Every time Stacey and Robert Sexton visited New Orleans from Washington D.C., they felt pulled to the relaxing pace and the warmth of the community. Then, in 2018, Stacey, an astrologer and student pursuing a Masters in Religious Education at Loyola, found that astrocartography — or the astrology of place — supported the synergy that the Sextons experienced when in town.
“New Orleans is on my personal Jupiter line, and my husband’s Venus line, which are two wonderful lines,” says Stacey. “Jupiter is abundance, generosity, expansion and jubilee and Venus is beauty, healing and harmony in the physical realm.”
Stacey grew up in Luling but lost her close connection to the city when Katrina hit during her freshman year of college and her immediate family moved out of state. Robert, an engineer, is from Alabama. The opportunity for the couple and their two young children to return to Stacey’s native environs presented itself in 2019, so they hired a realtor and began looking for a house. The winner was a tiny pink shotgun less than a third of the size of the suburban home they occupied near D.C. and in need of renovation and expansion. But once again, the planets aligned. The previous buyer’s contract fell through and the Sextons put in an offer with the intention of renovating.
“It was all very serendipitous,” says Stacey. “It felt very meant to be.”
With Stacey “leading the charge” of the remodel, the family brought in Sweeney Restoration and architect Kim Allen of Studio BKA Architects & Consultants, which specializes in custom residential and commercial architecture.
“We had lived in tiny apartments, a small townhouse, and a very big suburban house so we were looking for one that was just right like Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” says Stacey.
That meant adding three bedrooms, two full baths and a bonus family room, by bumping out and camel-backing the existing structure built sometime between 1886 and 1900. The family moved to a nearby rental and Stacey worked closely with Allen to oversee the project and make design decisions. As she had with the family’s relocation, she found guidance — or at least confirmation of her gut instincts — in astrological research, which told her that the late 19th-century house called for cheerful, vibrant and colorful with flamboyant, sometimes silly flourishes.
“We live on Camp Street and the house is a little campy,” says Stacey, whose children dubbed their home base “Pinky” after its exterior color.
The most notable touch of camp is the 30-inch disco ball that hangs in the living room near the entrance.
“This house is not meant to be understated,” says Stacey who wanted to pay homage to the fun-loving nature of New Orleans.
As the project progressed, even the safe choices that Stacey initially made to streamline the process of renovating a house while working fulltime and raising two kids gave way to decisions that proved more interesting. Unlike the navy blue originally selected for the kitchen cabinets, Stacey found a greenish-brown hue, Sherwin Williams’ Eminent Bronze, that feels more at home in New Orleans’ swampy surroundings. While the Sextons’ previous house was mostly beige and white, Stacey went with a daring shade in the master bedroom and bath, Farrow & Ball’s Off-Black.
“Stacey has a good graphic eye and was brave and bold,” says Allen of her client, who has years of experience in graphic advertising. “I love the bold and the risk-taking and was in support of it.”
Yet the house never feels overly quirky or jarring in its transition from Victorian to contemporary spaces. Owners and architect were mindful of paying attention to the connection between past and present. Allen carried the heart pine floors, ceiling heights, door headers and window trim from the original part of the house through to the addition to maintain continuity. The original fireplace between the living and dining rooms was left in place to retain the shotgun feel. A transom removed during the renovation was added to the door above the new bonus room and a window from the back of the house was salvaged and re-used prominently in the new primary bedroom, where it looks over the yard and balances the dark, moody space with natural light.
Modern details such as the clean sheetrocked oven hood in the kitchen provide a contemporary viewpoint conceived with both the present day and the future of the home in mind.
“With all of our projects we take a contextual approach and then have fun with the finishes, which are still sophisticated but also new and fresh,” says Allen. “The house is still going to have a life for the next family. The flow, the feel, the light, how it works with neighboring buildings, feel nice and respectful.”
The Sextons’ eclectic mix of furnishings includes antique and vintage pieces, some from local consignment stores, as well new purchases. One of Stacey’s favorite consignment finds is the living room’s cherry blossom print sofa, a subtle nod to the 10 years the couple spent in D.C.
Allen, who connected with Stacey’s youthful, edgy aesthetic early on (and vice versa) offered advice along the way and the two have remained friends with a mutual appreciation of each other’s contributions.
“I have a background in interior design and helped her become comfortable with her choices,” says Allen. “We stayed true to the architectural dialogue, but the personality of the home came from her.”