Real estate development is in Kendall Winingder’s DNA. Her grandfather, the late Jimmy Coleman Sr., made many contributions to the New Orleans landscape, including hotels, office buildings and residences. Her uncle, Jimmy Coleman Jr., is known for developing the Windsor Court Hotel. Her father, Tom Winingder, also developed the Windsor Court, as well as Canal Place and Jazzland Theme Park. So it’s not surprising that at 27, the poised, statuesque brunette, who has a degree in real estate development from the University of Georgia and did a stint working for the Trump Group in New Orleans, has already tackled commercial and residential projects of her own.
“I first worked on a project with my family converting the warehouse space of the old Hinderers Iron Works building into lofts,” says Winingder, a passionate dog rescuer who followed that venture with the new Canine Connection Dog Care Center Uptown. “They turned out great, and that really gave me the confidence I needed to step out on my own.” Her most recent renovation, a town house on a tree-lined block of the Central Business District just steps from the Windsor Court, was honored this year by the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects in the category of adaptive reuse and is a good indicator of her clean, sophisticated aesthetic.
Taken with both the residential feel of the block where the town house resides (“It feels more like a quiet, little neighborhood than it does the CBD,” she says) and the potential of the building itself, which she inherited from her grandfather, Winingder had a clear vision of how she wanted to renew the property. “It was a rat-infested, run-down warehouse that had never been occupied as a residence,” she says of the circa 1845 three-story brick structure that originally was used for brick and timber and later as a storage annex for the Windsor Court’s linens. “I stepped up immediately and said, ‘I could do amazing things with this.’”
Winingder enlisted the help of Wisznia Architecture + Development and Da Vinci Builders. She also worked with Patrick Schindler to solve some of the more complicated construction challenges and obtain tax incentives and with the Downtown Development District to obtain grants for the sidewalk and façade. When stumped, she turned to friends John Chrestia and Robin Roberts of Chrestia Staub Pierce for advice. The open space –– “There was not one wall on the second floor,” she says –– inspired her to think in terms of a loft-like dwelling highlighting the building’s architectural elements: exposed beams, brick walls, expansive windows and a centrally located pulley lift. She contrasted the raw, historic quality of the beams and brick with sleek, über-modern surfaces and amenities; used eco-friendly materials such as kitchen cabinets of recycled stainless steel; and replaced the pulley lift with a gleaming glass elevator that’s as much a visual centerpiece as it is a functional feature of the design. The result –– part New York brownstone, part Los Angeles loft, part calming spa –– is an airy, contemporary residence that includes a living/work space on the ground floor and a luxurious two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath living space on the top two levels. “It’s got an L.A. kind of feel,” says Winingder of the finished residence, which she currently rents to visiting members of the movie industry and eventually plans to make her full-time home. “But I don’t really think a loft in L.A. compares. That’s what’s cool about it. It can feel like L.A., but it can’t be copied there. They don’t have buildings like New Orleans. And it’s different than what New Orleans is used to. It’s forward-thinking and modern, but it has a softness to it that makes it more comforting and comfortable.”
To keep the second floor unobstructed, open block stairs wrapped in pickled oak and sided with a wall of glossy medium-density fiber, or MDF, paneling were pushed to one end of the long rectangular room; a powder room was concealed beneath the stairs; and the kitchen was designed against a single wall, galley-style. Only the glass elevator partially divides the second floor –– with the living room and kitchen on either end and a bar conveniently tucked between the two. At one end of the kitchen, a work area, reading nook and outdoor deck were also carved out of the existing square footage. Upstairs, on the third floor, a master suite occupies the front of the house with a guest bedroom and bath at the rear. To continue the loft quality of the second floor, a partial wall serves dual purposes as a headboard and as a separation between the master bedroom and its closet.
Like the bones of the house, the furnishings are simple, elegant and streamlined, with a minimum of accessories and art and a deliberate absence of clutter, all set against a palette of soothing neutral tones. “I wanted you to walk in and see the architecture and the finishes and have the furniture be subtle and fitting but not dramatic,” says Winingder. “But it’s also very comfortable. That was important to me.”
Over the course of six months, she shopped local resources; catalogs; and the Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas design markets for the pieces found throughout and was always on the hunt for bargains with good lines and lots of impact. Purchases from Craigslist and the local consignment store Renaissance Interiors are part of the mix. “I get excited when I come across inexpensive pieces that work well in the space,” she says. “I have never focused on furniture designers or labels; I just like what feels right and fits comfortably with the collection.”
Although she has no formal design schooling, she sketches ideas for custom touches of her own. She drew every facet of the bathrooms to scale, including the guest bath’s vanity, which was crafted by a friend. And her attention to details has paid off. In addition to garnering a prestigious award and plenty of praise from local and nonlocals alike, Winingder says the new version of the once-idle building would even have the approval of the man who began her family’s tradition of helping to revitalize New Orleans. “I think my grandfather would have loved this,” she says. “It’s near the Windsor Court, and there’s so much history. I was able to breathe new life into it, and that feels really good.”