An Irish Channel home and its gardens are lovingly brought back to life.
Creole ComfortIt’s not many of us who wake up in the middle of the night and proclaim “Can I handle our house being all one color—khaki?” But for Butler Burdine, such a scenario took place just a week before he and Patrick Harper were about to buy all of the paint—“Bamboo Khaki,” to be precise—for the interior of their home.
Located in the Irish Channel, their raised Creole center-hall cottage was built in 1841 and is one of the older homes in the area. When the couple bought the house in January 2004, it was in fair condition, but the entire right side of the exterior was missing—it had been wrapped in plastic, and the wood—if there was any—was rotting. Despite that issue, Butler and Patrick moved in right away and lived in one room for three months while the other rooms were being restored. This entailed plaster work, wiring and plumbing, as well as new framing, decking and siding.
Creole ComfortOnce completed, it was time to choose the backdrop for their eclectic mix of furniture and art, including such pieces as a Gothic revival library table, a French settee, an Arts & Crafts Grandfather clock, a David Harouni painting, and a painting by Butler’s grandmother that ultimately proved to be the inspiration for the interior’s final color palette. An Arts and Crafts-style landscape painted in warm oranges, golds and greens, “It has spoken to me since I was a little boy,” says Butler, an account supervisor at Peter A. Mayer Advertising. And because the house is Creole—built during a time period in which a colorful interior was de rigueur—a synchronicity or fate, seemed to be playing its hand. A trip to Lowe’s where they pulled “tons of paint chips” was the easy part—putting together the puzzle of colors so they flowed smoothly from room to room took hours. The final result is a spicy, sexy blend of rich golds, oranges, browns and greens that complement each other, but also bring out the beauty, and in fact enhance, the home’s furnishings. To tie it all together, the trim and moldings in most of the downstairs rooms is a neutral called “Clam Bake.” (All the paint colors are from the American Traditions Collection.)
Creole ComfortThe colors, coincidentally, work their magic even more when the windows and doors are open—bringing in the lush hues of the greenery and flowers in the backyard, which is the domain of Patrick, who is a garden designer. “The garden was extremely overgrown, but we could see it had great bones,” says Patrick. “There was lots of early to mid 20th-century growth for us to work with—a peach tree, bitter orange trees, satsumas, lemon and lime trees. That’s one of the big things that sold us on the house.”
But where to start with all of these wonderful ingredients? For someone who likes to design intimate garden spaces, this wasn’t a problem. “I like a free flowing garden, not formal or restricted. More natural,” says Patrick. “So I cleaned up the garden, then began planting Australian ferns, bee balm, pineapple sage and various types of palms. I installed a water feature, because I like the element of sound that it adds.”
Creole ComfortThe garden, like the interior of the house, is divided up into little rooms, enabling Patrick to create individual vignettes. The result is a collection of Rousseau-like paintings—exuberant combinations of textures, heights and colors that throughout the year constantly yields surprises to Butler and Patrick. Their pets—dogs Hampton and Lilias, and cats Jemison, Orie, Lady Bella and Maggie Belle—are equally, if not more, enchanted by the final, but always evolving, tableaux.
The backyard also has structures from an old “boucherie,” one of which serves as home for Patrick’s heirloom bantams (chickens). The other is used as sort of a set up area/bar for the parties the couple like to have. Many times the guest list is “Seventh Street Posse,” a name for a group of friends who live in this area of the Irish Channel that is beginning to hit its stride.
Creole Comfort“Our friends thought the house was great, but wanted to know where we were going with it when we started to renovate,” says Butler. “Granite countertops and recessed lighting is great, but it’s just not us. We like to say we like things more authentic.”
And judging by the result, the home’s original owners—possibly Creole—would agree that they have succeeded.