A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

For a young couple, good design means coming home to a happy place.

Text: Margaret Zainey Roux
Stylist: Margaret Zainey Roux
Photos: Sara Essex Bradley

When buying, building, or renovating, people often say they want a house that suits their family’s lifestyle or entertaining style. Suzanne Fournier and Chris Van Dervort are not among those people. “We have an active toddler, so there really is no practical design for the way we live right now, and while we enjoy having friends over, our priority wasn’t designing spaces to entertain,” says Van Dervort. “Our goal was simpler and more personal. We wanted elegant and inviting interiors that make us happy to come home at the end of a long day.”

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

For a fresh look, the door, shutters, and ironwork are painted soft taupe rather than traditional black or deep French Quarter green. Wainscoting adds architectural interest to the dining room.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

A contemporary painting of a geisha by artist Demond Matsuo brings a hint of femininity into the more masculine den.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

An antique French console topped with a towering trumeau creates a focal point in the shallow hallway.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

In a sitting room, soft pinks and peaches offset vibrant blues in an abstract painting by New Orleans artist Gretchen Howard.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

The mantel and surrounding millwork in the den formerly featured spiral posts and a golden yellow stain.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

Copper lanterns add weight to the light and airy kitchen.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

A wide back porch encourages alfresco dinners and offers shelter from the sun.

 

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

In the office, grass cloth, linen, and velvet add tactile interest to the palette of earth tones.

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

Deep sofas and chairs with plush cushions impart. a seating area on the pool deck with the polish of an interior room.

 

A crystal chandelier, embroidered linen valance and bed-curtains convey classic romance, while an abstract painting makes a dramatic modern statement.

A Warm Welcome by Monica Melancon

An antique apothecary cabinet separates his and her skirted vanities.

Located in New Orleans’ sleepy suburb of Old Metairie, the couple’s 3,600-square-foot house recalls a sense of history despite its mere 25 years. Weathered brick, black lacy ironwork, and blossoming magnolia trees lend the facade the look of a centuries-old French Quarter townhouse or a Garden District grand dame. Inside, soaring 12-foot ceilings, solid oak floors, and intricate moldings and millwork support that sentiment.

“I was sold on the house the minute I walked inside,” says Van Dervort. “Aside from the classic architectural appointments, I liked that it didn’t have an open concept floor plan. That may sound strange in today’s age, but I like that each room has a defined purpose and that the kitchen is separate from the family room. To me, it’s more in sync with the more formal, traditional feel that resonates with our aesthetic.”

Upon purchasing the home, Van Dervort and Fournier called on interior designer Monica Melancon (instagram.com/mod_nola) to guide them in selecting the furnishings and finishes. Taking cues from the home’s beautiful bones, she schemed the formal and traditional setting they sought but in a fresh, approachable way. Magazine Street, the city’s renown antiques mecca, offered one-stop shopping for all things French. Drenched in rich patina, wooden tables, chairs, and case pieces ground airy crystal chandeliers, billowy ballroom drapes, and sumptuous seating dressed in linens and cottons from Old World fabric houses like Scalamandré, Bergamo, and Fortuny.

“The textiles played an important role throughout the interiors, particularly those in the dining room,” says Melancon. “It is the first room you experience when you enter the house, so we wanted it to be special and to set the tone for the rest of the spaces. I have always loved hand-painted chinoiserie wallcoverings, and I had a very particular look in mind. It took several samples to get it just right, but once we did, the rest came together.”

In a bold move, Melancon upholstered a suite of Louis XVI dining chairs in a saturated shade of chartreuse that she extracted from the wallcovering. The high-voltage hue’s youthful energy serves as counterpoint to the austerity of the antiques and the room’s otherwise subdued palette. A similar strategy was employed in the adjacent music room, where layers of textures and colors were pulled from an original abstract painting featuring vibrant blues, pinks, and golds. Much like the heirloom baby grand piano that stands proudly in the space, there is a sense of harmony among the different notes.

“At night, I often go sit quietly in a room and ‘soak up’ its unique components,” says Van Dervort. “The interesting colors and patterns, the craftsmanship, the artistry—it relaxes me and gives me peace.”