Hurricane Katrina was not kind to the Lakefront home of Char and Mark Schroeder. Like so many others in the area, the once pristine home ended up as part of Lake Katrina when the levees failed. For days, three feet of water covered everything in the one-story house. Mark, (Mark Schroeder Architect, AIA) admits to crying for an hour when he first walked into the house after the water had receded. “I couldn’t believe the damage,” he explains. “All of the furniture was ruined and mold was growing up the walls. Everything was a mess. After an hour, I stopped crying and began to get my bearings. I called Char, who was living in Baton Rouge at the time, and said, ‘We are going to rebuild and make it better than ever.’”
HOME: COMING BACK BETTERLocated a few blocks from Lake Pontchartrain, the Schroeders had lived in their house for several years before the flood. They had completely redone the unique home. “The house had some amazing features, such as a pyramid ceiling in the den crafted with fine wood,” Mark says. “I found the house just before I began dating Char and we collaborated on the initial renovation, making minor structural changes, but keeping the house as the mid-20th century modern [house] it was originally designed to be.” Both admit there were financial constraints that kept them from doing more extensive remodeling. [Ed. Note: The house was featured in the December 2002 issue of New Orleans Magazine.] After the flood, they both quickly decided to take the opportunity to make major changes to improve the
house. “We knew much more about what we wanted after having lived in the house for several years,” he says. “I always loved the house and often thought of it as an old exotic sports car sitting in a barn underappreciated. Now I knew I could design changes that would be like bringing the marvelous sports car out of the barn and making it better than new. We both like what we call Palm Springs style and that ‘look’ became our goal.”
HOME: COMING BACK BETTERIn one day, 14 workmen turned the front yard into a disaster site piled high with sheetrock, insulation, old kitchen cabinets, carpet and ruined furniture. “I opened all the windows and doors and began airing out the place,” Mark says. “I was optimistic and determined to move back into the house as soon as possible.” Char cheered him on.
Mark’s new design called for the removal of the wall between the living and dining room and the one between the dining room and kitchen. Another wall was removed between the small office and the master bedroom. A dream master bathroom and tailored walk-in closet was retrofitted. The kitchen got a HOME: COMING BACK BETTERcomplete facelift with new, top-of-the-line cabinets. Bookshelves were removed from an entire wall in the den. “Removing the bookshelves was a concession Mark made for me,” Char, Public Relations Director for The Ritz-Carlton Hotels of New Orleans, says. “I wanted the wall space to display art.”
Acoustical tiles were added to the wall in the living room and ceiling in the master bedroom to enhance the advanced sound system throughout the house. It was Char’s idea to add the black pearl pebble tiles in the master bathroom. Bedrooms for Mark’s children, Nastassia, 17, and Hunter, 15, remained the same, with their shared bathroom completely updated with the same black tile that was used in the master bathroom. “We found a wonderful workman who took great pride in doing a perfect job installing the tile,” Char says. Mark quickly adds, “The most fortunate thing that happened to us was hiring Jay Hotard (Hotard General Contractors) to do the work. He was outstanding.”
HOME: COMING BACK BETTERChar admits that the house was furnished with a hodge-podge of things before the storm. “We did purchase some nice new things over the years,” she says. “But we still had leftovers and hand-me-downs around.”
The couple began in earnest to purchase just the right furniture, lighting, rugs, art and accessories. “I went online and downloaded photographs of the furnishings I thought would look good,” she continues. “Then Mark and I sat down and narrowed everything down to what we both liked best. A productive shopping trip to California between Christmas and New Year’s Day ended with us ordering almost everything we needed for the house.”
Char proudly praises her architect husband for coming up with such a great design. “I studied architecture for two years and I have a great appreciation for Mark’s talent.” Mark definitely feels it was a unique collaborative effort. “It’s amazing how well we agreed on everything,” he says. Construction was completed in April and the couple moved in immediately, becoming the first homeowners resettled in their neighborhood. “We never looked back,” Mark says. “And now we have an even better home than before,” Char adds.