The Christmas season is a special time for Sue Ellen and Joseph “Joe” Canizaro. Their Metairie Club Gardens home takes on a special glow with festive decorations, but it’s in their sacred chapel that the true meaning of Christmas is celebrated by paying homage to the birth of Jesus with a solemn Mass shared with family and friends. “When we built our new home, one of our first requests to our architect was to design a chapel,” Joe explains. “We wanted it to be at the core of our home in a sunny spot overlooking the chapel fountain and garden.”

While the Canizaros’ home is an architectural and interior design gem that was featured on several pages of Architectural Digest magazine and on the cover of the book entitled The Language of Interior Design by Alexa Hampton, the magazine’s internationally acclaimed interior designer, it’s also a warm and inviting home that’s often shared with nonprofit groups, such as a Longue Vue House & Gardens fundraising event, and religious groups associated with their Catholic faith.

First-time visitors may marvel at the grandeur of the antiques and accessories, yet it’s the Canizaros’ collection of religious art that takes center stage in the home. “I began collecting in 1993, and today we have about 50 catalogued religious works of art,” Joe explains as he conducts a personal tour of each room, explaining in great detail the title, history and information about each artist.

“Someday I hope all of the paintings will be part of a religious art gallery for the public to enjoy.”

 Designed by New Orleans architect Peter M. Trapolin, AIA, and built by Michael A. LaForte Jr. of Vintage Construction Company of New Orleans, Inc., the house took four years to construct. “Peter did an outstanding job designing our home, Michael was a great contractor and we can’t say enough good things about Alexa, who gave us everything we wanted in a formal, yet comfortable, home,” says Joe, founder, chairman and CEO of Columbus Properties LP, a commercial real estate development company; president of First Trust Corporation that includes the First Bank & Trust; and a well-known philanthropist.

“We are pleased that so many of the antiques and accessories in our home came from the great antique shops in New Orleans,” Sue Ellen says, adding that local artisans did a first-class job on the details throughout the house.

“This as an ideal home for us,” she says when asked how she feels about their showplace home that graces a tree-lined broad boulevard in one of the finest neighborhoods in the New Orleans area. “It is always a pleasure to share our home with family and friends. The dining room is one of my favorite spaces, and it’s a joy to entertain with intimate lunches and dinners.” Adds Joe: “It’s always good to come home to such pleasant surroundings, and I’m ever-humble in appreciation for the blessing of having such a comfortable home.”

Sue Ellen and Joe concur that the Christmas season is their favorite time of the year to enjoy their home. He says they especially like the chapel, with its handcrafted pews and alter created by Thomas Bruno, New Orleans sculptor and furniture maker. The sacred art treasures make it even more special at Christmastime.