Five years ago, when Ayesha and Aaron Motwani decided to move, they already had a busy life that included three daughters. Ayesha’s father, who resides in Pakistan, also lived with the family during summers. The Motwanis wanted an Uptown house near the park with at least five bedrooms and a large kitchen overlooking the main living area so that Ayesha could watch the kids while cooking. They found their full wish-list in a new construction located on property that was once part of Lasalle Elementary School and later NOCCA.
Interior designer Natasha Shah re-designed the kitchen, so that a range with brass fittings and a streamlined brass hood are now a main focal point; the island has a thick marble slab top inlaid with brass and gold-leafed cabinets below.
The Motwani’s Uptown house was built with classic New Orleans architectural elements, including a double gallery with wrought iron railings.
The Motwani family left to right: Ayesha, Zaina, Ava, Aaron, Kish and Sareena
With just under 7,000 square feet, it has a total of seven bedrooms (the family’s rooms on the second floor and three guest rooms on the third) all with their own baths, as well as a playroom for the kids, a media room for movies, a large kitchen and a pool.
“It was perfect,” said Ayesha. “It has suburban amenities, but is Uptown.
With respect for its Uptown surroundings, the builder imbued the three-story house with timeless features, including a double gallery, high ceilings, moldings, a traditional front hall stair case, a fireplace and wooden floors, all of which the couple liked. But while they wanted a house with classic bones, they also wanted it to speak to their love of current design and international influences. The Motwanis, who now have a two-year old son as well, worked with several local decorators to achieve the look they were after.
“We wanted to keep it young and fresh but not have to replace things in 10 years,” said Ayesha. “I love vintage and antiques and we wanted to make it really livable. We wanted to be able to have adults over but also have kids watch a movie in the den.”
A few structural changes were made. Though the house had never been occupied, the master bathroom was gutted and redesigned to suit the couple’s needs. Dual water closets and a built-in tub were foregone in favor of a single water closet, a vanity, a slab shower, a wide trough sink with his and hers faucets, and a free-standing tub.
The Motwanis worked with a local interior designer on the new master bathroom and the décor through much of the house.
Will Erikson of Yazoo Restoration installed the new master bath and executed the built-in bunk beds for the Motwani’s five-year old twin daughters. The Motwanis also tapped interior designer Natasha Shah to re-work the kitchen and the butler’s pantry.
In addition to wanting to lighten the kitchen with an all-white scheme, Ayesha wanted to address the fact that the window over the sink looked directly into the neighbor’s property. At Shah’s suggestion, a new stove with brass fittings and a brass hood became the focal point. Shah also made the large island into a work of art with a thick slab top inlaid with brass and gold leafed cabinets below.
The bed in Ava’s room already belonged to the Motwanis when they moved into the house; their designer had it reupholstered and added the cornice and draperies; fabric by Romo.
A brass canopy bed by Bernhardt is the focal point of the master bedroom; the abstract painting at right is by Mallory Page.
Hunt Slonem wallpaper in the children’s third-floor playroom.
The master bath was re-designed with his and hers amenities, including a vanity for Ayesha; chandelier from Niermann Weeks; mosaic tile floor made with tiles from Stafford Tile.
Gold accents and Indian-inspired motifs were purposely incorporated into the décor as Ayesha’s heritage is part Pakistani and Aaron’s is Indian. Both grew up in New Orleans and are world travelers who love exotic destinations and wanted beautiful colors, art and pattern to embolden the calmer backdrop of their home.
“We wanted white walls but we played with pattern,” said Ayesha. “It’s such a fun way to add color. I also wanted our house to feel like it was influenced from our backgrounds.”
A blue-on-white Moroccan pattern covers the walls of the downstairs powder room and an Indian Suzani-inspired woolen blend dresses the large ottoman in the den. On the third floor, artist Hunt Slonum’s whimsical rabbit portraits enliven the kids’ play space. An elegant Chinoiserie wallpaper in shades of lilac and green was chosen for a classic touch in the more formal dining room.
Statement lighting, which runs the gamut from vintage lamps to beaded chandeliers and starburst pendants adds another jewel-like element to the layers of color, metallic shine and texture blended throughout.
With four young children and lots of entertaining under its roof – the Motwanis regularly host parties, Sunday dinners and holidays – the house has lived up to the family/guest friendly environment that was the goal.
“The home is a reflection of our lifestyle, a perfect balance between function and allure,” said Ayesha. “The kids get to play in the same room where we entertain our friends, which is exactly what we envisioned.”
An elegant Chinoiserie colored wallpaper was chosen for the dining room; the midcentury Maison Jansen dining table came from Piranesi Antiques; custom chairs were based on vintage chairs and covered with a Lee Jofa printed velvet; antique enfilade and mirror from Uptowner Antiques, sculptural lamps from Lum.
Will Erikson of Yazoo Restorations built the bunk beds and reading nooks in the twins’ room; graphic carpet tiles by Flor