, it occupied an entire floor, had 1,150 square feet and an extra deep balcony. They wasted no time buying it and lining up the necessary permits for a thorough renovation. “We knew if we found the right one, we had to jump on it,” says Cangelosi, who started her own high-end residential design firm (Court | House) after working for an architecture and design firm that specialized in hospitality venues.
The couple took the interior down to the studs, rearranged the layout to their needs, renewed plumbing and electrical, and updated kitchen and baths with modern finishes and conveniences. The former two-bedroom residence now has three bedrooms, two baths and an open living/dining/kitchen area. At the same time, they maintained a sense of history and warmth by highlighting historic elements and bringing in reclaimed materials. Workmen spent days chipping away layers of plaster to expose the brick wall beneath and ceiling beams were left in their original rustic state. Courtney combed through salvage shops in order to outfit every one of the condo’s 20 doorframes with a solid cedar door and each one of the doors with vintage brass hardware. The couple also brought in 200-year old, two-inch thick pine floors removed from the former Schlitz Brewery Distribution Center in Bryan, Texas. “Because the brick and the beams were the only original things left, it was very important to have old things,” she says. “I wanted to hear creaks in the floor.”
Despite the logistical challenges that went into remodeling an historic property in the Quarter (the street had to be blocked off for the bathrooms’ marble slabs to be hoisted over the balcony and wheeled into the condo, for example), Courtney insisted on creating an interior that feels effortless, by combining an appreciation of age and an eye for contemporary design. She balanced the kitchen’s new stainless appliances with hand-painted ceramic tiles, honed black granite and a polished brass faucet. With no particular agenda, she frequented vintage stores, estate sales, Etsy and eBay in pursuit of the unusual. The living room’s tufted vintage sofa, was purchased on Etsy from a Tennessee family who delivered it to the French Quarter in person.
She also paid special attention to illuminating the space with different levels of light, including lamps and track lighting, which can be adjusted according to the desired mood. “I wanted it to feel retrofitted, like we added to what was existing,” she says.
Having both been in the design business for years, the couple brought in Houston tradespeople with whom they’d built long-standing relationships, including Mark’s family’s business, Cangelosi Marble. “There was a lot of coordinating on the labor and trade end,” says Cangelosi. “But it’s a good feeling to know all those people worked on the space. It reminds you how much this place means.
“It’s the most challenging property my husband and I have done together, but it’s been the most rewarding too.”