Every age experiences progress. Older buildings fall into disrepair and are replaced with something new. Visionary thinkers want to brush away the cobwebs of staid ideas. Trends are constantly changing, updating as fast as an app on a smartphone. The juxtaposition of modern architecture alongside centuries-old buildings happens in every city in the world. Preservationists and modernists are sometimes at odds until a compromise happens either by choice or by mere force of events.
In New Orleans, a city so rich and beloved for its historical homes and architecture, it is somewhat startling to see new forms emerge. Still it has been happening since the city’s founding by the French. The French Quarter burned to the ground in its earliest days, and those first wooden structures were replaced with brick buildings ordered by Spain who occupied New Orleans for 60 years of its trajectory. That iconic architecture still survives to this day, now protected and preserved. As the Americans took over and expanded, another vernacular of homes and business edifices took over. Many of these structures still exist, though many went the way of the wrecking ball or hurricanes. The development of more open-air neighborhoods near Lake Pontchartrain in the mid-20th century saw an onslaught of low-slung ranch houses. Well-known and beloved architects Albert Ledner, Leonard Spangenberg, Nathaniel “Buster” Curtis, John Lawrence and the firm of Curtis and Davis peppered the city with modernistic vistas. Take a walk on Magazine Street and witness the current updating of shotgun cottages used as retail shops and stores, spiffed up with wide contemporary windows and exterior finishes. The look is fresh and familiar at the same time. Slick, newly-built buildings are nestled in among the old, giving the city visual footing in the 21st century.
Still, many wonder why on earth would one want a new built contemporary home in New Orleans when there are so many glorious grande (and petite) dames available.
Ken and Jordan Kleinschmidt commissioned a 4,000-square-foot new home in the Lakeview neighborhood. The neighborhood is dotted with the original housing built when it was first developed. Since Hurricane Katrina, a wealth of new structures have cropped up, some in the Acadian style, and many more along modern lines. The Kleinschmidts built their former home along the lines of classic Acadian style.
Jordan had all the bells and whistles that went along with the French style so beloved in New Orleans. There were high ceilings with traditional chandeliers, silk drapes, antique furnishings and lots of accessories that made the home a showpiece. Then two children and two large dogs came along, and the house was no longer a great fit. The couple owned the lot next door, and decided to build a home more in line with their lifestyle. They wanted something clean, modern and easy to maintain. Jordan had worked as a professional home organizer, and wanted her new home to reflect her skill set.
The couple worked with architect Charles Silbernagel of ClS Architects. Situated directly across the street from the Orleans Avenue Canal, the site presented a unique set of challenges. The levee walls constructed in the early 20th century have a clean and charming appearance topped with accents of neoclassical urns. The expansive vista of wall and sky provide a perfect setting for the new Kleinschmidt home.
“The Kleinschmidts came to us with ideas of a modern space,” Sibernagel says. “In various design development meetings, we got to learn and understand the owner’s lifestyle and personality, wherein we created a unique floor plan and façade that exceeded the owners’ expectations.
“When you enter the home, you are greeted with a two-story foyer and a flood of natural daylight; the u-shaped staircase gives the owner a space for a conversational seating area. The foyer then leads to an open living space wrapped with a glass wall to create an indoor/outdoor environment. The intention was that the living room, kitchen and dining room all have outdoor views, bringing you to an oversized patio where there is additional seating and an outdoor kitchen, leading to a linear pool.
“The second floor is a private bedroom space, with the master suite across the entire back of the house overlooking the pool.”
A palette of all white finishes is a surprising choice with two young boys and two large dogs. It was a challenge selecting the variant in whites across all of the different materials being used. Jordan says that she wanted to keep everything simple with no fuss.
“I want to focus on being present,” says Jordan, who is meticulously organized. Her pantry is a dream, even down to the salty snacks presented in several-clearly labeled containers. The Kleinschmidts enlisted the help of interior designer Heather Somers of Elan Studio Design. Furnishings are sleek and comfortable, with durable outdoor fabric employed for the upholstery. So far it is standing up to little hands and dog paws with a wipe of a cloth. More artwork will be added along the way in phase two of the decoration of the house.
“At first glance New Orleans is known for its traditional architecture,” says Silbernagel. “However, throughout its history modern forms of architecture are scattered throughout the city, from Art Deco to midcentury modern influences. This is what makes our city and the fabric of our neighborhoods so unique.”
Architect: Charles Sibernagel ClS Architects; Interior Design: Heather Somers with Elan Studio Design; Artwork: Holly Mabry Poole and Lisa Conrad; Construction: Chad Brown with Strongbuilt Construction Services; Lighting: Heather Somers from Hudson Valley Lighting; Cabinets: Legend Interiors; Quartz countertops: Avalon Marble; Pool: Cornerstone Pools; Fire rock pavers: LA Pavers; All flooring, tile and plumbing fixtures: Triton Stone; Landscaping: Mullin