“Any first floor in New Orleans post-Katrina should be considered indoor/outdoor space,” said John Gonzalez, wryly referring to one of the guiding principles that influenced the recent renovation of the Broadmoor house he shares with his wife Tricia Weeks.
The couples’ first floor flooded when the levees failed after Katrina, and protecting their century-old home from future water intrusion was at the forefront of their thinking. As parents of two grown daughters and collectors of art for more than three decades, the couple (now empty nesters) also focused on designing a renovation that works for family gatherings and showcases their colorful stable of mostly primitive art.
Having renovated the house when they first purchased the property in the mid 1990s and again after Katrina, the couple had other goals as well. They wanted to respect the original colonial revival architecture of the house, which they believe to have been built before the 1920s, based in part on the fact that it and several other houses in the neighborhood had World War I-era Victory Gardens. At the same time, husband and wife say their taste over the years has become increasingly modern and wanted to be free to surround themselves with things they like. Finally, they wanted to replace the rear addition made during the first renovation; it didn’t blend with the original architecture as hoped and its curved roof posed a problem for water and termites.
The solution lay in something that John stumbled upon while doing research for the couples’ initial discussions with architect Caroline Ferguson, whom they hired for the job along with Edifice Builders.
“In the UK, if you do an addition to an older building, you’re encouraged to pick a different style,” John said. “Matching the old materials was impossible and our personal aesthetic had moved more toward modern, so this was an opportunity to do something totally different. Caroline ran with that really well.”
The clean-lined glass and metal addition is a complete departure from the traditional brick façade that faces the street and is hidden from the front. Its beauty is appreciated from inside the house and from the large L-shaped back yard.
The exterior of the addition is wrapped it an electroplated aluminum “skin” that John sourced after seeing it at a California hotel. The material, which serves as a rain screen and has an air pocket behind it that allows moisture to dry out, arrived measured and precut like Lincoln Logs that fit together.
Inside the ground floor, wains coating of corrugated aluminum can be removed to allow walls of pecky cypress to dry. The pecky cypress itself, which is original to the ground level, is indigenous to water environments and can also be taken apart and dried out if necessary.
“This house was built in an era before air conditioning and they did things the way they did them for a reason,” said Tricia. “We took the best of the building practices of the early 20th century and then took some new things and tried to apply them thoughtfully.”
The melding of old and new is continued throughout. In the living room, a custom marble mantle made in Italy when the house was built shares space with an elliptical sofa, a circular coffee table and mid-century modern style chairs, chosen to emulate the look of a contemporary Paris salon. In the library, a crystal chandelier original to the house is mixed with modernist bookshelves and a console designed by Ferguson, and a vintage Scandinavian table and chairs.
The centerpiece of the sun-filled addition is a custom table with a metal base designed by Eric and Alyssa Kraemer and a wooden top by Port Street Woodworks. The table is surrounded by acrylic Klismos chairs that gleam with light during the daytime hours.
“We wanted to make it as comfortable and interesting and pretty as possible but also a little surprising,” said Tricia, who looked to designer Renee Laborde for window treatments and advice on decorating decisions, Louis Aubert for color selections and John Pecorino for curating and hanging art.
Among the most surprising elements in the house are the way the couple repurposed materials and the art they’ve collected over the years. The former includes using shutters from the outside of the house to make lockers for what is now a mud room and using wrought iron from windows as decorative insets along an inside stairwell. The latter includes a center hall that serves as a gallery space and collaborative mural on the patio by local graffiti artists Dogslobber (@dogslobber) and Fat Kids From Outerspace (@fatkids).
The couples’ favorite spot is the second story porch that Ferguson designed as part of the addition. It also features a painting by the graffiti artists as well as a bead dog purchased from the LASPCA.
“We love the porch,” said the couple. “We use it every afternoon. This entire addition is exactly what we wanted.”