A Green to Envy by LEE CUTRONE
ARCHITECT: John Wettermark, Wettermark & Keiffer
CONTRACTOR: Hal Collums, Hal Collums Construction
In 2001, when two local psychiatrists purchased the 1850 raised, Garden District cottage they now call home, they enlisted the help of architect John Wettermark of Wettermark & Keiffer and contractor Hal Collums to renovate the rundown 3,600- square- foot-house. Originally a double, the house had been turned into a single family home upstairs with several apartments on the ground level. Today, the entire house, upstairs and down, is a single family residence and all of its renewed rooms—including its kitchen—sparkle like polished gems.
The first thing you notice about the kitchen is the bright, apple green used on its cabinets. “I was never afraid of color,” says one of the owners, who chose a shade of green similar to one he’d seen during a lower Garden District home tour. “As a kid, my room was fire engine red.” But natural light, ease of movement and plenty of storage are also important parts of the pleasing picture. Wettermark designed the floor plan for the kitchen and the owners chose a combination of furnishings and finishes that give the room both a sense of history and a contemporary viewpoint. They opted for simple inset cabinets below the counters and glass-front cabinets above, combining them with a cool, pale blue on the walls, Carrera marble countertops, a backsplash of white subway tiles, stainless-steel appliances, dark-stained heart of pine floors and a matching island countertop.
A breakfast area, carved out of space that was previously part of the gallery encircling the house, provides a place for the owners to dine casually and watch television. Custom touches include a marble-top breakfast table and shelves made to accommodate storage baskets from Pottery Barn. Says one of the organized owners, “I like everything out of the way unless it looks nice.”
An Entertaining Idea by LEE CUTRONE
DESIGNER: Jose Alvarez
It’s hard to believe a 1960s ranch house once occupied the spot where this striking Uptown house, designed by Jose Alvarez, now stands. Alvarez, who built the house for himself before deciding to sell the finished product to aesthetically like-minded engineer Donal Rajasingam, incorporated the slab and perimeter walls of the previous house into a new two-story structure, which references and reinterprets elements of 20th-century modernism. Central to the design is the kitchen, which is entered at the front of the house and extends vertically and horizontally, connecting the various first and second story spaces.
“In Venezuela, the kitchen is the place where everyone ends up gathering,” says Alvarez of his native country. “I like to cook and invite people over, so I designed the house for entertaining.” Alvarez conceptualized the kitchen first and worked the rest of the house around it. With the architecture at the forefront, he was then able to outfit the space with budget-wise appliances and fixtures from resources like Sears and IKEA. “It’s all about the quality of the space,” says Alvarez. “The design overrides the need for high-end appliances.” Built-in cabinetry of warm-toned eucalyptus wood contrasts with the cool grays of the stainless-steel appliances, Formica countertops and stained concrete floors. All of this delineates the kitchen from the otherwise open first floor and also provides work and storage space. “I love the design,” says Rajasingam, who shares the house with girlfriend Gloria McCarter. “The intelligent and purposeful use of space gives the house an uncluttered feel. It’s ideal for entertaining, and is a pleasure to live in.”
An Old World View by LEE CUTRONE
BUILDER: Darren Schmolke of Schmolke Construction
A kitchen with an Old World flavor and an open floor plan was the mandate when Shawn and Angelina Burst, owners of Sales 360, collaborated with builder Darren Schmolke of Schmolke Construction to build their brand new home in Metairie Club Estates. With three children and a large extended family, the couple also wanted the kitchen to have lots of preparation and serving space, as well as overlook and provide access to the landscaped pool and patio area located at the rear of the house. To accomplish the task, the Bursts had their cabinets custom made and finished with a rubbed glaze by Northshore artisan Dan Whitaker. They also added legs to both the island in the center of the room and the stove to give the pieces the look of freestanding furniture rather than built-ins. The room’s neutral palette, inspired by the rest of the house (Benjamin Moore’s HC44 – half formula is used on the kitchen walls and throughout the house) and by the creamy marble chosen for the countertops, is contrasted with dark stains on the woodwork of the island and the heart of pine floors. Opus Anticota Diamante tiles were used for the backsplash behind the stove and elegant Kohler faucets were used to outfit the room’s two sinks. Angled along one side of the room is a bar-height counter paired with ebony colored stools for informal dining or visiting. “It’s great for entertaining,” says Angelina of the completed space. “God blessed us with a beautiful home.”
The Spa Resort by BONNIE BABER
ARCHITECT: William Sonner
DÉCOR/STYLING: Maragaret Meyer Designs
Inspired by its intrinsic beauty, architect William Sonner strove to retain the original details of a historic Uptown home while renovating its master bathroom. “The house is beautiful as it is,” he says, so the 14-foot ceilings, elaborate crown plaster moldings, door casings and 8-foot transoms partnered perfectly with his design plan. “When you have all that, you want to stay within the realm.” The idea was to maintain the integrity of the house while giving the homeowners the spacious, contemporary master bathroom they wanted. The result is a lofty, inviting spa-like bathroom that even doubles as the favorite unofficial party venue for sipping cocktails and engaging in conversation.
The home’s residents, frequent entertainers, vividly recollect those times when they’ve stumbled upon a gathering of houseguests lured in by the luxurious appeal of the room’s Mediterranean mix of cool stone surfaces and warm woods.
“It was nice to be able to do something this grand and have the space to do it,” Sonner says of the large-scale room. Being that he had so much vertical space to work with, custom modifications—such as raising the heights of the granite-topped vanities, cabinets and step-up tub—were easily made to accommodate the homeowners, who are both tall.
Sonner utilized natural materials in a neutral palette of beige that flatters the room’s ambience, as if the colors are designed to take a backseat to the architecture. It’s a color scheme that takes its cue from the all-white bathroom, offering a crisp, clean feeling, but without being dull. The trim on the faux wall panels were molded and stained to match the original walnut medallions and casings on the crown, doors and built-in cabinets.
Sometimes it’s seemingly the most irrelevant detail that ties it all together. In the center of the creamy travertine floor, a granite starburst design mimics the granite pattern of the slabs used on the countertops and tub—a stylish focal point. Allowing elements of nature to infiltrate the space contributes to the spa resort feel, and plenty of double-hung windows with duet blinds let sunlight stream in.
Of course, there are the external details, but it is also what the eye can’t see that is equally amazing: A new water heater and special pipes for increased water supply were installed, while a radiant floor warming system, consisting of strategically placed electric floor mats under the marble, ensures added comfort. With its generous proportions and inviting color scheme, how could one retire here at the end of a long day and not feel inspired?
Garden Paradise by BONNIE BABER
ARCHITECT AND DESIGNER: Lee H. Ledbetter, Ledbetter Fullerton Architects
Architect and designer Lee Ledbetter knew the “tile-tale” signs of redesigning the powder room in his and his partner, Doug Meffert’s home, which dates back to 1850. This small space, which flows off the kitchen, had a wall expanse covered with irregular Italian terra-cotta tiles. Luckily, finding the perfect replacement tiles in a mag- nificent iridescent jade hue to shield the original stucco proved to be an eye-dazzling experience. “The way light moves across it is amazing,” he says. “When sunlight or indirect light comes through, the tiles just glow.”
But the green tiles catching the light are only part of what makes this powder room feel like a garden paradise. There’s the actual garden itself, which is viewed through a full glass wall. Ironically, what ties it all together is the utter contrast: the intricate small patterns of floor-to-ceiling tile juxtaposed with the large-scale plant life outside.
Re-tiling the walls and changing all the fixtures was no simple feat. “This little bathroom turned out to be a huge ordeal,” Ledbetter says about the painstaking detail involved. First, he removed the only non-stucco wall, replacing the sheetrock with mirrored glass. Directly across from that, he retained the glass wall that showcases a luscious garden full of hostas, ferns and rubber trees. The mirrored wall reflecting the window created the illusion of having the dense large-scale greenery on both sides. Surrounded by flora, he says, “You actually feel like you’re showering in the garden.”
For the mirrored portion, he chose a discolored or “contaminated” finish. “It has a lot of age spots,” he says. Within that, he designed an illuminated niche that has a 2 1/2-inch-thick cast-glass shelf in its center that matches the cast-glass vessel nearby.
The shower is not compartmentalized, but rather there is a floor drain as well as faucets located overhead and on the wall space near the window, along with a “low faucet” for filling buckets or hosing off shoes.
With its modern slant, the room begged for something else to add more character and depth. Ledbetter sought to bring something charming and antiquated into the ambiance, and he found just that: an impressive carved Murano glass vanity mirror. “Its emerald-green color and curvy Baroque style reminded me of the plants outside the window,” he says.
Elegant banana-leaf motif wallpaper in the kitchen frames the entrance, further capturing the garden theme, or as he says, “It’s like extending the garden into the house.” The powder room’s total effect is relaxing, but also energizing, as it awakens and refreshes the senses—even if there is no shower involved.
Geometric Eye Candy
by BONNIE BABER
ARCHITECTS: Nick Marshall and Gabe Smith, Nodesign
DESIGNER/SHOP MANAGER: Justin Richards, Nodesign
ACRYLIC FABRICATOR/INSTALLER: Nodesign
Hardly what one would call a “restroom,” this edgy space is the brainchild of architectural design duo Nick Marshall and Gabe Smith and designer Justin Richards. Small but uniquely shaped, the space needed an equally off-kilter use of materials to set it off. The result is a powder room that’s a study in geometric principles—trapezoids and triangles juxtapose to form zigzag patterns that create the illusion of being wrapped in a web. Except this web is spun in red faux fur against a layer of super-mod opaque white acrylic.
The powder room, Richards explains, is actually the grand finale of what he calls the home’s “sequence of discovery,” whereby visitors begin by walking up a side staircase blanketed by an elaborate fur wall. “The idea was to take guests by surprise,” he says, “and for the powder room to be the next episode,” by using odd materials in different, exciting ways.
“We wanted to capture the room’s awkward shape by paneling the walls to exploit the various facets and shift in wall planes,” he says. “We also wanted a shocking color to contrast with the pure white acrylic.” A deep-red faux-fur trim matching the stairwell outlines the joints of the panels, and proliferates in other spots to break those panels down into even smaller ones, “making this a strange space to stand in,” he says.
Rather than hang wall mirrors, the design team mirrored two panels—one above the lavatory and one on the opposite wall. “The triangular and trapezoidal-shaped mirrors replace what would have been plain white panels otherwise,” Richards says.
The faceted fur-trimmed theme continues on the ceiling. But instead of continuous opaque panels, translucent acrylic covers several cut-outs in the ceiling, enabling strategically placed lights to illuminate the room. There are no external lighting fixtures.
“Whether the visitor finds the space cool, pristine, tacky or even mildly obscene is entirely up to them,” Richards says. “Our intention is to question what a tiny space ought to be, and to engage the imagination.” •