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Katie and Marc Levy update a 1950s ranch house
When drapery fabricator and shop owner Katie Levy chooses something for the home she shares with her husband, Marc Levy, and their two dogs, Babi and Mini, it’s carefully considered. “I have a hard time buying something until I really examine it,” says Katie, who brings the same selectivity to her custom drapery and home furnishings businesses, Katie Koch Drapery and Katie Koch Home. “For a long time, we didn’t have a sofa,” she says, recalling her husband’s chagrin. Naturally, the house itself, a 1950s brick ranch designed by architect Paul Charbonnet, had to meet high standards. After owning two previous homes together – the first more suited to him, the second more suited to her – the Levys wanted a house that speaks to both of them, and the third try has been the charm.
Katie first saw the house when hired by its previous owners. “I was called to work on new drapery and was excited because I’d always wanted to see what was behind that wall,” says Katie. “When I walked through the gate, I was amazed at what I saw and surprised to see they had a pool in the front yard.” Two years later, the house hit the market and the Levys immediately put in an offer. Its Mid-Century Modern characteristics (single-story, modified L-shape, sliding glass doors and emphasis on the outdoors) along with the privacy provided by the brick wall that surrounds the property, and the pool and green space that sit like an oasis between the wall and the house, were a perfect fit for the busy couple and their dogs. “I love it for us and especially the dogs,” says Marc, who owns and operates the venerable Modern Flooring & Interiors. “And I liked the people who lived in it,” he adds, giving a nod to good karma.
The Levys’ white living room overlooks the pool canopied by a ponderosa lemon tree on one side and a maple tree on the other.
Katie chose a bright yellow by Fine Paints of Europe for the front door, located beneath a classically designed entrance portico. The front yard’s kidney-shaped pool is original to the house.
In real estate and design terms, the residence, which Marc describes as “a Brady Bunch house,” is something of a rarity in Uptown New Orleans, where homes twice its age are the norm. Renewed interest in the look and easy maintenance of such houses has made them popular and hard to find. Nevertheless, the Levys seemed destined for such a streamlined modern house. In addition to collecting antiques, Katie has become a knowledgeable collector of Mid-Century Modern furniture, lighting, accessories and art, as well as pieces from other 20th-century eras including the ‘70s. She prefers authentic antiques and vintage pieces over knock-offs, even good ones. “I like an eclectic look with a Mid-Century feel,” she says. “But I’m not a Mid-Century purist.”
From the outset, Katie related to the simplicity of the house’s bones and abundant natural light, while Marc connected with the outdoor areas and several small rooms where he likes to relax. One of the rooms connects to the rear patio and is used for watching TV; the other, a quiet retreat entered separately from the house, is used as Marc’s office and a place to display his art collection. In order to achieve the simplicity that both favor at home however, the new owners would have to peel away some of the decorative layers added over the years. “It was beautifully done but dated,” says Katie. “There was a lot of drapery.” The Levys removed all window coverings and Katie, who specializes in custom drapery, designed new ones. They remodeled the bathrooms, painted most of the interior white, and refurbished the concrete floors with a glossy white epoxy that’s proved both durable and easy to clean. Most of the couple’s furnishings transitioned effortlessly from their previous abode. The sophisticated mix includes such notable vintage pieces as a set of six sculptural Italian olivewood chairs from the 1950s, a pair of Italian Gabriella Crespi brass lamps from the 1970s, a pair of Milo Baughman end tables from the 1970s and several French Deco pieces from the 1930s. “The things I have, I truly love,” says Katie, who patiently seeks out new additions from favorite designers and specialty stores like Jon Vaccari, Pied Nu and Ann Koerner Antiques with a discerning eye. “Everything is really handpicked.”
The living room’s top-to-bottom white is punctuated with vibrantly colored details. Michel Alexis painting from Heriard Cimino Gallery, Italian olive wood chairs, Lucite and brass coffee table and Italian 1970s Gabriella Crespi lamps from Jon Vaccari. Bronze oil vessels on table and mantel from Ann Koerner Antiques.
For the most part, Katie prefers a white backdrop with pops of color brought in largely through the art that the couple collects. She loves contemporary paintings, and many of the pieces, including works by Hunt Slonem, Deborah Pelius, Ted Calas and Monica Zeringue, were purchased through the former Heriard Cimino Gallery. Jeanne Cimino now works in San Francisco as an art consultant; Katie still buys art from her.
Marc gravitates to black-and-white etchings and lithographs. The exception is Katie’s home office, a graphic play of pattern that reflects her love of fabrics. Katie came up with the concept for the space, which has upholstered walls, a roman shade and a sofa all done in a yellow and cream Pierre Frey fabric with a 1960s optical art feel. The den foregoes white, as well, using instead handsome tones of gray – perfect for lounging and watching movies.
Katie used a graphic Pierre Frey yellow and cream fabric to upholster the walls of her home office. She used the same fabric on the sofa and roman shade for a seamless optical art effect. American walnut barrel back 1940s chairs from Jon Vaccari. Vintage Tulu rug from Christopher Farr.
When the weather is nice, the couple spends much of their at-home time occupying one of the two outdoor spaces located on the east and west sides of the house and cared for by landscape contractor Eric Nemeth. The pool and accompanying yard planted with ponderosa lemon trees, tulips, camellias and holly trees can be accessed through the living room, den and master bedroom. During the warmer months, Katie uses the pool daily – in the mornings and late afternoons. “In summer, I’ll walk or run in the park and then come here and jump in [the pool] with all my clothes on,” she says. “It’s like a mini vacation every day.” Marc, who relishes the privacy of the walled yard after a long day at work, also uses the patio daily. “Babi sits outside with me at night,” he says. “It’s a good yard to hide in.” The smaller outdoor area, a courtyard with ponderosa lemon trees, camellias and rosemary, is used regularly for washing the dogs (it has hot and cold water) and for dining when friends come over. “You always feel like you’re outdoors,” says Katie. “The yard is really what the house is about. But every part of the home is used. This is a place we will grow old together. It’s our forever home.”