New Build of the Year

Persistent planning, collaboration and hard work combine to create a Lake vista family’s dream home
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Rachel Forstall’s No. 1 priority when designing the house was to have a floating staircase.

Native New Orleanians Chris and Rachel Forstall first met at his cousin’s wedding in 2004, and the dynamic duo has been inseparable ever since. Chris, who has wanted to be a veterinarian since he was in fifth grade, opened Southshore Animal Hospital in Metairie (along with Dr. Mark Pearce and Dr. Philip D’Antonio) in June 2013. Rachel, meanwhile, works as the practice manager. In addition to owning and managing two veterinary practices — the others include Southshore Animal Hospital at Frenchman’s Creek — the Forstalls have three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 6. They also have two family dogs, Pearl, a Maltipoo and Reb, a red Labrador Retriever. So when it came time to build their dream home, the Forstalls knew they wanted a low-maintenance home with durable finishes suitable for their children and pets. They also wanted their home to serve as a retreat from their busy lives with clean, modern lines and dramatic focal points.

The Forstalls worked closely with architect, Charles E. Ruello; designer, Jacquelyn Lindsey, owner of JL Studio Designs; and Brad Landry, owner of Cypress Creations, to bring their ideas to life. Chris was raised in Lake Vista, and, after he and Rachel married in 2006, they set a goal to move back to the neighborhood. They purchased a lot in Lake Vista in May 2008, but they weren’t quite ready to build their dream home just yet. Years later, when the house next to their lot went up for sale, they decided to purchase it as well. Finally, in April 2018, they demolished the existing home and broke ground on their 7,214-square-foot dream home spanning both lots the following month.

“The house that we see today was an end result of a circuitous journey,” Ruello says. “When we first started planning for this residence, it was a fairly traditional design. Each time I met with the owners, they showed me more contemporary ideas. We scrapped the original design when they bought the lot next door, and we were able to elongate the plan.”

Ruello drew the house plans by hand — a veritable lost art in today’s technology-driven world — with the rear of the house facing the street, and the front facing circulation lanes and green breezeways. The home is divided into three wings and features five bedrooms, five bathrooms and two half baths. The east wing consists of the master bedroom, master bathroom, two master closets and a study. Meanwhile, the middle wing houses the great room, dining room, kitchen, breakfast area and playroom, with their daughters’ bedrooms and a guest room located above on the second floor. Finally, the west wing contains the garage, storage areas and a second-floor “man cave.”

During the planning process, which started when the couple purchased the first lot, the Forstalls pored through magazines, Pinterest and Houzz for inspiration. They contacted JL Studio early in the process, and, as a result, Lindsey was able to collaborate with Ruello to further enhance the interior design and flow of the home. “We spent several months tweaking the floor plans, creating lighting layouts, designing cabinetry elevations and space-planning the furniture,” Lindsey says. “Through continual communication and weekly site visits, we were able to develop each intricate detail as the project was progressing.”

The open floor plan has minimal transitions, allowing the family to spread out and feel comfortable in their day-to-day activities. Crucial to having a low-maintenance home was choosing a flooring material that worked well for their active lifestyle but would enhance the architecture. They decided on a durable concrete floor in a smooth finish for the interior, and a slip-resistant, broom-finish texture for the exterior near the pool. By mixing in the same color for both the interior and the exterior concrete, the house feels more expansive while connecting the two spaces. A large NanaWall sliding-glass door further connects the interior with the exterior.

From the start, Rachel’s No. 1 priority was to have a floating staircase. Soon, a large sculpture will provide added interest to the space. She and Chris also wanted unobstructed views of City Park, a feature that was accomplished with floor-to-ceiling windows.

However, due to the large windows, every design aspect had to be considered not only from the inside looking out, but also from the outside looking in. “It was crucial that the light fixtures throughout the home complemented each other as a whole, because they are all seen together from every exterior view of the house,” Lindsey says. “The shell of the house is a bold design, so we selected oversized, sculptural light fixtures to complement the architecture and mass of the house.”

The high contrast of the black-and-white color palette allows the windows to speak as an architectural feature, and it gives the house drama with minimal ornamentation. “I wanted our house to pop,” Rachel says. “I love the dramatic vibe that the contrast brings.”

In keeping with the black-and-white scheme, the Forstalls focused heavily on the marble kitchen hood and fireplace walls. “The two mirror each other, so we wanted them to be wrapped in the same material,” Rachel says. “We decided to look for a piece of marble that looked like a piece of art.” They searched for nearly one year for stone that had a clean black-and-white color palette with dramatic veining and no gold tones running throughout. After an exhaustive search, they achieved a bold statement with Greylac marble from Triton Stone Group. Lindsey and her team worked closely with Joe Pieri, owner of Pieri Tile & Marble Co., to bookmatch the marble veins for perfect symmetry. “It was a labor of love, but it was well worth it,” Rachel adds.

In addition to the stonework, every other inch of this home was thoroughly planned to serve the Forstalls needs now and in the future. “Chris was particularly great at making sure the house would work as our needs change,” Rachel says. “I always tell everyone that this house didn’t happen overnight; we worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get the home of our dreams.”