Seeing the Potential
An Uptown townhouse with inspired vision
When Mike Moreman and Josh Gurvitz decided to relocate from Indianapolis so Mike could take a job as VP of Human Resources at Ochsner Health Systems, downsizing to a condo or townhouse was initially part of the plan. Instead, they landed upon a house that not only checked their priority list – a garage and spare bedrooms for Mike’s two grown daughters and guests — but also delivered other amenities important to their lifestyle. Built in 2003 in a 19th century double-gallery side-hall style, it had classic architectural features without the wear and tear of age. It was located in the heart of Uptown with restaurants, coffee shops, groceries and other conveniences within walking distance. It even offered the manageable 2,500 square-foot size and turn-key security of a townhouse, a limited commodity where older homes are the norm.
The couple’s vision required looking past some of the fussier, more traditional details of the house. It also meant they’d have to renovate both the dark wood kitchen and the master bath upstairs.
“Josh and I both can see the potential in a house,” said Mike, who’s renovated multiple homes.
“Both of us can walk into a space and quickly say what I would do here,” Josh said.
Sold on the pluses and willing to revise the minuses, they purchased the house and turned to their realtor, Alton Smith, for help finding a reliable contractor. Smith recommended Russel Olschner of OLSCH LLC, whom the couple describe as an ideal collaborator.
“He is willing to work with people who have desires, opinions and a budget,” said Josh, whose strong visual sense was honed working in retail and as a wedding and event planner and is today put to use managing the Giving Tree Galleries located Uptown and in the French Quarter.
Key to the remodel was stripping away some of the ornamentation that obscured the bones of the house. The floorplan stayed the same, but rosettes above the living room windows, a pair of columns separating the kitchen and living area, and curvilinear moldings on top of the living room’s built-in wall of shelves were all removed in favor of a more pared down backdrop. The kitchen, dated and dark was gutted and redesigned with gray and white cabinets, a herringbone backsplash, new appliances and thick leather-finished marble counters. The upstairs master bath was also a complete overhaul. The finished space, like the kitchen, mixes contemporary tiles with leather-finished marble and has a classic masculinity reminiscent of the late Bill Blass’s famous New York apartment.
While Josh’s tastes lean more toward industrial than Mike’s, the two admit to having complementary styles. Both have an affinity for mid-century modern design, color (especially orange), contemporary art, and what they call “weird stuff” or “oddities,” a category that includes a framed taxidermied bat, a seagrass boar, and a whimsical simian wallpaper. Both also like collecting (Josh favors coffee table books and china, Mike taxidermy and German beer steins) and wanted their home to have an acquired-over-time aesthetic.
“We wanted it to look lived in and collected,” said Josh. “We didn’t want it to look like a designer had picked everything.”
“We have a common mentality that mixing old and new is interesting and feels good,” said Mike, who credits his southern roots with informing his half of the shared approach.
The couple, who met in Indianapolis — Josh’s hometown and the city where Mike relocated multiple times for his career — first merged their styles in a previous home. They sold that home along with some of the furnishings and art, gifted several inherited pieces to Mike’s niece and brought the rest with them. Purchases for their current home have come from major retailers like Arhaus and West Elm, trips, local auction houses, consignment businesses and antique stores.
On the other hand, downsizing and remodeling their new home were at times a challenge. For instance, Josh wanted to remove the living room’s built-in shelves, while Mike voted to simplify, paint and back them with grass-cloth, a transformative combination that satisfied both. With limited space, they are also more thoughtful when buying something new and like to periodically rotate things in and out of the mix.
Mike’s cooking and Josh’s talent for presentation are frequently put to tandem use as the two love to entertain. In a short time since they moved in, they’ve hosted most of their neighbors and have made many new friends.
“I always have music playing, I love having a candle lit, we want our home to feel comfortable and to be an experience,” Josh said.
“This house 100 percent reflects who we are,” Mike added. “We got a whole lot more than we wanted and we’ve become the house where people like to gather.”