“I’m not a designer or a decorator—I’m a stylist.”
Looking back, Margaret Zainey Roux recalls that her love of old houses and interior design began early.
“Growing up in the early ‘80s everybody wanted the Barbie Dream House, but I wanted an old school Victorian dollhouse,” says the native New Orleanian. “Even as a child, I was more intrigued with that type of environment. My mom said I used to ask if I could paint the walls inside the dollhouse.”
The interest of her formative years led to a career as a writer and stylist for a list of local and national design and shelter magazines that currently includes Traditional Home, Flower, Southern Home, and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles. It also led Margaret, her husband, Tre’ (an attorney) and their two young sons, ages 11 and eight, to a gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian with timeless architecture and exquisite details that she is still discovering.
The Rouxs were at a crossroads with their previous house when their current abode, located on the same street just five blocks away, went up for sale. They knew they either had to renovate or move and were determined to stay in the same neighborhood next to Audubon Park. Having been updated by previous owners, the Queen Anne was in excellent condition, and though it meant redoing the kitchen, adding a mudroom and re-landscaping to achieve their final ideal, it checked a laundry list of boxes, including lots of natural light and a floorplan that flows well for family and entertaining.
The house, which features a double gallery, wrap-around porches and a turret, was built in 1903 by Joseph Dreuil, who hired the reknowned architecture firm of Soulé and MacDonnell to design/construct the residence in the classic Queen Anne Victorian style. In addition to being a good fit for the family (there is a large front yard, where the two boys often play football or soccer), the house spoke to both Margaret’s traditional aesthetic and her husband’s love of history.
“I’m a writer so, naturally, I’m drawn to pieces that tell a story,” says Margaret. “I paid respect to the home’s rich architectural roots by bringing in crusty antiques and décor drenched in patina. Anything too new, too minimal or too sleek just wouldn’t feel at home in this house, but anything too ornate would feel staid and stuffy.”
As she did in the Rouxs’ previous home, Margaret interjected her sense of style into every room by striking a balance between lightheartedness and formality, juxtaposing old and new, high and low, serious and playful whenever the spirit moved her. She also enlisted youthful appointments that reflect her family’s modern lifestyle and her passion for pink.
“For better or for worse, I brought it with me,” she says of the rosy color scheme, which is comfortable enough for the male majority and casual enough for daily life. “I chose saturated hues like coral and melon to make a bold statement and threw in some black and gilded accents to invoke a little edge. Together, the look is fresh, fun and not overly feminine. It captures who we are as a family.”
Her eye for detail, honed over her years as a photo stylist fussing over the fold of a bed skirt or the drape of a curtain, is played out in the way a delicate antique desk is modernized with a Lucite and sheepskin chair, the pairing of pink armchairs and a zebra rug, the mixing of a carved Swedish console and a quintet of Native American vases with a similar marbleized look.
“The nuts and bolts are traditional,” she says, “but I give myself the liberty to throw in something unusual if it makes me smile.”
Among the things she’s come across unexpectedly over the years and used in this house are a collection of Mayan, Incan and Eastern Indian ceremonial vestments that her husband had stored after they’d been given to him by his father, and a pair of vintage French sconces she picked up at an estate sale and tucked away until she found a place for them. A sofa from her parents’ first house has found a forever home in her living room. Once chintz with exposed legs, it is now reupholstered in cotton-velvet with a skirt.
The spacious foyer, high ceilings and grand carvings of the house also called for the addition of some new, more copiously-sized pieces. In the sunroom, which had to be furnished almost from scratch, Margaret chose roomy, sink-in seating. Inspired by the views of the ginger, holly and sweet olives that can be seen through the room’s 7-foot windows and 9-foot French doors, the color green is the focus. She designed new window treatments for every room in the house and changed all of the lighting as well.
The selection of art in the house includes works by one of Margaret’s oldest friends, Alexis Walter, as well as new friends like Tony Mose and Evelyne Clinton. But, as layered, lovely and rose-colored as the house is thanks to Margaret’s talents, she praises the bones of the house as the groundwork for all that came later.
“The architectural detail set this house apart and knocked us on the head,” she says. “I’m, still three years later, noticing things: a beautiful brass doorknob on the inside of the laundry room, the spindles of the banister in the foyer, the marble mantle, the arch underneath the staircase, the rosettes on the columns, even the little cups on the pocket doors. You could never replicate this or source all the details.”
Margaret Zainey Roux’s Tips For Styling
As a writer and stylist, Margaret has completed projects in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and, most recently, New York for both local and national magazines including Traditional Home, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Flower, and Southern Home, among others.
“I’m not a designer or decorator — I’m a stylist,” she says. “They create spaces, whereas I create ‘snapshots’ — those pretty little moments on a coffee table, book shelf or mantel that might not make an overwhelming first impression when you enter a room, but will hopefully leave you with a lasting impression once you’ve sat down and absorbed the details.”
The following are her top three styling essentials:
Books. They’re not just for reading! Beyond the obvious information and inspiration they provide, they’re invaluable assets when it comes to bringing color to a bookshelf or height to a table. When browsing (either in a shop or in your own personal library), look for those books with eye-catching spines for a vertical display or for elegant cover art if they’ll be stacked jacket-up.
Boxes. Whether it’s rustic, lacquered or painted, a decorative box is perhaps the prettiest and most practical of all home accessories. Aside from its aesthetic function, it can work double duty to corral remote controls on a coffee table, tech chargers on a desk and corks and coasters on a bar. Take off the lid and it becomes an unexpected alternative to a traditional planter or vase.
Something bizarre. An architectural fragment, a papier-maché mask or a natural curiosity like coral or quartz can recall a memory, convey your interests or become a conversation starter all while lending dimension, color and texture to any surface. Elevate your piece with an easel; and it instantly transforms into an objet d’art.