Epoch Design

Modernist house with a period aesthetic

“We both like old stuff,” said guitarist/music producer/songwriter Zak Loy of the passion for midcentury modern design he shares with his wife, singer/songwriter/realtor Rachel Vette. “Outside of music, we express ourselves through design and remodeling houses and collecting things.”

In the carport is a 1982 Mercedes 240D. In the cupboards are an assortment of Madmen-worthy cocktail glasses, including some from TWA and Continental airlines. And there’s Zak’s collection of classic vintage guitars and amplifiers, perfectly showcased in the 1962 house they took from non-descript ranch to distinctively retro.

The couple previously renewed what Rachel describes as a Cape Cod style cottage. Yet the interior they designed for it was modern and sleek. It made sense that their next house would have modern architecture as well.

“We’ve done traditional, but our preferred style is modern,” Rachel said.

After purchasing the Jefferson Parish house through a foreclosure sale, they gutted and remodeled it with an open concept and clean modern finishes. For structural purposes they hired an architect, but Rachel used a computer program to remove walls and reconfigure much of the layout herself. The living, dining and kitchen areas are no longer separated by walls and a hall that ran between the public and private zones has been eliminated.

The couple acted as their own contractor and did much of the work themselves along with the help of Rachel’s father, Sonny Breaux, and  brother, Brian, who also happens to be the drummer in her band The Vettes. (Zak is part of the platinum selling band, +Live+.)

Midcentury modern design provided the inspiration for the remodel. Rachel and Zak both appreciate the work of such local modernists as Albert Ledner and Curtis & Davis and of the father of modern architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright. Yet the couple point out that the final result is more a mix of midcentury and contemporary than purely midcentury. While sliding glass doors and terrazzo floors were original 1960s features they wanted to salvage, it proved easier and more cost effective to cover the floors than to repair them. The dark prefinished floor they chose is a striking contrast to the white of the walls and the cabinets and a durable surface for the couple’s adorable and well-behaved quartet of hairless dogs. The original brick exterior was likewise freshened with stucco.

The couple searched the internet tirelessly for innovative and affordable ideas and materials. Rachel found both the mint-condition windows across the façade of the house and the living room’s Barcelona chairs on Craig’s list; the kitchen’s range is from IKEA; the sink, from Ebay; the textured wall tiles used for a feature wall that acts as a transition space into the dining room at Inhabit.com; the retro light kit at the front door was ordered online from a company in Austin, Zak’s hometown.

“We are constantly bargain hunting and doing research online,” Zak said.

When the stone the couple originally wanted for the kitchen counters was out of  their budget, they opted for a less expensive but equally impactful white glass tile that Rachel found online and ordered directly from the manufacturer at a savings. The Green Project, estate sales and thrift stores have been valuable resources as well.

The couple, who’ve turned their mutual talent for design into a sideline business, renovates about a house a year on average and is always on the lookout for their next project.

“Having a vision and seeing what it becomes is the fun part,” Rachel said.

“It’s a love-hate thing,” added Zak, who noted that renovations often have unforese

en complications and hurdles. “We’re good at it and we enjoy the process. We love seeing the finished house and putting a personal touch on it.”

Rachel and Zak’s 5 Design Tips

Figure out where to splurge and where to save. In the kitchen, they opted for IKEA cabinets that delivered high style at a savings rather than on a higher-end version.

Paint the interior with a single shade of a stock paint color. Stock colors are easier to touch up than custom colors, which don’t always match exactly from batch to batch.

Using salvaged materials (like the windows they installed across the front of their house) helps save money and reduces the carbon footprint we leave behind.

When renovating, look for a house with good guts and bones to minimize the size of the job.

Don’t overplay your accent colors. Pick a great color but use it minimally.