The house already had a sense of place. The wide veranda, the hideaway courtyard, the shutters built to filter a bayou breeze – it was all classic New Orleans, and designer Greg Baudoin didn’t want to stifle that spirit. On the contrary, he wanted to bring out the jazz.
“Aesthetically, I wanted to kind of zip it up a little bit,” says Greg, interior designer and owner of Ray & Baudoin Interior Design in Memphis. “New Orleans homes are known for being sophisticated and traditional at the same time, but with a sense of humor. Part whimsical. And since it’s a second home, we just wanted to have fun with it.”
The project was personal for Greg, in part because of his own New Orleans ties and in part because the home’s owners, Memphians Ricky and Lucia Heros, are close family friends. They’d also been neighbors. In 2014, the Heros bought a Crescent City apartment across the hall from one owned by Greg and his partner, Greg Campbell.
That space, in an 1850s masonry townhouse in the lower Garden District, featured Italianate details, original heart pine flooring and a front gallery. After getting a taste of New Orleans homeownership, the Heros, who met at Tulane University, found themselves wishing for more than a tiny pied-à-terre – they wanted a place that truly felt like home.
“Since the first moment I went to New Orleans, I felt connected there. I felt a real pull to the culture of the city, and I loved it,” says Lucia, whose introduction to New Orleans happened in 1984, on a trip with her family to the World’s Fair. At the time, her father maintained an office in the city. “I enjoyed going to school there; that was something Ricky and I really shared. After the storm, after Katrina, we made a commitment to spend more time there. When you think something might be lost, you want to treasure it as much as you can.”
And so the Heros sold the Garden District apartment and replaced it with an Uptown home that made up in character and personality what it lacked in sheer size. “It really was in move-in condition, but we had to make some architectural changes,” says Greg. “As an example, the master closet was barely large enough to hold a ball gown. So we had to correct that.” Adds Lucia, “The house is not big, but it has so many wonderful spaces. It’s like a little jewel box in that way. It just kind of brings you in, sucks you into all of these little nooks and crannies of the house.”
The family called in Greg’s help right away. Since he’d designed the Heros’ New Orleans apartment, he already had a sense of not only their style, but the emotion and the Crescent City vibe they wanted their second home to embody. “When we go to that house it really feels like a vacation to us because we really feel like we are in the place,” Lucia says. “It has a sense of place, while at the same time being incredibly cozy and homey and feeling like a true home.”
To coax the existing structure into a customized home for an active family, Greg first tackled a few space planning issues. He borrowed space from a large library to create a walk-in closet for the master suite. He relocated a dining room window and closed over a cased opening to help with furniture placement and give the spaces a better flow. Upstairs, he borrowed square footage from the attic to create more room for the Heros’ 16-year-old daughter and her visiting friends.
And in one of Lucia’s favorite moves, Greg turned a tiny, “throwaway” coat closet into a glam haven of femininity. “We brainstormed what we could do with these tiny closets, how we could make them bigger and better,” Greg says. The Heros had some metallic wallpaper left over from a project at their Memphis home, and Greg knew it would be exactly right to create not just a vanity, but a pièce de résistance. “We carved my vanity out of a little closet,” Lucia says. “Greg and I had so much fun turning it into this totally girly, sort of princess vanity. It’s got the Hollywood lights and the mirror and the wallpaper, and it’s a great space. I love sitting there and doing my makeup and getting ready to go out to dinner. It’s just a really special little nook for me.”
For the Heros, going out to dinner is one of the treats of having a home in New Orleans. For that reason, the gray and white kitchen is most important as a breakfast-time gathering space. “The kitchen and the back den are very comfortable,” Lucia says. “We’re there all the time hanging out by the island. We’re big on breakfast there – when we’re in New Orleans we make a big breakfast, and then we usually eat out a lot for lunch and dinner.”
The family also uses the kitchen – and the home in general – to entertain. They’ve held crawfish boils and Tulane reunions, and their daughter likes to invite friends to stay. “The house entertains beautifully, and that’s one of the things that we really wanted, was a house where we could have some parties, have our friends over,” Lucia says. “That’s something we’ve enjoyed about it – that it has given us the opportunity to host some really special moments for our family and our friends.”
We’re sure there are countless more occasions to enjoy this beautifully designed space to its fullest!
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