When husband and wife Ibert Schultz and Jessica Rambo chose Maureen Stevens of Maureen Stevens Design to decorate the interior of the Lower Garden District house they purchased in 2019, they quickly found that they shared a common vision — or as Rambo puts it, they “shared a brain.”
“We both wanted to celebrate New Orleans,” says Stevens, who routinely provides a detailed questionnaire to her clients to determine their tastes and goals. “They didn’t want to go southern traditional. They wanted a more West Coast feel and at the same time to celebrate New Orleans in a modern way.”
The previous owner, a contractor, had renovated the house for his family, respecting its original Greek Revival architecture — high ceilings, solid wood doors with transoms, floor-to-ceiling windows and elegant mantels, while updating the historic bones with modern amenities and contemporary touches such as a herringbone tile floor and statement lighting. The kitchen and baths were state-of-the-art and the house was move-in ready. Schultz, an attorney, and Rambo, a writer for TV and movies, frequently visited New Orleans and wanted to relocate here, so when they found the listing through a close friend who lives around the corner, they jumped on the opportunity. Three bedrooms and ample living spaces; restaurants, coffee houses, shopping and a park within walking distance; and a sophisticated remodel that suited the couple’s mutual love of design made the house a good fit for the young family, which includes a 2-year-old son and a second child on the way.
The couple did some minor renovation in the downstairs bath, then turned their attention to the interior design. With the exception of a few pieces bought from the last owners, Schultz and Rambo were starting with a blank slate that allowed Stevens plenty of leeway. Though they typically prefer subtle, neutral colors (their Brooklyn brownstone featured creams and browns, their L.A. house mostly neutrals and whites), they embraced Stevens’ suggestion to go with vibrant Caribbean colors that speak to the city’s history and lively culture and with related elements such as caning and tropical motifs.
“Maureen put together a thoughtful design that encompasses a bigger story we were trying to tell,” says Schultz.
“The front door was pink, so we thought why not just lean into that,” adds Rambo, who nonetheless describes the departure as a walk on the wild side.
Using design boards, Stevens put together a palette with a range of greens, salmons, yellows and blues. Drapery, upholstery, rugs, tables, pillows and cabinetry were fair game — as were murals, wallpaper and art, all set against a soothing backdrop of white and mixed with clean modern furnishings and surprises that invite observation. A wall in the foyer is home to a window-like composition featuring pink arches, the kitchen fireplace to a wavy abstraction of coral and green.
To make the most of the budget, Stevens recycled, as is, the canary yellow drapery, salmon colored dining chairs, bookshelves and red chaise longues, all acquired in excellent condition with the house. She saved on art by sourcing New Orleans themed works online and used DIY framing rather than high end custom framework. A clever stylist who once worked on magazine projects, she even added impact to the office bookshelves by spray painting and displaying stacked arrangements of inexpensive acrylic boxes.
Other customized features in the house include leather-upholstered headboards suspended from the wall, and handpicked light fixtures, including the foyer’s beaded chandelier, which the couple found in Los Angeles.
“I love light and the effect it can have on your mood,” says Schultz.
A year after most of the design was installed, Schultz and Rambo agree that the light-filled, happy environment has been family, guest and COVID friendly.
“When friends visit us, they’re always surprised by the colors,” says Schultz. “It feels like they’re on vacation.”
“It’s been a godsend in the pandemic,” adds Rambo. “It feels sunny and bright.”