In Harmony

Fall is upon us—and the cool breezes of the season also bring in a fresh mood. Cristy and Travis McNabb show how a small space can be a home for good design. In Dorothy Clyne’s condominium, a soothing shade creates a backdrop for chic furnishings and art. For five intrepid professionals, their home offices are not only areas to work, but also sources of inspiration. And the finishing touch? Window treatments—six, in fact—show how different looks can create a new ambiance.

The front porch is a relaxing spot to read or socialize. The porch furniture is from Wal-Mart and the curtains made of sun-brella fabric are from West Elm.

It has been said that New Orleans is a place that reveals itself slowly, and sometimes not at all. Consider the home of Cristy and Travis McNabb. From the street, there is no indication of what might be behind the gates, but once inside, the home is possibly one of the best examples of converting a relatively small space into an eminently livable and (dare we say?) magazine-quality residence.
The 800-square-foot property is a rich mix of cool Asian architecture and décor, smartly mixed with Louisiana flavor and New Orleans chic. Cristy, who co-owns the upscale men’s clothing store, Style Lab for Men, and Travis, drummer for alternative rock band Better than Ezra, used to live just around the corner in an elegant 2,000-square-foot house. So, how and why would a young, upwardly mobile couple downsize so early in life?

“We were in the bigger house for seven years, and we had owned this house as an investment property for about four years,” says Cristy. “In a word, we moved because of the storm. We had thought about moving into the smaller space maybe 10 years down the road, but after the hurricane we owned five properties in the city and we sold all of them except this one.”

The living room is full of Cristy and Travis’ discoveries from around the world and New Orleans.
The upside of the McNabbs’ property divestments is that they could not be happier with their decision. Their joy of living in a small space is evident from the first step inside. After a walk through a well-manicured Asian-inspired garden—and a greeting from their two dogs, Marge, a Great Dane, and Ruby, a shepherd mix—as well as a step up to a room-size covered porch, visitors enter the well-lit, airy living room. Floors are made of bamboo throughout, except for the bedroom which features cork flooring. The original eight-foot-ceiling has been opened up to a more expansive 11 feet, by eliminating what used to be an attic.

Cristy and Travis like to entertain, and neighbors Tariq and Jennifer Hanna join them for a glass of wine.

If the furnishings look new, that is strictly by design. “The house we lived in next door was built around 1860 as the caretaker’s house for the Delachaise plantation,” Cristy says. “So we had kept it true to its period with antique and period furnishings. When we moved in here, we were ready for a more contemporary space. The clean lines of this place sort of begged for a different look.”

“Different” is an understatement. Eclectic elegance might be more accurate. Low, comfortable sofas form an L-shape sitting area in the living room, and an old piano backs up to the kitchen island to create an unlikely room divider. Distinctive stainless-steel light fixtures hanging from open wire over the island are deliberately imposing. The dining table fits neatly between an exterior wall on one side and the island on the other. The McNabbs wisely retained a few antiques that mix easily with the newer furnishings.

Sleek Ikea cabinets anchor the kitchen. Thelamp above the sink is also from Ikea. Adding to the modern feel areCorian countertops and the white/blue iridescent glass tiles on the wall. The print is by Walter Anderson.
Smaller spaces often pose the greatest challenges for designers and builders. Travis, who clearly has an eye for design, created the porch and conceptualized most of the interior design. “Travis saw a great modern shed in Dwell magazine, and he tried to duplicate that feel for the covered porch and the deck,” Cristy says. Opposite the entrance to the house is a small, new structure which serves as a private guest room. Contractor Gene Harris did the build out with Travis, while contractor Ray Leach handled the exterior.

Anyone who lives in small spaces will attest to the fact that the livability quotient has everything to do with ingenious design. The kitchen could be exhibit A—stylish stainless-steel appliances fit pleasingly and unobtrusively along one wall.

In fact, it is the wall space that draws visitor’s eye throughout the home. In the surprisingly spacious bedroom, a David Harouni painting occupies space over the bed. A Walter Anderson print was used on the wall by the dining table. A guitar is placed off-center on a living room wall, just down from a large flat-screen television.

Cristy and Travis McNabb. Behind them is a metal cabinet they bought at the “Failure to Launch” prop sale (the movie was partly filmed inNew Orleans). The lucite Philippe Starck lamp is from Design withinReach.

Anyone who fears contemporary design equals artistic sterility can rest easy after a visit to the McNabb home. “We have a lot of friends who are designers, and one of them said he loves that we brought in the mixture of things I buy at auction with the modern pieces,” Cristy says.

The best part of the house is its simplicity, says Cristy. “The transition from the old house has been wonderful,” she says. “I thought I would miss that house terribly, but moving into this house has simplified my life in ways I could not have imagined. The quality of our life is better. The layout is perfect—it’s conducive to constant communication. And dinner parties on the deck are delightful. As it turns out, we were so ready for this move.”

The Murano glass lamps from the 1950s add an eccentric glamour to the guesthouse. The linens are Amenity Home, the headboard and base from Hurwitz-Mintz. The silk curtains are from West Elm.


 

When Cristy saw this mermaid years ago, she says she had to have it. The bathtub was found at an architectural salvage store. The cabinets are from Ikea.


The guitar was a gift from Cristy to Travis. The Arco lamp is a reproduction. The Barcelona chairs are original.


A painting by David Harouni looks out over the master bedroom. Unlike the other main rooms in the house, this room has a cork floor. The wardrobe and bureau are from Ikea. The bedding is from Crate & Barrel.