St. Charles Avenue Living on River Road
For some people, the 30th anniversary is the pearl anniversary. For some, it’s remembered with gifts of diamonds or roses. But for everyone, it’s a chance to celebrate, and Richard Abda is no exception. As he commemorates the anniversary of his 30-year love affair with the city of New Orleans, Abda is planning a small gathering with family members, but mostly he plans to keep doing what he always does – enjoying the city.
March marks 30 years since Abda, a Scranton, Pa., native, first moved to New Orleans. The maxillofacial prothetist and ocularist, who designs artificial eyes, noses and ears, followed a job to the city back in 1978 and fell in love.
“The entertainment, the food, the variety, the people – all of it is wonderful,” Abda says. “After my first humid summer, it was easy to get used to. I enjoy everything the city has to offer.”
One of the things he enjoys most, though, is set away from the noise of the city – his 4,065-square-foot Italianate, Greek Revival-inspired home on River Road in St. Rose.
He waxes just as enthusiastic about his home as he does about the city: “I love the look.
The surroundings. The layout. The easy flow. The traditional front. This town has given me this beautiful life, and I wanted to have this beautiful New Orleans-style home.”
For 17 years Abda lived in the same home in Grandlake Estates, a Kenner subdivision, but he knew he wanted to get out of the subdivision mindset and build his own home.
One day, while driving home from doing volunteer work at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, La., he spotted what he instantly knew would be the perfect setting for his dream home.
Abda met with his architect, Charles Silbernagel, owner of Charles l Silbernagel & Associates Inc., to show him the 100-by-160-foot lot and discuss his vision.
“He wanted a Greek Revival style, and we sort of massaged that style to give him some great outdoor space, as well,” Silbernagel says.
In addition to the style, Abda had his heart set on an open floor plan.
“I didn’t want a lot of little rooms,” Abda says. “I wanted a nice flow to make it seem welcoming.”
Once the plans were complete, Abda took the project to Rick Perez of R.M. Perez and Associates. Perez is a longtime friend of Abda’s and enjoyed working on the project.
“The lot setting helped us with all of those oak trees,” Perez says. “We were looking for something aesthetically pleasing as you drove up. And he’s a bachelor, so we didn’t need too many bedrooms, and we could put all of the money into the master suite and the great room.”
The result of all of this hard work is Abda’s home, Indigo, named after the plants that grow native along the river.
The color-based name is appropriate, too, because along with the open floor plan, color was important to Abda. The walls are painted in warm hues: Sherwin Williams’ Empire Gold along the staircase, Chivalry Copper in the kitchen and Cajun Red in the dining room and Benjamin Moore’s Chestertown Buff in the great room. There is faux finishing by Anne McGee on many of the walls, as well, including gold leaf in the entryway, silver leaf by the wet bar and Venetian plaster in the powder room.
“My house just reaches out, grabs you and pulls you in,” Abda says.
One of the more striking features of the home is the stained glass in the hallway, which Abda commissioned from the Stained Glass Studio in Metairie.
“If you look out by the river, you see egrets, cattails, dragonflies and lilies,” he says. “I wanted to incorporate all of that into this window.”
Although the window attempts to bring the outside in, Abda is not content to just sit inside. He has a parterre garden and Japanese lagoon outside, along with a traditional New Orleans courtyard and a wealth of native Louisiana plants.
“We have oak trees, bamboo, azaleas and fruit trees,” says Abda’s landscaper, Michael C. Discon, owner of Indigo Gardens. “It’s the Garden District on the great River Road.”
When Abda’s house was but a twinkle in his eye, he and Discon often drove up and down River Road admiring plantations and observing their grounds. “We stopped and looked at some abandoned plantations, and still growing there, they all had three things: banana trees, camellias and bamboo,” Discon says. “So we knew we wanted to use those plants because Richard wanted a plantation on a smaller scale.”
Discon says the grounds were planned from the interior so that every window in the house would have a gorgeous view. “During construction, we went up on the balcony and plotted it all out,” he says. “You see something different from each window, and we used bamboo to screen it all in.”
Abda spends his days doing very precise work, and he admits that it can be hard to turn that precision off when he gets home. He is on a continual quest to improve his home, and his attention to detail knows no bounds.
“I told my family, ‘My first house bought me this house, and this house will put me in the grave,’” he says with a smile. “And it will. It’s never-ending. I will never be fully satisfied because I’m such a perfectionist. I’m always improving, updating.”
Perez agrees: “Without fail, we are over there every year doing something. This year we’re screening in the back porch. But it’s always fun to work with Richard. I’ve known him for years, and he has exquisite taste. His house is one of my favorites. Every time I drive past, I get a great sense of satisfaction.”
And Abda, though he may never finish tweaking the smaller details of his home, is completely devoted to Indigo. As he celebrates his anniversary of living in the city, he can think of nowhere he’d rather be.
“I can sit on the balcony and see ships on the river,” he says. “I can sit in my courtyard and see the beautiful landscaping with native New Orleans plants. It’s always breezy. I’m so happy here. It may not be the biggest home, but I know it’s the perfect home.”