As in years past, each of this year’s New Orleans Homes Design Masters has creativity in spades. Despite the fact that many businesses have suffered this year there is, as always, reason to be hopeful for continued creativity in the Big Easy. To survive the challenged economy, members of the design community are putting their creativity to use in new ways. In fact, the word “pivot” has become the buzzword du jour for shifting gears. Whether staying with what they know best, contemplating a change or parlaying their talents into a new or related arena, New Orleans creatives take note: We support you, we celebrate you and we look forward to your futures. That being said, we are proud to introduce our 2020 Design Masters.
Alyssa and Erikdavid Kraemer
WHO: Alyssa and Erikdavid Kraemer, owners of E. Kraemer Fine Metal & Woodwork.
WHAT: We are a high-end fabrication studio specializing in the design and build of furnishings and architectural elements for residential and commercial spaces.
WHERE: All custom pieces are designed and fabricated in our 14,000-square-foot facility located in the Upper 9th Ward. Our work can be found at Auction House Market, Gianna, Jewel of the South, Justine, Hotel Monteleone and the new [Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport].
WHEN: Erikdavid Kraemer comes from a long line of artisans where working with their hands is second nature. First learning how to make violins with his luthier father, Erikdavid later incorporated a slew of metalworking techniques into his skillset. Alyssa, after working many years for others, decided it was time for the two of them to try something new, different and exciting.
HOW: Combining an eye for design and detail with a passion for engineering, our team is invigorated by building unique and challenging pieces. We are one of the few fabrication shops in the country specializing in red metals (brass, bronze, copper). With an arsenal of trusted craftsmen, our talented and driven team can make any project a reality.
WHY: Because the details matter.
IN OUR WORDS: We love collaborating with creative people on innovative designs and unique projects. Check out our website (ekraemer.com) to see more of what we do, including our latest endeavor to help combat harmful microbes and dangerous infections they cause — such as COVID-19 — through self-sanitizing surfaces.
WHO: Kirsten Gaiennie, co-owner Sazerac Stitches.
WHAT: Small lighting and design studio that designs and makes everything by hand.
WHERE: The design studio is in the Lower Garden District, 1218 Annunciation St.
WHEN: Started in 2012 by Kirsten and her husband, Matthew Gaiennie.
HOW: Neither of us have a design background and we couldn’t afford to furnish our own home with the types of lighting we coveted. After a lot of research and a several DIY attempts, we created a chandelier design. That evolved into other chandelier designs, then sconces, then some decorative home accents. Experimentation is an ongoing process for us.
WHY: Creating is highly addictive. Pairing colors, shapes, textures and modeling them out into a functional item is rewarding even when a design is a failure. However custom design shouldn’t be exorbitantly expensive. Our goal is to mix affordability with custom design.
IN YOUR WORDS: Lighting is often referred to as “jewelry for a room.” It can be in your face, a subtle accent or be the design inspiration for the rest of the room. However, it shouldn’t be considered “one size fits all” and customization should be available at a lower price point.
WHO: Byron Veal, artisan.
WHAT: I offer exterior stucco wall systems in multiple textures, colors and finishes. I also provide interior plaster systems, replications of moldings, medallions, sconces [and so forth].
WHERE: Uptown, Garden District, CBD, French Quarter and Old Metairie.
WHEN: In 2007, Detailed Plastering & Stucco Systems became the new kid on the block within the plaster restoration and stucco application community. Our clients include actors, NFL players and other celebrities.
HOW: I started out as a laborer, learning from the ground up. I was taught by elite artisans how to cast balusters and make cement rails. It was easier to grasp the less demanding wall systems as an apprentice. Replications and duplications all came with the craft.
WHY: I actually was a troubled kid, into the wrong lifestyle. A friend’s brother at the time owned a plastering company and I committed my life to this trade. God has his way of commanding the journey of a man. That journey has developed into a love.
IN YOUR WORDS: For some, a visualization of a finished product is difficult. I on the other hand see finishes and textures, almost as musical notes. I look forward to a client’s smile at the end of a project. I find it amazing that I’m a grown man who gets paid to play in mud. There is not one scroll or crack repair I’ve forgotten.
WHO: Sean Wilkerson, The Bank Architectural Antiques.
WHAT: Architectural antiques, sales and service. Specializing in historical building materials of New Orleans. [A] 40,000-square-foot warehousing old cypress doors, mantels, shutters, corbels, moldings and hardware for sale to renovate historic homes or supply new construction projects with old-world appeal. Paint removal and full repairs to fix up old doors, shutters and hardware.
WHERE: The Bank Architectural Antiques, 1824 Felicity St.
WHEN: Established in 1972.
HOW: I have disassembled nearly 600 blighted homes in New Orleans to acquire their building components and repurpose these items. By taking things apart, we can understand how they are put together. The construction technique of an old New Orleans shotgun home is awe inspiring. The material used, (cypress), stands the test of time. It just makes sense to preserve this stuff. My father, Mike, started this business and developed a technique for paint removal which I still use today.
WHY: I really enjoy my work. Stripping a pair of 200-year-old shutters and repairing them to near original condition gives me a very rewarding sense of purpose.
IN YOUR WORDS: I am just dusting off what the craftsmen that built this city made. It’s hard, grueling work sometimes but preserving New Orleans architectural heritage is worth the effort.
Michael Shoriak and Courtney Williams
WHO: Michael Shoriak and Courtney Williams of Cypress Building Conservation.
WHAT: An architectural conservation company. We consult on all aspects of historic restoration projects, from documentation and research to laboratory analysis of historic finishes. We also hold a commercial contractor’s license.
WHERE: All over the city. Sometimes elsewhere in the state. Earlier this year: Maine.
WHEN: [In] 2013, when we both moved back home to Louisiana [after] grad school at the University of Pennsylvania.
HOW: Doing the work ourselves as contractors is an unparalleled way to learn about buildings, and it constantly informs our consulting work. It’s easier to explain to a mason why and how to use an historic mortar mix if you’ve actually repointed a wall yourself. WHY: In a single day, we could find ourselves on top of scaffolding inspecting masonry work on a National Historic Landmark, crawling around a French Quarter attic space documenting 19th-century timber framing, running to an Uptown Queen Anne to put a final varnish coat on a front door, looking through a microscope to analyze historic paint finishes from a Creole cottage up River Road and finally hauling debris away from a job site with a trip to the dump. But it’s definitely never boring.
IN YOUR WORDS: Our wide range of services allows us to participate in all aspects of the construction process. We are extremely fortunate to learn from and work with the best historians, architects and craftsmen in town. We are constantly striving to improve our knowledge and understanding of how to properly maintain our historic building materials, because they are truly irreplaceable.
WHO: Michael Baudin, owner and founder of Legend Interiors.
WHAT: Legend Interiors is a full-service kitchen and bath design company. We provide cabinetry, countertops, tile and design services to individuals, architects, interior designers and builders. Our focus is smart, functional designs that complement our clients’ unique styles and needs.
WHERE: Our design studio is located in the heart of Mid-City.
WHEN: I began my career in 2001 as a draftsman, designing cabinetry and millwork for large commercial jobs and high-end residential projects. Having a knack for drafting and design, I decided to test my talents and build my own company in 2010, Legend Interiors.
HOW: Our experienced designers take the time to listen to each client’s wants and needs. It is during this phase that we collaborate with the client, apply our knowledge of the products, and create an overall style and vision for the project. We guide the client through seemingly overwhelming options and ensure that the overall functionality and aesthetics complement their taste and lifestyle.
WHY: I enjoy creating, problem solving and challenging myself. It is incredibly fulfilling to take a project from the infancy of the client’s vision, into design and development, and then making that refined vision a reality.
IN YOUR WORDS: I can honestly say that I enjoy my work, but what I do is not a solo act. I have a very knowledgeable, talented, and dedicated staff, and long-standing relationships with trusted subcontractors and suppliers that together, help bring our clients’ projects to life.
Casi St. Julian
WHO: Casi Francis St. Julian, senior interior designer at Eclectic Home New Orleans + After Dark Wallpaper Collection.
WHAT: Our design firm offers interior design services [and] retail. Projects include residential and commercial design offering renovation, new construction and decorating services for clients across the country. Our showroom also provides an eclectic mix of lighting, accessories, vintage furnishings and custom upholstery.
WHERE: Our showroom is located at 8211 Oak St.
WHEN: Established in 2000, Eclectic Home has evolved into a 7,000-square-foot showroom, offering a unique shopping and interior design experience. I started working in the family business in 2012 alongside my mother, principal designer Penny Francis after graduating with a BFA in interior design from Savannah College of Art & Design.
HOW: I’ve grown up in the interior design business and have been blessed to experience what it takes firsthand to be an entrepreneur and boss lady. My mom is an inspiration to me because she [has] shown me how to be successful and a graceful designer without taking life too seriously.
WHY: The arts have always been something I’ve been immersed in since I can remember. Fashion and interiors have been my main focus and, I feel, come naturally to me.
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Interior design is a delicate song and dance between designer and client. It takes time technically, but evolves into something aesthetically layered and artistic. Each space we are hired to take on reflects not just us, but more importantly our clients’ wants and needs.
WHO: Chuck Rutledge, developer; Jonathan Tate, architect (Office of Jonathan Tate); Pierre Stouse, contractor (Edifice Builders LLC) – All are co-developers.
WHAT: We are a loose association of project partners (and friends) who join forces formally on a project-by-project basis when we find interesting infill opportunities. We usually work in New Orleans; recently in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta.
WHERE: Jonathan’s office is at 1336 Magazine St., Pierre’s office is at 900 Peniston St., and Chuck works out of his car traveling between New Orleans and Clarksdale, Mississippi, where we developed a 20-room hotel called Travelers Hotel.
WHEN: The three of us have been working together on various projects since 2005.
HOW: Chuck often finds the site and initiates the concept. Jonathan agrees and then designs what he wants. Pierre agrees with Jonathan and then builds what he wants. And somehow it works.
WHY: We like to find oddball or undersized or atypical situations that provide unique opportunities to respond with creative development, design and construction solutions.
IN YOUR WORDS: We like contributing good design (hopefully, really good) to our built environment and elevating or, at least, contributing significantly to our cityscape. We like to think that we find a nice balance among our three disciplines and on occasion, even harmony.
WHO: Jose Alvarez, principal at Eskew Dumez Ripple (EDR).
WHAT: At EDR we build places for people, our work enhances lives. We craft beautiful buildings that celebrate their native places, providing a framework for the life that occurs within and around them.
WHERE: Since 1989, we have worked, lived, and played in New Orleans, one of the most complex and culturally rich places in the United States. Our home serves as a constant inspiration for our work, reminding us what it means to connect deeply with a place while maintaining a global outlook.
WHEN: Established in 1989, EDR has transformed from a local firm doing nationally recognized work to a national firm that has retained its local roots.
HOW: We celebrate design’s ability to solve problems. We listen to our clients and see them as collaborators in the design process. We seek to draw out a common vision from a diversity of voices.
WHY: Design is powerful. As designers, we play an indispensable role in realizing a more equitable future. Good design is also a collaborative act. For a project to serve and empower its community, the voices of that community must be heard and integrated into the design process.
IN YOUR WORDS: It’s now more than 20 years since I came to New Orleans (from Caracas) to complete my Master of Architecture at Tulane University. Little I knew that I would meet architect and mentor Allen Eskew, fulfill my professional career, work with amazing people, meet the love of my life and fall in love with this wonderful city.