Many important things in New Orleans have happened and continue to happen over cocktails or while chitchatting at parties. The interior design and decoration of Patti Farris’ French Quarter condo was no different.
Farris, a dermatologist who had a large home in Old Metairie, sent her kids off to college and was ready for a transition.
“I woke up one morning and was just so over it,” she says. “It was too much space, and I wanted a total change from suburban life. I thought, ‘The kids are gone; it’s time to have fun!’”
A friend told her about a warehouse property in the French Quarter that had been developed into condominiums. Knowing how much Farris loves New York, her friend described the place as being just like a Soho loft, and Farris was intrigued enough to go take a look.
“I fell in love with the space at first sight,” she says. “It was open with great light and had a huge great room. There was also a fabulous balcony overlooking the French Market. It was much more modern than anything I had ever lived in, but I liked the vibe –– kind of downtown hip.”
Soon after moving, a friend of Farris’ invited her to have drinks at the home of Lee Ledbetter of Ledbetter Fullerton Architects. “It was just beautiful,” she says of his home. “I loved the style. It was not overdone, not fussy, and that’s rare, especially with the backdrop of the French Quarter, where a lot of homes tend to be more formal.”
To return the hospitality, Farris invited Ledbetter to a party in her new condo, and he went crazy over the space –– but not the design. “He said, ‘Oh, I’d love to help you decorate this, but you’d have to be willing to get rid of everything,’” Farris recalls. “I said, ‘No problem. I’ll call you first thing Monday.’ And that was it.”
Some homeowners would be reluctant to give up all of their furniture, but not Farris. “Home is not about things or furnishings, per se,” she says. “And the Country French antiques I had just didn’t work. Lee taught me about the casual elegance of mid-century furnishings, and they were perfect in this setting.”
Farris developed this mature and philosophical approach to home décor as a result of having lived in and renovated numerous houses over the years. She says she has to put her touch on them before they truly feel like home.
As it was, the condo definitely fit Farris’ lifestyle –– “I am very informal and hate wasted space,” she says –– but to really make it her own, she was grateful for Ledbetter’s help.
“I did interior work,” he says of his contribution. “It was mostly interior design, but it included things that might also fall into architecture, such as the stair railing, the kitchen island and the lighting.”
With all of the hard work behind them now, they both are thrilled with the outcome, though they favor different things.
Farris loves the open floor plan, large galley kitchen and balcony, which she says make a perfect entertaining unit. “Lee and I enlarged the kitchen and added a large drop-down shade that could be lowered while entertaining,” she says. “I don’t like to see the mess in the kitchen, so that was a nice touch. I also love the two seating areas in the living room. One is centered around media/TV and the other for conversation.”
Ledbetter agrees that the openness of the whole area is nice, but his favorite detail is the color scheme. “I like the way it works with the existing material: the warmth of the wood ceiling and the hints of persimmon and orange in the exposed brick wall,” he says. “Rather than doing a predominantly neutral scheme, we chose to use color in a way that worked with what was already there.”
One point the two overwhelmingly agree on, however, is just how well they worked together.
“Without Patti’s enthusiasm and trust it never would have turned out the way it did,” Ledbetter says. “We didn’t just buy great things; we bought things with great provenance. The chandeliers are Murano from the ‘60s. The furniture is vintage from T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Edward Wormley and Gilbert Rohde. The bedroom lamps are by Karl Springer. Committing to those kinds of quality pieces took a lot of trust and a collector’s enthusiasm.”
Farris acknowledges that the whole experience took trust but says she is delighted that she put her trust in Ledbetter and gave him free reign. “Lee is an artist,” she says. “Working with him is such a pleasure, an experience. You wonder where it’s going, but then, in one great ‘Aha!’ moment, it all comes together. It was masterfully done.”