Painting a New Picture
For those who doubt the old adage, “What goes around comes around,”consider George Demmas. By his own description, George had an idyllic childhood, growing up in a sprawling Uptown home adjacent to Tulane University. Now, a few decades later, George is once again living inthe house, but this time his wife, Raine Bedsole, and daughters, Massey, 10, and Tsana, 13, are there with him.
“There are obviously a lot of similarities because it is the same place,” says George, who owns Generations Hall and also works in the insurance business. “But my parents were into Renaissance art and the walls were painted differently—it was just a different kind of house then. Now, because of Raine, it’s a unique place and more funky. Raine is the talent and she has the eyes that created everything.”
The family room is a blend of comfortable neutrals given an extra jolt with animal prints. The drawing of the hand, ca. 1885, is by Sir Charles Holroyd, the first director of the Tate Museum. It was a gift to Raine from her husband, George. Mary Tate made the curtains throughout the house.
That comes as no surprise to those who know Raine Bedsole, a local artist who also has a stunning French Quarter studio. Bedsole wanted a more contemporary, airy atmosphere. A walk through the spacious home quickly reveals that an artist lives here. “You can seemy touches in the dining room, for example, where I rubbed the walls with a terra cotta color,” she says. “To me the important thing about this house is the backdrop we create for the art.” In some cases, the backdrop was created simply by tearing off the old wallpaper and leaving the wall exposed.
Raine Bedsole in her studio in the French Quarter.
In the living room are portraits of Massey and Tsana, done by Alexander Stolin. On the main stairway wall are dozens of small figures createdby Cuban artist Damian Aquiles. Raine, whose own work can be seen at Gallery Bienvenu on Julia Street, displays a few pieces of her own work here and there throughout the house. Raine is known for her boat sculptures made of wood paper fragments and cloth.
ABOVE: Located in the University section, the Demmas home was built in 1926 by the British Consulate.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about them in terms of those trees on the Gulf Coastwith pieces of people’s clothes hanging from them after the storm. There is definitely some influence in my recent work from the storm.”Raine also does abstract female self portraits. Her work can be seen onwww.RaineBedsole.com.
Thehouse is always a work in progress, according to George and Raine. “This house was built by the British Consulate in 1926,” George says. “Huey Long used to live two houses down in a big pink house. What has happened on this block is that the children of people who used to livehere have now come back and own the houses, just as we have.”
Corners of the living room hold two sets of treasures.
George’s parents owned the house until the late 1980s, and then it was on the market for almost five years. “We moved here from a small condo in the warehouse district,” says Raine. “The house works very well for a family, with its nice big kitchen. My mother-in-law is a cook, and she outfitted the kitchen.” The family generally eats in the kitchen on the same table George and his family used when he was a boy. Small concessions have been made, including painting the formerly cherry wood cabinets a soothing teal blue, and adding a few new appliances.
The lanterns were found in Greece when George and Rainewere on theirhoneymoon. The large olive jar is from Bush Antiques. The paintings on the wall are by Judith Streeter.
“The upstairs just feels like a nice tree house to me. Best of all, of course, is that there are a lot of places to hang art.”
The “tree house” effect is clear in the master bedroom, where the headboard is created from maple and birch saplings. “My father is in the timber business, so that has a lot of significance,” says Raine, who uses branches and twigs in her art. In one of the children’s rooms, the bed is covered with a cabana overboard, offering a feeling of the outdoors.“When Katrina hit, I wasn’t really as worried about the house as I was about the trees,” she says.
Aniche from a church in Houma has been transformed over the years into an alter decorated in mala beads, lotus beads from Korea, a Buddha and photos of Raine’s late father.
Although quite grand from the outside, once inside the front door, the house has a truly lived-in feel. Even though the dining room—with its dining table from the 1920s—has been known to seat up to 27 people for holiday dinners, there is still an intimate ambiance about each room. Even with 5,600 square feet, George and Raine have managed to create a comfortable, welcoming space.
Small figures by Cuban artist Damian Aquiles, bought at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, fill the stairway wall. Next to the figures are six pieces by William Cordova, while the art over the copper bench is by Scottish artist Mark Haddon.
The result of their partnership is captivating to a first-time visitor. One woman’s multi-roomed canvas is another man’s sense of continuity.
Raine did the terra cotta finish on the dining room walls. The table and chairs were a gift from her parents. The painting on the left is by Raine, the piece on the right is by Dawn Southworth.
“It feels great to have this house,” says George. “Massey’s room was the guestroom where my grandmother would stay, and Tsana’s room was my room. Ican remember lying there 40 years ago, and now the house feels the same with two kids growing up in it. When I grew up we had huge Saints parties here and my uncle, a retired NFL umpire, would bring top players here. Roger Staubach was here; Jimmy the Greek was even here. It was a great place to grow up. It still is.”
Biscuit, the King Charles Spaniel, stands to attention in the kitchen. Raine had the cabinets painted a teal blue—Pratt and Lambert “Hemlock”—and new appliances were added after the house was bought. However, the cook top is an original Chambers.
This week’s home comes to you from our publication New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles. To get your issue of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles call our Circulation Department at (504) 828-1380