No one is less surprised than Katie Winters that she was able to turn a tattered turn-of-the-century double shotgun into a modern single-family home that skillfully blends its original notes of traditional New Orleans architecture with new clean-lined contemporary edges. By the time Winters, a defense attorney with Jones Walker, purchased the Uptown cottage, located within walking distance of Magazine Street boutiques, coffee shops and Whole Foods Market, she already had four renovations under her belt. She was adept at picking out everything from countertops to tiles over her lunch hour, on weekends or in the early morning before heading to work.
Winters’ father, also an attorney and real estate investor, exposed her at a young age to the reward that comes from restoring the gleam to a faded, lackluster gem of a house. And though she says her current home was a “complete disaster” when she purchased it in 2006, she also says the fun of renewing it outweighed the demands of balancing a law career and remodeling a house –– two very full-time jobs.
“I grew up seeing the structure, the old floors, the high ceilings, the things you don’t get in newly built homes,” says Winters, referring to the many renovations undertaken by her parents. “I have to credit my mom and dad with my appreciation of all the old architecture.
“My day job is so paper-driven and not very visually creative,” she adds. “There’s so much satisfaction in seeing something that’s so run-down and making it pretty again.”
When looking for a new property to purchase several years ago, Winters was firm about several entertainment-friendly features: She wanted a pool, and she wanted the public living spaces to be located at the rear of the house in order to connect with and provide access to it. “I wanted the whole house to be built around the pool,” she says. “I grew up in a family where everybody was always invited, and there were tons of people over all the time. I’m one of five kids. [My siblings] come over all the time with their friends.”
Winters wanted friends with children to find the house equally welcoming, and, with a serendipitous touch originally intended for adult guests, she unwittingly cinched the deal. “I made the pool a cocktail pool with a drinking ledge all the way around,” she says. “But it ended up being perfect for kids, too. The kids can hold on to it when they’re in the pool, and the parents worry less.”
Because the house was originally a double, she had room to reinvent the floor plan, which now consists of three bedrooms and two baths along one side and a living room, dining room, kitchen and den along the other. The house had an ample yard out back, so she also could build a roomy pool-and-patio area. She kept the footprint of the house the same and salvaged what she could; the floors, which are original, were patched where needed with old wood from Resurrection, a local salvage business. But the new stripped-down interior lives larger than its dated predecessor. Winters eliminated walls to make it more open, created a cathedral ceiling in the den overlooking the pool and kept the architectural details to a minimum.
Most of the design ideas were culled from the pages of shelter magazines. After determining that she wanted a palette of natural colors, she turned to designer Frances Treadway for help with selecting the right combination of shades. She also worked with contractor Paul Badeaux and carpenter Joe Calderon, who helped her take her ideas from the page to reality. “This was not a horror story,” she says of the process. “With any renovation, there’s some stress that goes with it, but this was pretty smooth sailing. The credit is theirs,” she adds, referring to Badeaux and Calderon. “I would come up with the idea and tell them the idea, and they would do it, and it would be better and nicer than I envisioned.”
When problems were encountered during the course of the project, they too had a way of working out. The equipment necessary for digging the pool was not able to fit on either side of the house, so several neighbors allowed their fences to be temporarily removed and another provided access via a parking lot and alley. The final result is a U-shaped saltwater pool surrounded by classic brick decking, landscaped beds and a renovated backhouse that provides a shaded place to escape the sun and houses its own kegorator. Friends and family frequently come over to enjoy the pool and grill outdoors.
Despite the fact that the house is centered around a luxury amenity, Winters’ goal throughout was to create a space that was well-designed and economically wise. To stay within her budget in the kitchen, where everyone tends to congregate, she splurged on only a few items –– gray glass tiles used as a backsplash and limestone countertops, the former from Stafford Tile & Stone, the latter from Tile & Stone Imports –– and mixed them with smart-looking appliances, fixtures and cabinetry from mass-market retailers such as Sam’s Club and Lowe’s. Instead of using expensive light fixtures in the living areas, she opted for $59 fans special ordered through Lowe’s (“[They’re] very industrial and modern and give the sleek appearance I was going for,” she says) and indulged her love of chandeliers in the bathrooms only. She also cut costs by using ceramic tiles rather than stone in one of the two bathrooms and by using waterproof alternatives to tile –– concrete floors and corrugated tin walls –– in the backhouse bathroom. “I did it on a budget, but I did not sacrifice what I wanted,” says Winters, who also managed to furnish the house comfortably without investing in many new pieces. The only major purchase made inside is the den’s generous sectional sofa.
With a house that serves as entertainment central as often as once a week, Winters is enjoying the fruits of her labor. But it’s not surprising that she’s also beginning to feel restless about finding the next house in need of her talents. “I have a lot of energy and interests in a lot of different things,” she says. “I don’t think I ever wanted to do just one thing. Renovation is certainly a love of mine.”