When a local couple traded in their Warehouse District condo (NOHL, Autumn 2014) for a penthouse in New Orleans’ premier condo building, One River Place, they wasted no time calling Chad Graci of Graci Interiors, the friend and designer who had transformed their former address. Like the previous project, this one called for renewing the space with a fresh, calming, classic aesthetic, which is Graci’s specialty. But this time, the clients wanted Graci to create the high-end feel of a luxury hotel in the heart of the city.
“We told him we wanted to feel like we were checking into a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton,” says one of the owners, a local real estate investor, who like his partner commutes out of town daily, but loves coming home to views of both the cityscape and the river. “We’re in a five-star building, so we really focused on the finishes and didn’t scrimp. We thought the penthouse demanded high-end.”
The first order of business was to renovate the bones of the condo, which was already spacious and well proportioned. The floorplan remained largely the same, but some rooms, such as the kitchen, were opened for better flow and/or reconfigured. New flooring was added, the kitchen and master bath were completely gutted and redesigned, and architectural details, such as arched pediments, were added to give the space the kind of timeless quality associated with a pre-war building in Manhattan.
“There is a level of formality that the other apartment didn’t have,” says Graci.
Other spaces, the guest bath for example, were freshened with cosmetic refurbishments such as new counters and lighting.
The sweeping panorama of the city in the front of the condo and a spectacular exposure of the river’s changing scenes at the rear of the condo guided Graci’s hand.
“We wanted to take our cues from the views,” says Graci, who used various cloud-like shades of white, pale neutrals, sky-inspired blues, and skyscraper-inspired grays for the aerial perch. “We kept it light like it’s floating above the city. A lot of the colors really do come from the skyline in both vistas.”
The fact that the clients wanted to use furnishings from their last condo also factored into the serene interior.
“They wanted to use some of the same key upholstered pieces that were still in excellent shape,” says Graci. “Of course, we had to expand on that.”
The condo, which is three times larger than the last residence, is in no way a repeat, however.
“Chad was able to bring all the pieces but he placed them differently and incorporated them with different art,” says the owner. “It looks totally different.”
Graci also added new pieces. Among the most unique and treasured are a custom cabinet at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom and a sofa that belonged to one owner’s grandmother. The former, a painted piece modeled after a French moderne parchment and walnut piece by Jean Michel Frank, was designed by Graci as a pop-up cabinet to house the television. The latter, a mid-century piece, was donated to the Salvation Army by the owner’s grandmother when none of her family expressed interest in it. The owner soon regretted the mistake and contacted the Salvation Army to reclaim it. When he was told that the thrift store could make cash-only sales, he boarded a same-day plane to his native Kentucky and bought it back for $100. Graci had the vintage keepsake recovered in a smart green velvet and today, the owners say it garners more compliments from guests than any other single piece in their home.
Graci’s interpretation of the hotel-inspired condo that the homeowners envisioned manages to be light and ethereal while also being tailored and sophisticated. White upholstery and light-reflecting mirrored surfaces are completely at home with the surrounding sky, while the mix of vintage, antique and new pieces grounds the space with an urbane edge. Jolts of color (moss green lamps in the library, glazed celadon-hued shelving in the living room, peacock blue snakeskin dining chairs and vibrant abstract canvases), intimate seating areas, custom closets, and personal touches add the kind of bespoke livability and comfort not typically found in even the finest hotel.
“Chad did a great job,” says one homeowner, who loves his home in the sky. “We look forward to coming home at the end of the day. It’s a great place to relax and recharge.”