Thursday, June 27, 2013

Donna Russell

Post Katrina New Orleans has had a building boom with many modern houses being juxtaposed with the traditional. People are constructing new homes with an eye towards the hard lessons learned from Katrina. Structural issues are more important than ever, and they are addressed with style by using the latest building materials.

Tom and Donna Russell with their dog Tyson in their new home that Donna designed in New Orleans - Tom says, “I decided early on not to reenter the house until it was ready to reveal. I wanted to save the ‘shock’ and ‘awe’ until it was finished.” Then he adds with a smile, “The ‘shock’ was writing the checks for the work, the ‘awe’ was walking into the house for the first time and seeing our beautiful new house.” Donna couldn’t be more proud of their home and adds, “It was a true labor of love, and today we have our dream house.”

Donna Russell is a New Orleans interior designer who lived in a nice enough house for many, many years. After Katrina she and her husband Tom decided to finally build their dream home in a neighborhood by Lake Pontchartrain that they always loved. They engaged architect Dodie Smith.
There is a nice article in New Orleans Magazine all about it (Bonnie Warren writer, Cheryl Gerber photos above and below).

The exterior
The new home was built on the ruins of an old one. The design involved removing the porches and a small living room, and creating a large new space with 12-foot high ceilings, a unique fireplace and a series of 10-foot high windows and sliding glass doors, topped by clerestory windows. New front and rear doors were added at each end of the hallway that joined the new construction to the existing house. “The seamless connection between old and new was a key design feature,” the architect Dodie Smith explains. “The final modern design is a fresh approach not typically seen in New Orleans.”

The living room - The floors are flood and hot weather friendly tile!

The dining room

The galley style kitchen has the look of fine furniture and blends into the open floor plan - Donna is a master at mixing tiles

The sensuous master bedroom

More extraordinary tile mix in the master bathroom - You walk through the huge shower to get to each side where the sink and tub is located - It is a most unique and beautiful design

An upstairs hallway that joins the old and new structure

A vignette in the guest room on the ground floor

The patio

I have had the pleasure to be given a tour of the home by Donna and her associate Mitchell Settoon, who did may of the finishes and created some art for the home. I love the floor plan, the finishes, and the furnishings.

The following photos are the ones I took when Donna gave me the house tour, and thought I'd share them with you.

The living room

Coffee table styling and close look at the modern fireplace

Another view of the living room -I love the way Donna layers art and accessories

Console table styled up nicely

Mitchell Settoon did the large piece of art to the right of the fireplace

Another view of the at work by Mitchell Settoon

Mitchell Settoon did the faux painted beams

Another view of the faux painted beams done by Mitchell Settoon

The dining room - The table has steel legs

Another view of the dining room - Love all the storage

A view from the kitchen into the dining room

A butlers pantry next to the kitchen

Detail of terrific tile selection in the butlers pantry
There's a guest bedroom on the ground floor

A nifty little desk in the guest bedroom
The guest bathroom
Let's go to the upper level of the house

This art filled hallway connects the old part of the house to the new

The master bedroom - I love how Donna used this coffee table on wheels at the end of the bed - The bed is custom by Leonels

There's a dressing room for Donna off the master bedroom

You walk through the shower in the master bath - again, another awesome tile choice - The shower divides the sink and toilet area from the bath tub area

One side of the walk through shower has a soaking tub

There's another upstairs bedroom used as a home office

Outside spaces:
Back patio
Fountain with plantings on the back patio

Rear view of the house

Front view of the house - the dining room is on the left and the master above, and the living room on the right

Front patio

I hope you enjoyed my snap shots and the tour of the home of Donna, Tom, and Tyson.

Tyson in the home office

Contact info:

Donna Russell
Phone: (504) 975-4860

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Do You Think?

Paula Deen on the Today show

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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Office

I have been on the fence for months about turning the guest room into my office. Well, I finally did it. It took about a month. Come on in!

Valorie Hart office - all photos by Sara Essex Bradley

Here's what the guest room looked for nearly seven years, with just the bedding and some accessories changing once in a while.

The guest room as it was for seven years

My inspiration for the new office was Tricia Guild. Like many of you, I have loved her work for years. I have always wanted to do something using her fabrics and wallpapers, so I decided to do it for myself, to do something that maybe a client would not embrace.

This image with a room designed by Tricia Guild was my inspiration for my office

Of course I am on a budget, so as much as I wanted to, I couldn't ring up Designers Guild and order fabric, wallpaper, and accessories. But I could make use of the signature gestures.

My office inspired by Tricia Guild

Key elements include:
  • Ombre wall
  • Bold color
  • Three different drapery panels
  • Mix of prints
  • Mid century elements
  • Classic antique elements 
  • Flowers
My jumping off point was the wall and the fabric for the curtains. I asked Mitchell Settoon to paint the ombre wall, and chose three Sherwin Williams colors. They are Forward Fuchsia, Exuberant Pink, and Vivacious Pink. My other strong colors are turquoise and chartreuse.

I tried several different fabrics, before I realized I had some silk remnants stored away. There was enough to make one drapery panel and to recover a chair! I ended up just buying a couple of yards of sheer fabric from for one of the panels, and used an old velvet panel I had made 13 years ago for our French Quarter apartment. The silk was the perfect color.

Tricia Guild likes to use the Platner chair, antique mirrors, and Saarinen tables - She reupholsters the Platner chair in her gorgeous mix of fabric

My Platner style chair - I chose to use a silk remnant and had Leonels reupholster it

The trick is to use a floral, a solid, and a sheer. Tricia uses rings on a simple rod, and I just used clip rings with the most humble brass rod that has rusted to perfection over the years in a storage closet. I keep things that I change out for others, and they always come in handy.

I kept the base wall color (Vamp Greige) and just refreshed it were it was needed. I removed drop cloth panels that were once behind the bed hiding a connecting door to the living room. My office is now opened up to pretty sight lines into the living room. I painted the back of the door with black chalkboard paint. I don't know if I will write on it, but I like the matte chalky finish of the paint, it suits old houses. Drop cloth draping remained on another wall, hiding a door that goes into the master bedroom. If you look at the new space, you will see elements from the old space re-purposed.

Drop cloth draping stayed on one wall - Chandelier was lowered over desk, and a second one that I had in my magic closet was added - I even found a dreaded cord cover in the closet and dyed it turquoise - I added shades found on the clearance at Steinmart for $1.95 each - The chartreuse over dyed rug is an eBay bargain

The settee moved from the living room into the office, and one of my favorite paintings worked perfectly - I used fabric samples that didn't make it for drapes and chair upholstery for new pillow covers - And I over dyed some faded floral pillow covers turquoise, that I had for over 20 years!

I over dyed the faded cabbage rose pillow cover

Another DIY project was painting a Chinoiserie desk that was upstairs in Alberto's office. I bought it for about $20. maybe 10 years ago. I used Sherwin Williams Blue Mosque. The top of the desk had some issues, so I just recovered it with turquoise faux leather. I added a pair of vintage brass lamps I got on eBay for 99 cents! Tricia Guild uses colorful damask prints in her designs, so I had a pair of damask lamp shades.

I painted my desk and added a faux leather top

Here's the Tricia Guild room again - I liked the ledge in the back with the antique  portraits of a lady and man - Mmmmm how could I do that?

This is a pic I took with my phone - I had a great painting by Louis St. Lewis in the living room, so I moved it into the office - I purchased an inexpensive console table that is handy for storing office supplies - The tole candelabra has been in the garden shed for a few years and I was so happy to be able to use it again

The console table became a ledge for the painting

There's a space across from the desk that is quirky. It's a kind of a large cubby below a row of built-in cabinets that go to the ceiling. I have always kept a cedar chest in this nook. It's a space I have often thought would be perfect for a TV. The problem - no power source. But Alberto to the rescue! He snaked around cable and power cords, and wall mounted the TV that was in the original guest room. I like to watch TV when I work.

I had these cut-outs of Fornasetti plates that have been stashed away for years. I love Fornasetti, but I never could find a place to feature that love. Some people think he is so 1980s, but I admire the way he reinterpreted classical images in a mod way. Anyway, I created "wallpaper" in the TV nook with my collection of paper "plates". I added a shelf below the TV for the cable box and used it as an opportunity to add black and white accessories. I also repainted the cedar chest.

The Fornasetti TV nook

There is a small useful closet next to the TV nook. I removed the closet door years ago and had a drop cloth curtain instead. For my new office, I dug out a Fornasetti inspired shower curtain (I had the same one when I was 18 in my first apartment!).  It was too short, so I hot glued a band of white patent leather to the bottom.

The curtain on the closet door

I could not rest easy not having a place for a guest to sleep. So I got a white faux leather sofa bed, tufted in the Knoll style. When someone comes to stay I will rearrange the room, opening up the sofa to a bed, and camp out elsewhere to work during their visit.

There's still a place for guests to sleep

So there you have it! I have had so much fun making a room for me!!! I have already had a couple of business meetings here and the space works really well. Stay tuned for product info that I am always happy to share.

Valorie Hart office

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