I'm incredibly thankful we've been spared hurricane weather and so very sorry our friends in Texas and Florida are going through such a devastating time. Although I'm all too familiar with the stress of living through hurricanes, the worst I've had to deal with is power outages and tree damage, so I can't begin to imagine how scary and stressful Harvey and Irma have been for those in their wake. New Orleans is certainly no stranger to this devastation, but thanks to immeasurably hard work and dedication over the past thirteen years, the Crescent City has emerged stronger and better than ever. Although the city has fewer people than it did before Katrina hit, and it's important to acknowledge the tragedy of those who lost homes and were unable to return, tourism is booming, it has around 600 more restaurants and there's been an increase in new businesses and jobs fueled by a much higher rate of entrepreneurship. Two of the city's oldest neighborhoods, the Bywater and Faubourg Marigny, have become shining examples of how history and urban renewal can successfully merge together. The vibrant architecture ranges from quaint shotguns and colorful Creole cottages, to Italianate mansions, American townhomes and storefront renovations.
New Orleanian Tracy Talbot, of Talbot Historic Properties, recently built a new house on a vacant lot in the Bywater area overlooking the new Crescent Park that runs along the Mississippi River. You'd think Tracy's house had been there as long as the others in her neighborhood because she not only used reclaimed building materials she's been collecting for several years, but she also created the design from an imagined historical perspective. Tracy, who's known for listing some of the most outstanding historical properties, explained that "when I show property, we [my clients and I] tend to unravel the house back to what it was, to show the layers of evolution of construction and renovation, so I wanted this to be a house that had another generation, a step to it. So the front bedroom (shown in the photos below) would normally have been a formal living room and then maybe one room and then a back porch. And then a gap and then an old kitchen, so I pretended that these two structures were merged at one point so that's what architecturally was in my mind. This was very common in New Orleans. You could gut a Victorian Italianate and find a Creole cottage in the middle of it that you didn't even know existed."
Tracy uses what would have been the Living Room as a guest bed and bath suite. Walls are "Classic Marc" and trim is "Moss Green". The painting is by artist Hunt Slonem, a real estate client of Tracy's when he purchased Albania and Lakeside Plantations.
“My intention of my house is tied to my business because it's preservation focused. So I approached this house the way I want my clients to approach their home which is to, although this is new construction, is to recreate and restore. In a way, to me this is a restoration even though it's really not. I wanted it to look like a restored home.”
Tracy and her youngest pup Colle'e in what would today be called the "great room" but with barn doors that can be closed to hide the kitchen. "Moss Green", a color I use often on exteriors, was used on trim throughout the house. "Classic Marc" was used on living room walls with "Amber" kitchen walls.
All floors, wood ceilings, doors and baseboards are salvaged materials bought from a client who purchased and gutted houses after Katrina. Tracy found the marble she used for the kitchen counter and back splash at a salvage sale in Montpelier. It came from the St. Charles Hotel that was torn down in 1974. She sandwiched two slabs together to get the thickness she wanted for the countertops.
The window swivels to create a pass through to the back porch and pool area.
Tracy's other dog "Pearl" suns herself on the back porch. Behind the shutters is a half bath. The cabinet next to it contains a small bar sink. Steps to the porch lead down to a courtyard and pool. The photo below was taken from the master bedroom balcony above. All photos were taken by my daughter Alex Kennon who's been working for Country Roads Magazine as a writer and photographer, and recently served as managing editor while their permanent editor was on maternity leave. (She's been editing my newsletters for years!)
The sides of the pool are only 6-8 inches deep and the middle has jacuzzi jets. Tracy wanted seating and it to resemble a pond. Knowing she'd turn them into fountains, Tracy purchased building fragments that were part of a Loyola University library donated to the Preservation Resource Center.
Colle'e, again demonstrating her aptitude for modeling, lounges in the master bedroom against "Dusk" walls. Drapes were in Tracy's previous home, the Centanni House, and many of the furnishings were purchased from Renaissance Interiors, a popular local showroom that carries home furnishings primarily through consignment.
The Master Bedroom opens onto the veranda overlooking the rear courtyard with views of the Mississippi River and Crescent Park. Exterior shutters are "Forest Black". Siding is "Lichen".
A Hunt Slonem butterfly painting is in the Master Bath above a vintage clawfoot tub. A spacious marble-lined shower adjoins. Walls are "Dusk" with "50% Morning Yellow" wainscoting. The upstairs Guest Bedroom is painted "Sandy Lagoon", has an adjoining bath and wrap around balcony. The stairwell is unusual in that it hits the wall and splits so that it doesn't encumber an entire room.
Since St. Francisville is less than a two hour drive and my daughter lives there, I go to New Orleans often for work and pleasure (frequently using the former to justify the latter). If you haven't been lately, I highly recommend a visit. The architecture remains as unique and beautiful as ever, and in my opinion, the restaurant scene is the best in the country. Thanks to the community of artists, musicians, and developers like Tracy who call them home, neighborhoods like Fauborg Marigny and the Bywater are more vibrant than ever. Though New Orleanians are too familiar with being the ones in need of a place of refuge from a hurricane, the situation has been reversed in light of Harvey and Irma as Texans and Floridians have poured into the Big Easy for a mandatory "Hurrication". Tracy was among the locals to open her heart and home to them, offering her front guest bedroom to a man from Florida escaping the storm.
Many of my friends in Texas and Florida are also clients, so I've arranged that when purchasing paint online you can input the word "donor" in the discount box at checkout, and 20% of your purchase will go to Direct Relief (highly rated by Forbes, CNBC & #1 by Charity Navigator). For clients who were affected by the storms, if you input the word "survivor", your paint purchase is discounted 20%.
Happy Autumn and stay safe!
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