The happy endings are only beginning to reveal themselves in post-Katrina New Orleans. Exhibit A could easily be the palatial Lakeview home of Margaret Dubuisson Blitch and David Blitch. The 5,100-square-foot home is built on the same lot that was once the location of the 2,200-square-foot mid-20th-century house they occupied for 12 years. Although David lobbied hard for a move to English Turn, Margaret prevailed, and finally in October 2007, the family of five moved into their Lakeview dream home.
“We started one week after the storm sketching plans on napkins,” says Margaret. “The first few sketches were pure Disneyland fantasies dreamed up by David’s brother Ron Blitch, our architect. I guess he thought built-in trampolines and retractable basketball courts would make us feel better, and they probably did. Come on –– it was a week after Katrina.”
The plans were refined and revised continually while the family moved temporarily to Abita Springs and then to a condo in the Warehouse Arts district. Blitch Knevel Architects went to work, and C & G Construction became the contractor. It was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the family to realize everything they wanted in a home.
So what were the dreams made of? David wanted “everything that was missing from the old house and everything I ever dreamed of.” That includes a comfortable, wide-open house created for entertaining because the family loves to throw parties. It also includes cutting edge technology, security cameras throughout the property and a sophisticated sound system developed by a company called Off the Wall. The zoned music system provides individualized music in any room at any time. The media room on the second floor is also one of David’s passions. David, the food and beverage director at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel, lined the walls of the media room with posters and memorabilia signed by celebrities including Kenny Chesney, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Keaton, Elijah Wood, LeAnn Rimes, Sean Astin and Kim and Kourtney Kardashian.
Margaret, the director of communication for Catholic Charities, wanted 10-foot porches on the front and back of the house. “Mostly, I wanted a house that looked like it had been in New Orleans forever,” she says. “We pulled the exterior design from a house we saw on Esplanade Avenue. I also wanted a big dining room.”
Mission accomplished. The dining table seats 16, and the adjacent front entranceway is spacious enough to accommodate another full dining table. A handsomely appointed butler’s pantry serves as a walk-through from the dining room to the kitchen.
The Blitches, who both enjoy cooking, also wanted a gourmet kitchen. With an oversize island that faces the cooking area, the kitchen features a Thermador refrigerator and range and two Bosch dishwashers. The stunning granite used on the counters carries through to the butler’s pantry. Cabinetry was created by Colgan Cabinets for the kitchen, pantry and bathrooms.
Both of the Blitches got exactly what they wanted. For Margaret, the intimate library room just to the left of the front entrance serves as her sanctuary, reading room and quiet space. A doorway in that room leads to an area below the main staircase, which David turned into his wine cellar. After losing his entire valuable wine collection to Katrina, David was determined to begin again, and the newly constructed temperature-controlled space has allowed him to pursue his passion.
All first-floor areas lead to the elegant great room, with richly appointed handmade built-in bookshelves created by Jackson Cabinetry, the company also responsible for the built-ins in the library and upstairs hallway. The great room features the same Brazilian cherrywood flooring found in most of the downstairs rooms. Sunlight streams in from all directions, and comfortable furnishings reinforce the feeling that this house, with all of its upscale detailing, is a family home and truly lived in. The detailing is never more evident than in the artful molding found throughout, hand-done by Robert Beebe.
On the way up the imposing staircase, vertical leaded-stained-glass windows, created for the landing by Chris Caravella, are a focal point. Upstairs are three bedrooms –– in addition to the media room, which can be converted to a bedroom and features a full bathroom. Two master bedrooms were created upstairs, but the Blitches’ room is the one that stands out, mostly because of its largesse and lavish furnishings. The couple’s master bath is luxuriously filled with marble, featuring an oversize tub and, like almost every other room, a flat-screen television.
Along with the futuristic features (there is not a wire to be seen anywhere in the house; the kids’ bedrooms feature full electronic gaming capabilities; wireless Internet is available throughout), there is one tip of the sentimental hat to the past: “When they demolished our old house, I picked up six or eight bricks, and I carried them around in the back of my car,” Margaret says. “I didn’t know what I would do with them, but when they created the back steps, they laid my bricks in them. That still means a lot to me.”