In the summer of 2005, Lakewood North residents Ann and Larry Rabin were optimistically poised for a new phase in their lives. The couple’s four children, then ages 25 to 29, were grown, and Ann, who’d worked as director of education and volunteer services for the Audubon Zoo for more than two decades, planned to retire at the end of the year.
“The whole world was ahead of us,” Ann says. “We thought whatever was next would come. It would present itself, and we would seize it. Well, it presented itself in Katrina, and a lot of decisions were made for us.”
When 7 feet of water flooded their home, the idea of change went from a possibility to a reality overnight. With the help of their children and one son-in-law-to-be, the Rabins quickly triaged the house after the storm and salvaged what they could –– including some favorite antiques, art and family photographs. “We all were action-oriented,” says Ann. “We came into the city and tackled whatever had to be done to our house pretty systematically. It was a time for invention.”
After an uncharted period of grieving and healing, the couple realized it was time for reinvention and reconnection, as well. While attending an antiques sale held in a house that was on the market, they fell for the house itself. Its unusual multi-level floor plan appealed to them, and its covered patio, pool and fountains reminded Larry, a commercial real estate agent and real estate developer, of their Lakeview home. The Rabins hired renovation expert Michael Carbine of M Carbine Restorations Inc., with whom they’d worked before, and designer Carol Simon and spent the
next 11 months remodeling the circa 1930s property.
Today, the end result is everything they envisioned: a quiet cottage with a strong connection to the outdoors, the kind of hidden-oasis privacy that’s reminiscent of the Mediterranean or the South of France and an “informal formality” that is as comfortable to live in as it is pleasing to the eye. “Michael holds fast to his principles,” says Ann of Carbine, whose comprehensive approach and steady hand guided everything from architectural details to furniture placement. “He’s very practical. You don’t ever have to worry about the people he brings in because you have real craftsmen and artisans on your job.”
The goal of the extensive renovation, which included both interior and exterior adjustments, was to lighten, brighten and enhance the residence without changing its unique architectural flavor. To that end, every floor was refinished, each bathroom redone and every inch of the house painted anew with a palette of whisper-soft colors. Doorways were enlarged and centered; the den overlooking the pool and patio was gutted; and the kitchen, already updated by the previous owners, was fine-tuned with the addition of new travertine countertops chosen to coordinate with the Turkish limestone slab atop the existing island. “I wanted to be able to look through the kitchen,” says Ann of the sunny buff-colored space, which magnetically attracts family and friends and allows them to spill over into the den, which then opens onto the covered patio area, featuring a fountain-fed pool surrounded by brick decking, vine-covered walls and lush flower beds. “It’s so central to the living and dining areas. You see it from both places.”
The idea of creating rooms that are appealing from multiple vantage points is probably most eloquently expressed in the living room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, a staircase with a hand-forged iron railing worthy of a memorable entrance and an airy bird’s-eye view from the second story. The Rabins worked with Carbine and Simon to furnish it –– and the rest of the house, which includes two bedrooms, three-and- a-half baths and a third-story office –– with a graceful assortment of 18th- and 19th-century antiques and new upholstered pieces purchased through local sources, a process that proved satisfying to their desire to contribute to the rebirth of the city they love. Although already accustomed to living with antiques and art, their move presented an opportunity to take a slightly more refined approach to their empty-nest yet family-friendly surroundings and to focus on the kind of quality antiques that survive everything from generational changes to natural catastrophes.
While local experts refurbished some of their storm-damaged antiques, they combed their favorite Magazine Street shops –– Karla Katz Antiques, Petricia Thompson Antiques, Balzac Antiques and Carbine’s own Mac MAISON ltd. –– along with such dealers as Atlanta’s Mignon Favrot Topping for some new additions. “I didn’t want any room to feel like you couldn’t sit down in it,” says Ann. “I wanted people to feel that they could be in every space of the house, but I wanted it to be pretty. It’s very peaceful. I want everything I buy for the house to reflect that.” The house’s emphasis on outdoor views also helped shape the décor. “If it’s not a color I see outside my window, I didn’t want to use it,” says Ann, who describes herself as a fabric and color junkie. “If I’m inside of a room, I want to feel like there’s no transition [between the indoors and outdoors]. So we used a lot of greens, yellows, lots of whites and off-whites with shades of green and tan, and I used red as an accent.”
The master bedroom, a haven for the hardworking couple, is suffused with the gentle glow of Farrow & Ball’s Old White, a neutral with hints of gray and green, and lovely alfresco scenes are highlighted in both the bedroom and master bath just as they are throughout the rest of the house. Sea-grass limestone containing fossils surrounds the bathroom’s his and hers sinks and the tub, which is centered below a window like an aerie in the trees.
“The bedroom is such a special place,” says Ann. “It looks out over the garden, and we love to open the curtains every morning and see that.”
“The bedroom is Ann’s and my favorite room,” agrees Larry, who also likes to spend his at-home time in the cozy, low-slung den and in the pool and credits the beauty and comfort of his home to his wife. (She in turn says that when faced with a design decision, he always intuitively makes the right choice.) Even Sampson, the Rabins’ 6-year-old golden retriever adopted from the SPCA, is clearly fond of the house and garden, whether he’s wandering freely from room to room or exploring the patio out back. “Sampson really likes it,” says Larry. “I don’t think it could have come out any better.”
George Dureau’s work can be seen at the following places:
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp St. | 539-9600 |www.ogdenmuseum.org
New Orleans Museum of Art
1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park | 658-4100 |www.noma.org
545 St. Charles Ave. | 658-3623 | www.gallierhall.com
Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino
8 Canal St. | 533-6000 |www.harrahsneworleans.com
He is represented by:
Arthur Roger Gallery
432 Julia St. | 522-1999 |www.arthurrogergallery.com