You might call it an exquisite compromise. Anne Simms Pincus, a native of Charleston, wanted an old house with Pre-Revolutionary South Carolina charm.
Her husband, Ron, wanted something new without the maintenance problems of historic residences. Fourteen years ago, amid the avant-garde manors of Lakeshore Drive, they built something to satisfy both of their hearts’ desires.
Designed by Eskew-Filson Architects, the home’s high ceilings and understated dignity provide a gracious setting for the family’s antique Chippendale furnishings, oriental rugs and 18th and 19th century oil paintings.
Recently, the Pincus family reinvigorated the interior, with the help of their friend Rosemary James, owner of Faulkner House Designs and also a Charleston native. The goal, Anne says in her delicate Charleston accent, was to convey “a feeling of warmth and happy, cozy family living.”
“It’s a traditional Southern family home,” Rosemary adds, “a special blend of both Charleston and New Orleans. The architectural features give the house a West Indies feeling not unlike many very early New Orleans homes, such as the Pitot House on Bayou St. John, and Charleston single houses.”
In the dining room, the eye is drawn up to the crown molding, which was given a gold leaf treatment, and to a strikingly handsome gilt-bronze chandelier Anne discovered at the French Antique Store on Royal Street.
Rosemary is particularly fond of the wall treatments, executed by Keith Guy Inc. The living and dining rooms and foyer are done in a subtle glazed finish, with the same bronze color as the silk taffeta draperies used to glaze over a soft gold oil paint. “One of the real benefits of wall glazing is that it gives you a light-bounce at night which is very romantic.” In the powder room, walls and ceiling are finished in silver leaf and then glazed with a bronze glaze for patina.
The location of the Pincus house – just over the levee from Lake Pontchartrain and with a fine view of both the lake and Lakeshore Fountain – is serene and provides soothing views for Ron’s one-hour walks each morning when the weather is fair. The view of Lake Pontchartrain from his personal gym on the top floor of the house is an incentive to work out inside.
Anne met Ron, a native of St. Augustine, Fla., in New Orleans and both fell in love with the city, as well as with each other. After living in what is possibly the most photographed house in the French Quarter during the early years of their marriage, they moved to the lakefront area, where they raised their sons, Alexander and Miles. Ron, chief operating officer of the Hotel Monteleone, has spent decades in local hotel management, while Anne owned a praline shop in the French Quarter until recently. Today, she spends many hours doing volunteer work. Currently, Anne is serving as chairman of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.
The Pincus house has a distinctly literary flavor. Among the many conversation pieces on display is a collection of antique books penned by Anne’s great-great-grandfather, William Gilmore Simms. This 19th century man of letters was a leading literary figure of his day; Edgar Allan Poe declared him to be the finest novelist America had ever brought forth. Engravings on the wall show Simms seated amidst a veritable pantheon of 19th century literati and important political figures of the South.
Gracing the dining room is the Simms family’s heirloom china and silver. Other features, such as the antique pine flooring re-milled from a barn in South Carolina, offer further reminders of Anne’s Charleston roots. Asked what the interior design says about Anne, Rosemary quips, “It says she’s from South Carolina and loves her heritage but it also declares her love for the quirkier, more frivolous and voluptuous and languid old courtesan, New Orleans, her adopted home for much of her life.”
Without question she appreciates a good coastal view. Her collection of fine paintings, many from South Carolina, others from Louisiana, is composed of coastal landscapes and seascapes. And, like most Charlestonians, she is addicted to watching the water.
The master bedroom features three sets of French doors leading to a wide balcony, which in turn overlooks the pool, patio and sweeping green space of the Pincus garden and beyond that, the lake. The piney expanse of the lake shore brings together foliage, sky and water in a green and azure marriage.
“It’s paradise,” Anne says, “waking up in this room.”