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Mid-Century Perfect

The year is 1957: America still liked Ike, postage stamps cost threecents, “West Side Story” debuted on Broadway and Yul Brenner commandedthe silver screen with his Oscar-worthy performance in “The King &I.” Americans gathered around their black and white TV sets every weekto watch the misadventures of the ideal American family on Leave it to Beaver.Chances are, had the Cleavers lived in New Orleans, they may have takenup residence in the East Lakeshore neighborhood, right down the streetfrom the house Lisa Tudor and Fritz Stoller have called home since2002. Comfortably ensconced in their 4,300-square-feet, four bedroom,four and one-half bath residence, Tudor, Stoller and their twochildren, Jake and Chloe, live in a mid-20th century moderntime-capsule.

Mid-Century PerfectBuiltin 1957, this modern house on the Lakefront is a beautiful reminder ofthat era’s streamlined design. The front windows were bricked up by theprevious owners, but Lisa had them taken off so the house could getnatural light. Joseph Aranales of Garden of Eden Lawn Care installedand maintains the front and back yards.

“I stalkedthis house for about 10 years and when we bought it, we got it with allthe contents,” says Lisa. “When we were ready to move, we looked athouses for five years, but I always had my heart set on this one.”

Mid-Century PerfectChloeStoller reads a book in the family room. The dining table and chairsare Eero Saarinen reproductions from Knoll. The Mitchell Gold/BobWilliams couch and ottoman are from Villa Vici. The blinds are DarryYoung for Royal Window Coverings. The house’s terrazzo floors wererestored by David Bustamante of Stone Floors Restoration.

Mid-Century PerfectTheubiquitous Lola lounges by the pool, which was restored by JimmyLeonard of Aqua Care Pool Service. The Vermont slate tiles wererestored as well. The Bertoia chairs are original to the house.

Mid-Century PerfectIn the interior courtyard, the fishpond’s fountain is a piece of sand art by Jack Hastings from the New Orleans Gallery.

Mid-Century PerfectIfthe original owners, the Roussels, came back today, they wouldrecognize the living room as almost exactly how it was when they hadthe house built in 1957. The coffee table and side tables are by PaulMcCobb and are original to the house. The painting is among thosepieces specifically created for the house and were bought at thenow-closed New Orleans Gallery. The new items include the lamps on theside table from Interior Designs, the Hable Construction pillows on thecouch from Bellanoche and the curtains made of Knoll fabric byPeyroux’s Custom Curtains.

Mid-Century PerfectArchitectHarold Burns studied in Japan before he designed the house—and thatcountry’s influence can be seen in the layout and through specificelements, such as the interior courtyard with a fishpond and thesliding screens with plastic-like panels.

Unlike somepeople who would buy a mid-century home, this family did not attempt toalter the décor. Instead, the effort was to honor its heritage andpresent a true representation of the original architecture andinterior. Designed by Harold Burns of the architectural firm AugustPerez and Associates, and built by the Jones Brothers constructioncompany, the house was previously owned by the well-known Louis Rousselfamily. Today, the house still has its original artwork, furnishingsand some appliances.

Lisa and Fritz have good reasons to be thesecond owners of this half-century old home. Lisa is a freelance writerand stylist who has written extensively about architecture andinteriors. Fritz has a passion for collecting furniture, and hasstudied furnishings from various periods.

Mid-Century PerfectThedining room gets a bright shot of color—and of modern-day style—with apainting by Ricky Lemann. The dining room table and chairs are by PaulMcCobb. The painting over the buffet is from the New Orleans Gallery,the red lamp from Interior Designs. The light fixtures are original.

“I’vealways been interested in mid-century furniture,” Fritz says. “I’m wellversed in most periods, and design is something I’ve always had apassion for. It’s a hobby more than anything else, but I’m a collector.”

Forher part, Lisa says their common design sensibility is something sheand her husband have always shared. “When I went to his house for thefirst time, I instantly realized his sense of design was my sense ofdesign,” she says.

Mid-Century PerfectLola,the Italian greyhound, checks out the scene in the family room. Spiritpoles by John Geldersma hang over the fireplace. The Knoll chair andcouch are original, as is the Eero Saarinen table.

Mid-Century PerfectTheSubZero refrigerator from Marchand Creative Kitchens and the microwaveare just a few of the modern-day concessions made for the kitchen. Therest of the room is original: The Geneva Modern Kitchens blue metalcabinets, the pendant lights, the dual Thermador side-by-side stoves,the George Nelson clock for Herman Miller and the Herman Miller tableand chairs.

Mid-Century PerfectVintage zodiac glasses from the Gourd Garden in Rosemary Beach, Fla.

Lisa,with her effervescent, articulate nature, seems the perfect foil forFritz’s calm, measured demeanor. And, the house seems a truerepresentation of their mutual passion for design and periodarchitecture.

Mid-Century PerfectLisa in the bar located between the kitchen and the family room.

Thehouse quickly became a project of love for the family, close friendsand associates, Lisa says. “It was like a treasure hunt,” she says ofexploring the contents of the home. “I knew what a lot of it was, but Ididn’t know what all of it was—it was fun. We had friends who werearchitects. Everyone was interested and we were plugged into a groupwith common interests.”

Mid-Century PerfectThemaster bathroom has its original salmon Florida (4×4) ceramic tile,pendant lights and vanity with a pink granite counter. The crosscuttravertine floor is new and from Pieri Tile and Marble.

Whatthey found were remnants of a moment in American history when cleanlines, flat surfaces and squared edges defined interior design. “In itstime it was considered futuristic,” says Lisa. The house, framed byfloor to ceiling windows, provides diverse settings and views. From thedining room—furnished with an original Paul McCobb table, and a benchand sculpture also original to the house—guests look out into acourtyard with a fishpond. From the living room one can see theperfectly manicured lawn with the original lush carpet of zoysia grass.Other parts of the house look out on to the full-size, built-inswimming pool. In its time, the house was an enviable address—it stillis.

Mid-Century PerfectThemaster bedroom has a Paul McCobb dresser topped with avintage lamp. Thepainting is by Shelley Hesse. The zebra print chairis by Alvar Aalto.The “Kos” wool directional carpet is from ProSourceWholesaleFloorcoverings and was installed by James Alleman.

Lisa’streasure hunt revealed original turquoise metal kitchen cabinetry fromGeneva Modern Kitchens. The couple had the old twin electric Thermadorovens restored. “They give the house a certain authenticity that wedefinitely wanted to keep, and also for movies and that sort ofthing—movie companies look at the house when they are scoutinglocations for period pieces. But they’re not self-cleaning. We did putgas in where the electric range was, however.” 

Mid-Century PerfectLisa had the cabinetry in the closet restored. The Knoll vintage chair is from Agora, the teak side table from Pied Nu.

Thekitchen also features an original—and restored—George Nelson sunburstclock and Herman Miller formica table and vinyl chairs. Concessionshave been made for the sake of convenience (microwave oven, etc.), butclose your eyes and you can almost hear the theme from “I Love Lucy”emanating from a Magnavox, and picture an American mom pulling herperfect meatloaf from the oven.

There are other hints that 1957has come and gone—a flat-screen TV in the den, laptop computer,cordless phone. Still, the house is authentically mid-century modern.The original terrazzo floors are in stellar condition, as are theoriginal bathroom sinks with granite counters. An exquisite Asianscreen is original to the home, as is most everything that catches avisitor’s eye. The main concessions have been for energy efficiency,says Lisa.

“It’s not economical to operate, so we painted theroof white and put in ‘intelligent’ thermostats,” she says. The brickwalls were removed that had been erected blocking the glass windows inthe front. Today, the house feels airy, spacious and somehow, stillmodern.

Mid-Century PerfectThe Paul McCobb side table is original to the masterbedroom. The orange mohair pillow and bedding are from Bellanoche.

Someday the couple will probably sell the property.

“Weput a lot of effort into restoring the house,” Lisa says. “There hasnot been once piece of furniture that has not been touched or loved. Ifwe sold this place someday, I want to find somebody who will keep itgoing.”

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