Christine and Matt Lejeune had two young daughters and a third on the way when they decided to build a new house in Old Metairie where Christine grew up.
The plan was to create a home that is elegant and uncluttered for adults, and lives comfortably and easily for a family with children.
Initially, the couple, then living in Lakeview, worked with a realtor to buy a house in Old Metairie rather than build one. She led them to builder Larry Schneider of Schneider Construction & Restoration, who was planning a spec house on a lot in Old Metairie. When tweaking that house to include a garage for Matt proved impossible, Schneider offered to sell the lot to the Lejeunes and work with them on a new design that he would build.
Starting from scratch meant that the Lejeunes, both attorneys, could give their house the amenities they wanted up front and not have to add them later. In addition to wanting to live in Old Metairie, they wanted each of the girls to have her own bedroom, bath, and desk, all of the kid’s rooms to be on the same floor, and a playroom where the kids could hang out. Matt also wanted a garage and an outdoor kitchen.
Working with Schneider, architect Lindsay Woolf of Woolf Architecture & Interiors, and interior designer Rivers Spencer, they settled on a design with classic, historically-rooted architectural features: crown moldings, floor-to-ceiling windows, several bay windows, wood floors, marble counters, fireplaces, built-in shelving, a covered patio, gas lanterns, touches of copper and a roomy garage.
“In our initial meeting, Christine and Matt mentioned incorporating a bay window somewhere,” Woolf said. “The idea of a bay window was a jumping off point in the design. I went big with the bay window – it spans floor to ceiling and is a primary focal point of the front façade.”
Woolf gave the bay window a modern twist with an unusual mullion pattern and repeated it on a smaller scale in the back of the house where she created a kitchen banquette especially for the children.
Downstairs, the open floor plan includes living room, dining room, kitchen, mudroom, laundry and master suite and has sophisticated details conducive to entertaining. The kitchen features a huge island and there is a built-in bar with gleaming glass and tile off of the living room. Upstairs is the kids’ domain. There is a bedroom and bath for each, a playroom/media room with a costume closet, a custom wall of cabinetry for supplies, toys and games, and several work areas that have proved useful during the homeschooling required during COVID-19 quarantine. There is also a guest room.
At the heart of the way the house manages to be grown up and kid friendly at the same time is the abundance of storage.
“One of my big things is that I had to have storage,” Christine said. “I told our architect ‘when we think we have too much storage, let’s add more.’”
The mudroom (one of the most requested items in custom home building says Woolf) provides specific places to house the kids’ school bags and athletic gear so that, as Christine explained, “The kids can just grab and go.” The laundry room is located adjacent to the mudroom so that wet swimsuits and dirty play clothes can be dropped off before entering the main house.
Even the decorating decisions were made with children in mind. For every fabric, surface and piece of furniture that Spencer presented, Christine asked herself whether or not the girls would like the item and whether or not it would stand up to their wear and tear.
Christine’s ideal vision was a beautiful white interior that would stand the test of time in terms of both style and durability. Woolf made sure the design had plenty of windows and natural light. Spencer responded with a mix of custom, antique and contemporary pieces that could be easily changed with accessories and incorporated smart fabrics (the breakfast area’s banquette is upholstered with a smart velvet), washable fabrics (the bedding in the master bedroom is washable), treated fabrics (on sofas and chairs) and stain resistant rugs (like the one in the media room) that are a match for little hands and feet.
I think I was going for livable elegance,” Christine said. “I wanted it to be pretty, but I wanted my children to be comfortable.”
While Matt focused on making sure the bones of the house were structurally sound and on researching and choosing appliances, Christine worked with Spencer to choose every surface, fixture and furnishing.
“The only thing that exceeds the number of choices you have to make when building a house is the number of options,” said Christine, who found that working with professionals eased the process. “One thing that was really important to us was to develop really good relationships with the people we were working with. When you do that and you have good communication, then there are no surprises.”
Among Christine’s favorite parts of the house are the pair of trumeaux mirrors that are focal points in the master bedroom (Spencer found them in Paris and the room was designed around them) and the master bath, which she calls her oasis. Matt’s highlights are the garage, the temperature-controlled wine room and the outdoor kitchen where he often chefs. The kids unanimously agree that the media room is their space of choice. But it’s Christine who has the final word that sums it all up:
“It’s met all of our needs as a family,” she said. “That’s why it’s a custom home.”