Dream Team

Uptown home strikes the perfect chord
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The living room, directly opposite the kitchen, features an abstract painting by Mildred Wohl that previously belonged to Ryan’s parents. Graci modernized the gold bergère with a geometric print. The custom taupe wool rug is subtly accented with chartreuse. The sideboard cabinet was made by Alex Geriner of Doorman Designs.

When Amanda and Ryan Berger decided to return to New Orleans and renovate a house where they could raise their family, they called in a dream team of experts: architect Lee Ledbetter of Lee Ledbetter & Associates, interior designer Chad Graci of Graci Interiors and contractor William Wolf of Yazoo Restorations – all of whom happen to be personal friends. The house, built in 1904 and owned by members of the same family for more than a century, was in need of updates and while the Bergers wanted the house to be appropriately traditional for its architecture, they also wanted it to be fresh and youthful for their family of four.  

Ryan and Amanda, who met in New Orleans and married while living in Austin, have strong ties to the city. Ryan, a real estate developer, grew up just blocks from the newly purchased house, and Amanda, an attorney originally from Mobile, attended Loyola Law School. While still living in Austin, they began working with Ledbetter and architect Amy Petersen (also of Lee Ledbetter & Associates) on architectural drawings for the remodel. 

“We engaged Lee first,” Ryan said. “He helped us feel confident about the vision.”

Ledbetter opened and reconfigured the first floor to suit the family’s modern lifestyle and reworked the existing den — added during an earlier renovation — to look original to the house. The space, which the family uses as their informal family room with bar, seating and breakfast areas, now features wooden flooring, built-in bookshelves and moldings that connect better to the architectural language in the rest of the house. Ledbetter also reconfigured the second floor and designed an addition for an en suite master, again infusing it with elements clean enough to satisfy an appreciation for contemporary aesthetics but rooted in tradition to look as if they were always there. 

With a new second-floor master, the Bergers turned the third floor, previously used as the master suite, into a mother-in-law suite for guests. They also turned a small back house into a dual-purpose structure housing storage on one side and an indoor/outdoor kitchen for entertaining on the other.

For the clients, working with talented professionals who were also friends was an ideal scenario. They credit Ledbetter with distilling their vision for a light, bright, airy and inviting home, Yazoo with budget friendly practicality, and Graci with steering them at times out of their comfort zone. They also praise the overall attention to detail, which included specific spaces for heirloom pieces inherited from Amanda’s grandmother, appropriate lighting for art that the couple already owned, and using local artisans.

“Everyone did such an amazing job and we worked really well together,” said Graci, who worked with the couple to design the finishes, fabrics and furnishings for the interior. “They gave me a beautiful framework in which to do my job.”

Because the floorplan is open, Graci’s job entailed decorating the mix of casual and formal spaces so that there is visual continuity. A hand-painted Gracie Studio wallpaper with an elegant, metallic floral design set the tone.

“We started with the dining room wallpaper,” said Graci, who traveled to Dallas with Amanda to customize the colors and pattern of the paper to work with the room’s arrangement of furniture and art. “It has a deep celadon color, so everything had to flow from that. The celadon picks up in different ways throughout the first floor. The whole house has a palette of soft celadon, yellows, and punches of green and tan. I wanted all the rooms to be unique, but they had to relate.”

Even the front door’s bright yellow hints at the palette inside.

Described by Traditional Home magazine as a New Traditionalist, Graci prefers to anchor rooms with timeless pieces and silhouettes, which he updates in unexpected ways, something that occasionally requires gentle coaxing even with the most in-sync clients.  

“The things that Chad brought to us we loved, but had I sat there and flipped through hundreds of books, I’d never have found them,” said Amanda. “We would have been too traditional.”

“I gave an extra nudge on some things,” said Graci, citing the example of the modern geometric fabric he used on an 18th century bergere in the living room. “They’re a young couple and there was no reason for things to be stodgy. They wanted fresh color, fun pattern and things that could grow with them as they add over time.”

While the use of pattern and color is lively, it’s never busy or loud. An octagonal and diamond pattern motif applied by decorative painter Thomas Oppliger covers the floor of the foyer with a smaller leopard-print runner nearby on the stairs. Yet the two are in perfect harmony, thanks to Graci’s use of color and scale.

“Pattern is best used in different scale,” Graci said. “If there is a giant pattern on the floor, there should be a small pattern on the window treatments.”

Along the way, the Bergers, whose daughters are now 3 1/2- years old and 15 months, emphasized the need for the décor to be accommodating for children. Graci obliged with child-friendly touches such as the vinyl on the kitchen’s counter stools, a sisal rug in the living room, stain-preventative treatments on fabrics, a round breakfast table for family interaction and an animal-print rug that hides the wear of little feet on the high-traffic stairs.

“We are very pleased with the function and the look of the house,” the couple said. “Chad, Lee’s team and Yazoo didn’t miss any details.”