Former school transforms into a chic condo
Each day, while sitting in the carpool line for her daughter’s school, Pam Dongieux admired a large, two-story brick structure with a modern industrial feel, unlike the traditional homes that surround it. Built in the 1930s as a part of the Soule secretarial trade school that also occupied the historic antebellum home next door on Jackson Avenue, it had huge windows, a lush side yard and a brick privacy wall with an intriguing entrance gate. The previous owners, an artist and his wife, used the upstairs as living quarters and the ground level as his art studio. Dongieux mused about turning the then-vacant building into a condo duplex with separate living spaces for her family (including three kids ages, ages 11, 14 and 19, and three dogs) and her mother. In 2012, she purchased the property and spent a year and a half transforming it into an elegant urban showplace.
“I had sold the house I’d previously remodeled and thought ideally my mom would find a place with me,” says Dongieux, who loved the size, abundant natural light and privacy that the school-turned residence offered. “I looked at this and considered making a home for her downstairs.”
The plan called for gutting the space, which has just under 10,000 square feet. Partitions, used to delineate the loft-style living quarters were removed, and Dongieux and her then-husband, Duke Dongieux, configured a new floorplan that includes living and dining spaces, a den, a bar, a large kitchen, four bedrooms, three and a half baths and an art studio for their oldest son. The main portion of the ground level was turned into a spacious condominium for Pam’s mother, and the rear of the ground floor into a one-bedroom apartment.
Having renovated other homes together, the Dongieuxs had worked closely with architects and designers before. This time, they enlisted the help of renovation expert Michael Carbine, Will Ericson of Yazoo Restorations, interior designer Ann Villere, and landscapers Greg Porter and Tucker Fitzhugh. The couple brought to the table things they knew they loved (ebony wood floors and a full bar, like those they’d had in other houses) and cherished things they already owned. Since the space was a downsize from their previous house, they were able to fill it with furnishings, antique chandeliers and art from the larger home and required only a few new purchases. They also used the renovation as a laboratory for trying out new ideas. The striking master bath was a collaboration of ideas from both Dongieuxs. He suggested the warm cypress paneling; she suggested the marble mosaic floor and the mirrored privacy paneling that covers the bottom half of the windows.
Left: The dining table is from Uptowner Antiques, chandelier from Empire Antiques and sideboard from Wirthmore Antiques.
Right: Landscaper Greg Porter renewed the side garden with flowering shrubs, fruit trees, potted plants and other greenery.
Left: The two-story building was originally part of the Soule Secretarial School.
Right: Homeowner Pam Dongieux
Left: The cozy family room has a vaulted wood ceiling; chairs and sofa from Villa Vici.
Right: The kitchen was designed with Cabinets by Design.
Left: Mirrored panels on the lower half of the windows provide privacy in the master bath.
Right: Dongieux took the idea of the built-in bar from one her previous homes; artist Gretchen Howard painted the bar a rich red trimmed with gold.
Left: The hall is treated like a living space, with seating and a glamorous built-in bar.
Right: Dongieux turned a sunny room near the entrance of the condo into an art studio for her oldest son.
The gleaming side hall that runs through the residence is treated like living space with seating and a glamourous built-in bar. At the end of the hall, a rectangular room with soaring arched windows overlooking the street is used as the formal living and dining areas.
The open flow and multiple seating arrangements of the large living/dining space work well for entertaining, which Dongieux does often for local organizations and family get-togethers, while the close proximity of the kitchen is suited to catering and bar services.
On the opposite end of the condo, a cozy family room, centrally located between the bedrooms, offers a respite from the home’s windows and a quiet place to lounge or watch TV.
A florist by profession, Dongieux loves color and indulges her passion in a variety of ways, including painted finishes, fabrics, tiles and paintings, which she’s collected for two decades. She’s especially fond of finding emerging artists at art school sales and of paintings of local scenes. “Color makes a room interesting,” she says. “I think all colors and patterns can work together.”
Outside, Dongieux had the shaded side garden, patio and existing cocktail pool refurbished with citrus trees, camellias, philodendron, hydrangea, elephant ear and other greenery and flowers, making it one of her favorite places to spend time.
“I’m so grateful that my family, my biggest supporters, were on board with me to do this project,” she says. “I love that I can be there for my mother and still have my own place.”