Photography by Sara Essex Bradley
Historic Creole architecture and original materials provided an interesting backdrop for what would become a festive retreat for Dallas-based homeowners Karen and Steven Boulware. The couple, who purchased the French Quarter townhouse on Governor Nicholls as a second home, wanted a place where they could entertain, and, of course, a balcony from which to people-watch with cocktail in hand. When they first found the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath townhome in late 2018, they immediately were drawn to its New Orleans character.
“We fell in love with the balcony overlooking Governor Nicholls and the fig ivy covering the yellow exterior,” Karen says. “People on the street often take pictures of the house. We love the cypress wood cabinets in the kitchen and the tiny courtyard separating the main house from the back house. We also love the location. It is somehow close to the action of the French Quarter, but also quiet.”
The Boulwares, who met on a St. Patrick’s Day parade float in Baton Rouge (and who now have three children), enlisted Chad Graci, owner of Graci Interiors, to bring the 2,572-square-foot space to life. “We were tasked with making the home a fun, glamorous party pad for [the homeowners] when they were in town,” Graci says. “The scope of work included all furnishings, fixtures and finishes, along with redoing a bathroom and converting the former servants’ quarters into a bar reminiscent of an old New Orleans restaurant and a guest suite above.”
The historic architecture presented challenges in the way of dusting from the bricks due to moisture issues coming from the exterior. Graci first approached the project by working with a local mason to repoint and repair the original brick walls. Graci also had the original flooring, wood and plaster restored. He also kept the counters low-key, and added soapstone and Carrara marble throughout.
When it comes to interior design, Graci describes his aesthetic as an informed mix of periods and styles resulting in a classic, timeless and usable look. He typically starts with furniture and lighting, and then builds a project from the floor up. For the Boulwares’ townhome, Graci kept the framework soft and used punchy jewel tones throughout. “I really drew inspiration from the vibe that the clients wanted and the husband’s request for an Old World bar,” he says. “This led me to the punches of rich colors and quirky finds to shake up the Creole architecture of the place.”
The room where the bar is now located was only about eight feet wide. When the homeowners mentioned that they wanted to — in true New Orleans fashion — turn it into a bar, Graci took the reins to transform the awkward space. Graci enlisted local metal artist David Rockhold to fabricate the iron and brass étagères. He then included cypress wood cabinetry, antique mirrors and glass shelving, and he relocated an antique beaded belle époque chandelier from the main house that now perfectly complements the design. The bar flows freely to the kitchen and an outdoor courtyard. Meanwhile, another found item, a large antique mirror that sits in the main hall, was regilded and restored, but just enough to make it still feel of the era.
Other custom touches include the pecky cypress cabinetry (designed by Graci Interiors and executed by Pomar Gutierrez Renovation) and in the guest suite, which has a custom built-in bed with a secret trundle below to maximize space for guests.
“When you have a house with that much character, you have to stick with a design aesthetic that reflects that,” Karen says. “We use the house for entertaining and fun, so we wanted the aesthetic not to be too stuffy or serious. I love to collect art, objects and books that I find interesting and that add to an ever-evolving aesthetic. Chad not only mixed traditional, antique, modern and unique elements, but he also layered rich textures and materials to create interest.”
Pops of color can also be found throughout the rest of home. For example, a purple and green rug in the dining room pairs with sky blue walls, yellow silk draperies, tiger-print upholstered dining chairs and a chinoiserie cabinet. Graci also added silk and velvet draperies throughout the home for a sumptuous French Quarter feeling. Other standout design elements include a posh red velvet sofa in the parlor and a custom cypress kitchen with Venetian glass chandelier. Overall, the townhome’s design aligns perfectly with the French Quarter aesthetic. “It is sexy, fun, eclectic and just looking for a good time,” Graci says.
The Boulwares, who love to take part in the culture of New Orleans — whether it is Mardi Gras, concerts, Saints games or just exploring the French Quarter — now have a place that is perfect for entertaining and uniquely their own. Karen also appreciates owning a slice of history. “I always wonder if these walls could talk, what stories would they have to tell of the people and things that happened over the last 100 years,” she says.