The stylish weekend home of Sandra and Joel Chaisson serves many functions for the couple.
Sometimes it’s a quiet place to sip cocktails in the evening after a long work week — Joel is is the district attorney for St. Charles Parish and Sandra is a retired teacher who now devotes her life to charitable causes, serving on numerous boards. Other times it’s bustling with activity when their grandchildren visit. It’s also entertaining for them to watch Saints fans, more than 10 stories below the windows, rallying before games.
During the week, the Chaissons reside in Ormond, but they wanted to purchase another property in order to be closer to the kids. The ongoing opportunity and excuse to spend more time in New Orleans, where they love dining out and participating in the art and philanthropy scenes, was also a major draw for the couple.
They were impressed by the luxurious residences in The Standard, a newer building in the South Market area, designed by architect and New Orleans native Morris Adjmi and developed by the Domain Companies, and they decided to buy it.
An added bonus is that it’s walking distance to some of their favorite shops, restaurants and things to do in the city. It also happens to be close to their daughter Martine Chaisson’s eponymous, contemporary art gallery — where they sourced most of their artwork.
With the help of longtime friend and designer John Fernandez, the Chaissons added some updated, elegant touches to the condo to personalize the space, including new paint jobs in one of the bedrooms and a hallway, adding drapery and lighting, and hanging artwork. They have worked together for so long that Sandra says, “He has free reign” with a laugh, adding that they know each other so well at this point that “we finish each other’s sentences.”
Fernandez notes that Sandra has an eye for classic design with a modern twist, and he himself is also cautious about being too trendy. “I say if you start with traditional bones and give it a little bit of flair, it keeps it from feeling stale, but it stays timeless,” he says of his design philosophy.
In this case, the condo had “traditional roots,” but he wanted to add a few modern touches to give it “a little bit of fun,” — but “not so much that it’s going to feel so 2019.”
Fernandez added extra hints of luxury throughout the home. “The lightness of the walls was something I wanted to respect,” he says of the living room and kitchen area, which features floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for sweeping views of the city’s downtown. He lined the walls with a silk grass cloth. “It gives it more texture,” he says. The kitchen had a warm, organic nature to it, he said, so they didn’t make too many updates in that room. “I loved [Domain’s] use of the wood cabinets,” says Sandra.
Some of the furnishings were sourced regionally — sconces on the wall in the living room were added from Katie Koch; and a few of the furniture pieces are from Villa Vici. Fernandez, who works primarily in Atlanta but flew to New Orleans at the Chaissons’ request, also obtained items, including drapery and rugs from Atlanta Decorative Arts Center.
Over in the master bedroom, Fernandez wanted to turn the space into Sandra’s personal “dressing room,” as she is a fashion enthusiast — one of her many roles is president of the Women of Fashion, an organization that supports the Ballet Resource And Volunteer Organization (BRAVO).
Here, Fernandez designed and custom-built two floor-to-ceiling wardrobes, added more sconces and painted the room a dark, “moody” regent green color, while the rest of the home remains bright and airy — including the guest room and bathroom which is accessible via a sliding door just past the kitchen.
Much of the art that fills the home is by Hunt Slonem, a close friend of the family. His work is also prominently featured in their daughter Martine’s gallery, where they obtained some key pieces. (Martine also curated the art collection displayed inside The Standard’s lobby and on other floors of the building.)
Fernandez also wanted to experiment with the proportions of the art. In some cases, a large painting will take up most of a small wall. Elements of nature are also displayed throughout the condo— the artwork and decor often depicts bunnies, bugs and butterflies — so it’s not entirely surprising to learn that Sandra is also a beekeeper who makes her own honey in Ormond.
The result of the Chaissons’ collaboration with Fernandez is an inviting, stylish atmosphere.
When the couple arrives on most weekends, Sandra says, “We park, and then we don’t get in our cars again” as they take off on foot to visit their favorite nearby restaurants and venues. “We enjoy all the things that city has to offer.”