The location is pretty hard to beat: the quiet side of the French Quarter near Cabrini Park, where whiffs of burgers grilling at Port of Call float by, along with late night riffs from Frenchmen Street jazz halls. This is where a West Texas couple, Peggy and Timber Floyd, found a slice of vacation heaven, their New Orleans pied-à-terre.
In consummate contrast to their vast West Texas ranch, this cozy Creole confection on the Mississippi River is drenched in Old World charm. Although the design mixes traditional and modern, the overall effect brings to mind those early, simultaneously colorful and austere Antebellum New Orleans interiors like the Pitot House, with its tangerine walls, and the Gallier House parlors ringed in baby blue gargoyles.
The visual banquet at the Floyds’ holiday home starts with over-scaled ashlar wallpaper in wavy, bubblegum pink cut into blocks with aqua blue. Ashlar, as in “cut stone walls,” is interpreted in this wallpaper as if the stone is pink-veined quartzite. The pattern mimics that of St. Joe brick, a very modern twist on a vernacular Vieux Carre construction material. The pink “veins” undulate through the living room where paintings of magnolia blossoms repeat the curvature like dancing waves.
Pair that pastel, dynamic backdrop with beautifully-scarred hardwood floors, weathered whitewashed beams, curry orange trim and inviting antiques, and who could resist kicking off the dusty cowboy boots and ditching the Lone Star beer to say howdy to a barefoot weekend filled with pink umbrella drinks in the Big Easy.
Presenting “traditional” in exciting, new ways is the specialty of the New York based architecture and design firm of Brockschmidt and Coleman. Bill Brockschmidt and Courtney Coleman are known for their alchemy of modern sensibility and historical references. They love mixing tones that shouldn’t go together like warm and cool turquoise in the living room or the kitchen’s pink stools and ochre trim. The pair also prefer eclectic pieces to anything trendy or designer label. This attitude fits well in New Orleans where it is more important to be fun than fancy. In fact it fits so well that Brockschmidt and Coleman will be opening their southern studio in the Garden District this year.
Coleman, a self-described classicist with roots in Mississippi, says that working on a vacation house presented more opportunities for playful and bold design choices like the uber-dramatic wallpaper in all the main living spaces.
It turns out, the designers shared a love of New Orleans before they even met. Brockschmidt, raised in Virginia, describes this shared attraction to the juxtaposition of sophistication and wilderness as “refined frontier” and that they find a common denominator in New Orleans’ combination of pretense and wacky charm.
“The words that best describe the home are ‘charming’ and ‘fun’,” homeowner Peggy Floyd says. She gives Brockschmidt and Coleman full credit for the creative design of her French Quarter home, but touches very personal to the Floyd family show up in multiple places. Timber Floyd’s family brought polo to West Texas, a history paid homage to by a collection of horse art in the downstairs bedroom. Timber’s passion for gemology inspired the dominant theme of ashlar stone uniting the entry, living room and kitchen.
Rancher Timber Floyd, however, had no intention of purchasing a home in the city — that is, until he heard the captivating history of the little house on Barracks Street and knew it needed to be preserved.
The circa-1830 building was owned by La Société Hospitalière des Dames Louisianaises, a charity founded in 1879 to aid impoverished Civil War widows. The Société bought the property on Barracks Street and opened the Maison Hospitalière to provide housing for women who were left without any means of support. What started out as a single one-story cottage expanded to include 13 buildings, a large part of the block from Dauphine to Bourbon Street. Later, the Maison Hospitalière evolved into a skilled nursing facility with 100 residences that cared for elderly men and women until 2006 when Hurricane Katrina dealt it and many other local institutions a coup de grace.
In its latest incarnation, La Maison Hospitalière has been developed into luxury residences called Maison du Parc, featuring 10 homes around a central courtyard.
Thanks to Peggy and Timber Floyd and the design team of Brockschmidt and Coleman, this little piece of history, a Civil War widows’ home, has been restored to a flamboyant 21st century version of classic Creole with more New Orleans charm than you can shake a stick at, as they say in cattle country.
Brockschmidt & Coleman / Boutique Sud New Orleans, 4021 Magazine Street
New York based architecture and design firm Brockschmidt & Coleman will open a southern studio in the Garden District this year. Boutique Sud, the brainchild of Bill and husband Richard Dragisic, will feature art and antiques of southern Italy and Sicily.