Bright Spot

Renee Landrieu and Dave Johnson’s Uptown cottage is full of light and laughter
Photographed by Greg Miles
The porch was screened in after the renovation was complete; double height ceilings and fans keep it cool; furnishings include a vintage-style swinging chair and a contemporary glass-topped table from Zuri.

“I had always wanted to live in a small cottage on a large piece of property,” says Renée Landrieu, who seized the opportunity three and a half years ago. Landrieu and her husband, Dave Johnson, had renovated a large house Uptown when she stumbled upon just such a cottage several blocks away. The small 1927 Arts and Crafts house, situated on a double lot, had been in the same family since it was built, but had sat empty since its owner moved away after Katrina. Five years later, Landrieu got a call that the house was for sale. She and Johnson immediately put in an offer.

The plan was to renew the property as a hub for their family, which includes five children and three young grandchildren. That meant gutting the house and virtually starting from scratch with both a rear and a side addition, an open kid-friendly floor plan and a serene interior with cool, washable whites. “It was about creating a place that’s peaceful and harmonious and still economical,” says Landrieu.


Left: Homeowners Renée Landrieu and Dave Johnson.

Top: The living room’s floor-to-ceiling white is illuminated with natural light and touches of coastal blue; inexpensive chairs were renewed with white slipcovers; floor was white- washed, painted, sanded and white-washed again to achieve the perfect color; the mirror, from Renee’s previous home, was painted by Creative Finishes to be similar to the antique lantern from Dop Antiques; circular hide rug from Joss & Main ottoman, upholstered to tie in with the pillows from designer Jennifer Uddo.



The updated house, now nearly triple its original size, pays homage to its Arts and Crafts roots. Landrieu carried original design features, such as the front doors and arches on the porch, through to the rear addition. She also based the remodel around the outdoor views. “Because you could see so much of the outside, I wanted the inside to be a blank canvas for what you see outside,” says Landrieu.
“Instead of having a lot of color on the inside, I wanted to be able to look out and see all the colors of Mother Nature.” Things that the couple loved about their previous home factored into the design as well. An open flow and a huge kitchen island were musts.  

“Instead of design and build, I call it point and build,” says Landrieu, explaining that the design process was more about standing in the space and deciding what it called for through spontaneous conversations than about following blueprints. In fact, some parts of the project, such as moving walls, placing recessed lighting above the kitchen island and achieving the right shade of white on the floors, took multiple tries before they were just right. Other ideas — the two-story, vaulted ceiling in the family room, building out the attic as a guest suite and screening in the porch (to keep out mosquitos and keep in grand-babies and the couple’s Bichon, Bella) — developed after the renovation began.



Left: Comfortable sofas, leather swivel recliners from Scandinavia Inc., a white shag rug and a modern coffee table from Cantoni were arranged around the living room’s fireplace; pair of wooden sideboards custom made in France; abstracts by Shelley Dardar.

Right: The dining table, which expands to seat 12, was custom made by Dop Antiques using an antique metal base and a top that slides open for two additional leaves; the chandelier was renewed with Annie Sloan chalk paint and white shades.



For the interior, she envisioned all white, but knew that working with an all-white palette can be a challenge. When her hairdresser recommended designer Katherine Starr, whose own home is mostly white, she called Starr for advice. “Katherine has been a big help,” she says. “Having an open floor plan, it seemed like it would be easy to create individual spaces that were still connected. But I struggled with the sofas and furniture in the family room. Also I was working with all rectangular shapes. She brought in ovals and circles and other elements like metal and glass to add interest. She used a lot of her design science to make the rooms interesting and surprising and enjoyable and functional.”

Starr found Landrieu refreshingly open to suggestions. “[Renee] gave everything a lot of thought,” says the designer, who worked with Landrieu to fine-tune the interior’s whites and neutrals with coastal colors, refurbished pieces, modern touches and custom designs that fit the family’s lifestyle. “One of the most important things about doing this house was the fact that she has children and grandchildren. There’s a lot of living going on. The key was to find things that had what I call wow value but were durable and had functionality. I find lately that clients don’t just want a showcase. They want their homes to be comfortable and livable.”

The couple entertain often and say the response from family and friends is always positive. “When you walk in the front door, you’re caught off guard,” says Landrieu. “It feels bigger inside and all the white takes the heat away. People say ‘I feel like I’m in heaven.’ It’s all white and sky.”



Left: Pair of contemporary wingback chairs with nail head trim, acrylic legs and durable microfiber upholstery from

 Right: Landrieu chose honed statuary marble for the kitchen counters and large island and statuary tiles for the backsplash.



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