Text: Margaret Zainey Roux
Photos: Sara Essex Bradley
While all Southern homes exude feelings of warmth, graciousness, authenticity, and elegance, each one is as unique as the people who live there. When a young New Orleans family of five purchased a historic house in need of some T.L.C., they didn’t enlist just any interior designer to assist with their project, they entrusted a 40-year friend with the future of their forever home.
“My client is like another daughter to me, so it was a treat to work with her and share this experience together,” says Columbia, South Carolina-based interior designer Karen Menge of Pulliam Morris Interiors. “I had helped her with previous homes, but this one was particularly special because it signified the start of a new chapter in the life of her growing family.”
It can also be said that the 10-month renovation turned the page to a new chapter in the home’s storied past. The Neoclassical manse was built in 1909 by architect Emile Weil, who is credited with the design of notable Louisiana landmarks such as the Saenger Theater and Whitney Bank. Just steps from oak-lined St. Charles Avenue, the stately white house is stamped with the markings of a rich architectural heritage.
Commanding Ionic columns, a wrought-iron balcony, and an intricate mosaic tile porch define the facade and offer an impressive entrée into grand rooms that showcase original features like Tupelo wood floors, towering cove ceilings, and exquisite millwork and plaster medallions. Considering its innate character and charm, the structure was in dire need of a do-over thanks to its antiquated electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems and its tired color palette and decor.
The only thing that was not modernized was the home’s old-fashioned footprint. For the couple with three active boys and a penchant for formal entertaining, the idea of a contemporary open floor plan lacked appeal. Keeping the layout as-is afforded them grown-up space where they can retreat with a good book or glass of wine while staying within earshot of the little ones.
Fabrics, wallcoverings, artwork, and rugs in bold but complementary colorways, and playful patterns visually connect all the rooms and bridge the gap between trend and tradition. Heirloom antiques infuse the home with sentimentality and sophistication while celebrating the homeowners’ different backgrounds.
“Columbia is greatly influenced by English culture, whereas New Orleans has tight ties to the French,” says Menge. “In both places, people are passionate about hospitality and entertaining, and that is reflected in the warm and inviting atmosphere they create for their family and friends.”