Par for the course
Spacious dreams and simple designs in a New Orleans home.
by PAUL A GREENBERG
How does this sound as the ideal homebuilder’s fantasy? You have found the perfect piece of land in a location that you have coveted for a long time. Your best friend from childhood on just happens to be one of the leading architects in the city. Your primary passion in life is golf, and the property you have found is putting distance from a golf course. Is it a dream? Not if you happen to be John Eastman, who with his wife Kathy selected a stellar piece of property in Metairie and enlisted the services of architect George Hopkins of The Hopkins Company. The result? More than 5,000 square feet of pure residential bliss. Oh, and did we mention the upstairs balcony overlooking the golf course, the one with the railing that opens up allowing John Eastman to work on his swing? Now that’s bliss personified.
The concept for the house was simple and straightforward—the Eastmans wanted spaciousness, but they really longed for the outside world to feel as though it were a part of the interior of the home. “We gave George some of our requests,” says Kathy of the couple’s initial meetings with Hopkins. “We told him how many bathrooms we wanted and that we wanted a covered entryway, but really what we talked about was bringing the outdoors indoors.”
On the property was a circa 1929 apartment building that would come down to make way for something far more grand. The most recent construction on the block had been back in the 1960s. John actually grew up on the other side of the golf course from where his current house sits. He knew this particular piece of land would afford him exquisite views of the golf course, and much of the design has to do with those vistas.
“The design criteria was to confect a plan that was simple, yet elegant in its scale and proportions,” says architect Hopkins. “We adopted a Mediterranean style house, understated in front, and in back embellished with a grand rear loggia. They wanted a house that could be very comfortable for the two of them—the children are grown—but equally comfortable for 100 people to gather in.”
To affect that flexibility, Hopkins came up with a floor plan that is open and flowing. The entire ground floor serves as an entertaining area that opens from the front and flows easily room to room. The whole back side of the house looks out onto the golf course. One might say the golf course is the backyard. Kathy worked with interior designer Tom Delcambre who helped her pick soothing, neutral shades throughout. Kathy and John did the legwork in finding fixtures and elements themselves, and relied on Delcambre’s trained eye for furniture placement and room plans.
“Kathy loves to cook,” Hopkins says, “so the large kitchen serves her well in that regard. John wanted a ground floor office that overlooked the golf course, which is just off the kitchen. What works for them is the fact that the house is zoned vertically—entertaining on the ground floor and bedrooms on the second floor. The result is the house is always immaculately neat and ready for any occasion.”
Durability and clean lines define the design, as it often does with Hopkins’ work. Custom mill work was done by Lafayette Woodworks. Thirty-three feet of linear French doors along the back are heavy and solid. The aforementioned upstairs railing is made of iron. Throughout are stunning hard oak floors, except in the oversize kitchen where the floor is scored and stained concrete. Granite kitchen counters mix easily with custom cabinetry from Nordic Kitchens and Baths.
The Eastman home is a tribute to understatement. With a clear understanding of the aesthetic advantage of “less is more,” the décor doesn’t scream so much as it whispers. That allows individual pieces to stand out, such as the Paul Grüer original design chandelier in the dining room and the old French dining table in the breakfast room. An American-made sideboard in the dining room has a distinctive pull-out desk component, and a noticeable piece in the vast living room was found by John’s mother in the 1940s on a plantation. In their spare time, the Eastmans love to go hunt for art and some of their finds are placed throughout the house. Included is a piece by local artist Catherine Mayer which hangs in John’s office. Other pieces include those by Kathy’s friend Karen Laborde, and two recent acquisitions by Ponchatoula artist Bill Hemmerling. A standout piece is a painting by Susan Johnson that hangs above the Eastman’s bed that reminds visitors of the feeling of the land just outside the house.
“We’re extremely proud of this house,” Hopkins says. “It really captures the spirit of the owners as much as any house we’ve ever done. John and Kathy gave us enormous latitude in confecting the arrangement of the interior spaces, and in the end it allowed us to do our best work.”
And just how might Hopkins characterize his buddy’s golf game now that he has his very own private putting space upstairs? “Let’s just say he’s way out of my league.” •