It is a secret place on a quiet corner in the Carrollton neighborhood near St. Charles Avenue. One glance would never reveal that this house began life in 1895 as a corner drug store, then morphed into a grocery, a barbershop and a dry cleaner, before it became a private residence.
Today it’s a showcase of interior designer Chet Pourciau’s talent. Even the simple exterior with canvas drapes framing the front door lets you know this place is special. Step inside and you’ll discover a magnificent design-scape of Pourciau’s work.
“When we found the place it was a rabbit’s warren of tiny rooms,” Pourciau explains with a smile, referring to his partner Jack Sullivan. Excited by the potential, both Pourciau and Sullivan could see beyond the sad little place that they transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan of a house.
“We opened each room by adding French doors so all of the major spaces would have a view,” Pourciau says. “We wanted each room to be connected to either an outdoor patio, garden or balcony.”
A master bedroom, spa-like bathroom and huge closets were added upstairs. Downstairs they refined the spaces to create five major rooms: living and dining (with a wall of windows and a French door facing the enclosed courtyard), a den and guest bedroom on the opposite side of the structure (with French doors in each room opening onto a private patio and garden with a wall fountain creating the constant sound of running water) and at the core of the house, a state-of-the art kitchen (with a view of the courtyard through the large opening into the dining room).
“We love the huge live oaks that surround the house, and we made sure we could see them from every room,” Pourciau says. Because high walls surround the courtyards, the couple has complete privacy and never has to close curtains. Since the climate in New Orleans is essentially sub-tropical, they favored cool and calming colors both inside and out to encourage a sense of coolness. “The sparing use of color in the monochromatic background makes it ‘pop’ more than usual,” he says.
Special attention was paid to outdoor spaces, with a unique pavilion created in the double carport. “We love to entertain and we thought it would be a great idea to have a large, attractive space just for that purpose,” Pourciau says. Using the carport that adjoins the courtyard leading to the living and dining rooms seemed like an innovative solution. To achieve the effect they wanted, they had everything painted white, hung heavy canvas drapes at the rear of the space to hide the storage area and added fans and drop lights to the ceiling. “Our new entertaining pavilion-cum-carport works perfectly for a large group or just a few for a sit-down dinner.”
Each room in the house, as well as each courtyard, attests to Pourciau’s design skills. He has a degree in interior design and worked with the late Leon Irwin III, whom he credits with having a big influence on his decision to pursue a career in design. Currently a regular on ABC26’s morning show, Pourciau’s work has appeared in several noted magazines. “I enjoy my profession and I am always proud to show off our own home as an example of my work,” he says. He should be proud of the design jewel that gives no hint to its earlier lives as drug store, grocery, barbershop and dry cleaner, because it’s now a comfortable residence that embraces its new life as a quiet, walled oasis hidden away from the work-a-day world.