Cinderella was never my favorite bedtime story, and it’s certainly overused as a metaphor. It’s hard, however, to think of a more apt comparison for the homes that we’re honoring with the inaugural Renaissance Awards. Storm damage was the impetus for some of the renovations, but in most cases, these resplendent homes sat crumbling, unloved and in disrepair, before their saviors came along. Rooms that were moldy, full of garbage, crawling with vermin are now open, airy spaces, overflowing with chatter and color and love. Happily ever after.
The homes that we and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans have chosen together are more than just renovations, though. Each home has, during the course of the renovation process, taken the time to make sure that precious architectural details were preserved, that quirks of the home were respected, that nothing irreplaceable was thrown out in the name of progress. There is no such thing as an easy renovation, but the recipients of this year’s Renaissance Awards made it harder than it had to be because they refused to jeopardize history.
I have been fortunate to inherit several great partnerships here at New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles. So far, I’ve gotten to work with the Junior League of New Orleans, the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Home magazines are always fun to look at, but with these partnerships, I feel like New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles is taking advantage of a unique opportunity to be more than just a magazine full of pretty pictures. Each of these organizations is vital to the city right now, at a crucial point in its redevelopment, and I am thrilled to help celebrate everything they’re doing.
This is a challenging city in which to complete a renovation. My neighbor abandoned a renovation project just recently, throwing up his hands and saying, “To hell with this roll-y ground and houses that won’t level! To hell with waiting in lines at City Hall for permits that don’t make any sense anyway!” He put his house on the market and moved out of state. I wish him the best. I understand the frustrations, and I don’t fault him for abandoning his renovation; it just makes me understand the necessity for something like the Renaissance Awards, honoring those people who out of stubbornness or love or sheer determination stick it out.
Life isn’t a fairy tale. The people of New Orleans know this better than just about anyone. In life and in renovation, things never go as planned. And even our Renaissance Award winners aren’t quite done with their renovations yet. There’s landscaping yet to be done or light fixtures to be replaced or furniture to be ordered. And this month brings the start of hurricane season, a summer of holding our collective breath and crossing our collective fingers and praying to whatever gods we have that the Big Ones pass us by again.
The five homes we’re honoring this month represent a lot of things –– perseverance, patience, love. Most of all, though, I think they represent hope. Hope that New Orleans will make it through another hurricane season. Hope that by revitalizing one home it might be possible to revitalize a neighborhood. And most of all, hope that New Orleans will stay architecturally unique. By preserving our city’s past, they offer hope for our city’s future.
Noteworthy Home and Garden
On June 25 from 10 a.m. to noon, Longue Vue House & Gardens presents Grandmother’s Tablecloth: Conserving Your Family’s Heirloom Table Linens and Delicate Textiles. Lenora Costa, collections care specialist, will teach you how to properly launder, store and enjoy your family’s precious textiles. The cost is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers, and registration is required. For information or registration, call Jen Gick at 488-5488, extension 320. Every Thursday in June from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., you can take in a concert at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the New Orleans Botanical Gardens as part of the Thursdays at Twilight Concert Series. The cost is $6 for adults, $2 for children from 5 to 12 and free for children younger than 5. Admission is not included in Friends of City Park membership. For more information, call 483-9386.