Category Archives: Featured Homes

The Cajun Collector: A restaurateur passionately inspired by his heritage

Written by: Lisa LeBlanc-Berry

“It’s the American dream,” says Mulate’s owner Kerry Boutta, whose journey as a businessman and an avid art collector began very modestly in Breaux Bridge and without much capital. In 1980, he launched a down-home Cajun restaurant with a three-person staff in a weathered little nondescript building, not far from his hometown of Arnaudville.

“Mulate’s used to be a little nightclub,” says Kerry. “The owner retired in 1975. We decided to keep the name. He said, “˜I don’t want anything for it, just a cup of coffee.’ But before I came across Mulate’s, I had already started to develop the Cajun idea in the 1970s. I wanted to create something of cultural value, not just a restaurant.”

A child of Acadiana who grew up surrounded by great cooks, including his mother who had a dining establishment in Arnaudville, Kerry worked in restaurants for several years before opening his own place in Breaux Bridge.

In the late 1960s, prior to his restaurant endeavors, he joined the army and ended up near Frankfurt, Germany, where numerous beer gardens drew people of all ages who gathered to eat, drink, and dance. The experience served to inspire his idea of eventually creating a similar place when he returned home. What’s more, Kerry reflected how the food was certainly better in Cajun country. Putting this great, regional cuisine together with live music and dancing would be a wonderful thing indeed, he concluded.

“I was just a penniless Cajun with an idea,” Kerry reminisces. “The first day we opened Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge, we had two customers,” he tells me as we nibble hors d’oeuvres with his wife, Tiffa, and art collector/entrepreneur Michelle Vallot in the cavernous, art-filled kitchen of their 10,000-square-foot, three-story residence with a pool and terraces overlooking the Mississippi River. The Bouttas also own a three-story country home in Barataria, complete with a pool, gardens, and a boathouse. “I started out with practically nothing.”

Several months after opening Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge, Kerry added a music component to the restaurant, and hired local musician Zachary Richard for the first gig. Of course, there had been other Cajun restaurants and dance halls for years in Acadiana, but there had not been a combination of both. He was on to something big.

“No one came that first night to see Zachary Richard, but I knew this was the combination I’d been looking for, with the authentic Cajun food, music, and atmosphere, so I hired him again the following week.”

The next step was opening up a space in front of the bandstand for people to dance. Then the customers started coming. Other local musicians were hired, including some of the old-time Cajun bands and a young Michael Doucet, who ended up playing at Mulate’s for nine years with his band, BeauSoleil. “Michael was relatively unknown before Mulate’s, which put him on the international media circuit,” Kerry notes.

Word eventually spread about the fun, rustic dance hall with great Cajun cuisine “out in the country,” and it became “the cool little roadhouse” where people went to eat and dance the night away.

Thanks to Kerry’s innate marketing acumen and timing during the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair, when journalists and travel writers from all over the world descended on the state, Mulate’s became both a regional and international hit, with other locations to follow, including one in Baton Rouge that opened in 1988 and another in the New Orleans Warehouse District, which opened in 1990 (it is now the sole location). The story of Mulate’s appeared in magazines and documentaries throughout the U.S. and abroad.

As Mulate’s expanded, Kerry’s daughter, Monique, became involved in the restaurant, first joining the team in Baton Rouge while attending college. After completing her studies in accounting, she joined the team in New Orleans in 1997, and took over management in 1998. Monique and her husband, Murphy Cristina, continue to run Mulate’s in New Orleans, with Kerry overseeing operations and Tiffa contributing to public relations efforts.

Housed in a circa 1885 Italianate warehouse across the street from Riverwalk and the Convention Center, Mulate’s now attracts more than 250,000 people a year. It has drawn many celebrities who have shared the bandstand with local musicians, ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Paul Simon, who usually drops in to visit the Bouttas when he is in New Orleans.

“Bob Dylan likes to come over, too; he has visited our house at least ten times,” Kerry tells me. “We’ve hosted a lot of stars like Robert Duvall, who stayed at our house in the country for three months free of charge when he was making a movie. Geraldo Rivera, Dyan Cannon, John Goodman, Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, and Stevie Wonder are some of the other friends who have also come to visit our home.”

Kerry and Tiffa’s 10,000-square-foot residence is the only one of its kind in the area, located around the corner from Mulate’s near the Convention Center. The great room alone measures a whopping 6,000 square feet, complete with a dining table for 14, and a grand piano in the corner of the living area that is often played by well-known musicians during parties. A few short steps lead up from the great room to a multi-tiered pool area on the second floor, while the third floor houses a chic, more intimate entertainment room and large terrace where many small parties have been held overlooking the river.

The Bouttas’ intriguing art collection ranges from the haunting neo-expressionist paintings of David Harouni to Francis Pavy’s colorful interpretations of life in Acadiana, a variety of original drawings and paintings by George Rodrigue, and the mesmerizing metal sculptures of Breaux Bridge resident Russell Whiting, who pioneered carving steel with a blow torch and exhibits throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Kerry remains close with Rodrigue, who has given him some of his earlier works. “George and I have been friends for 30 years,” he points out. “I was sitting at his desk one day while he was painting. I opened the desk drawer and there were 40 to 50 drawings, and he said, “˜You want some?’ So he gave me some of the original sketches for his paintings; he has also given me some of his early, original paintings.” Rodrigue’s art is on display throughout the Boutta home.

The eclectic, intriguing collection of furniture and accent pieces reflects Tiffa’s travels abroad. “My wife selected the flooring and all the color schemes throughout our home,” Kerry points out. “She collected many things during her travels throughout the world before we met; we also have collected things together. I’m not really much of a traveler now, although I’ve been to Europe. Tiffa just got back from India.” Everywhere you look, there is something interesting, unique, and worthy of conversation throughout the Boutta residence.

“We really enjoy living here,” Kerry reflects. “It’s fun to see all the tall ships passing by on the Mississippi River from the terrace. We’re so close to everything. I’m a happy Cajun! It has been wonderful creating something that has had a cultural impact, that also gives people happiness every day.”

Passionate About Antiques: 
A collector and a 
folk artist combine forces

Written by: Lisa LeBlanc-Berry

Maria and Simon Hardeveld have created a magical world at their quaint shop filled with unusual treasures. Unlike the more traditional furniture galleries along Magazine Street, Antiques on Jackson pays homage to the intrinsic character of New Orleans, where anything goes.

Located on a large corner lot at Jackson and Magazine streets, the charming store displays an atypical combination of elegant antiques juxtaposed with rustic folk art. Popular with interior designers and collectors since it opened in 1999, the shop reflects the vibrant character of this enigmatic city that seduces residents with its opulence and decay, elegance and faded glory.

The main building showcases Maria’s extensive collection of fine European antiques, whimsical sconces and delicate chandeliers, mirrors adorned with intricate designs, old Italian trays, rare books, and one-of-a-kind collectibles, as well as the tattered and worn pieces for those who enjoy reviving items of past grandeur.

In the outdoor area, Simon often displays his rustic folk art that is made with found objects including weathered plywood, corrugated tin, and discarded bottle tops. To make things sparkle, he adds plenty of glitter on various signs. Known as Simon the sign man around town, locals see his art every day on the network news. Simon created the rustic and colorful News With a Twist set for WGNO-TV.

Like the shop, Maria and Simon’s circa 1898 residence holds a special kind of beauty and charm. Maria’s passion for antiques is evident with her sophisticated design aesthetic and elegant decor, yet she blends an unlikely mixture of richly textured old fabrics to adorn sofas and chairs, including vintage curtains, rug fragments, and swatches of velvet and damask. Her creative touch extends to the master bedroom, where she designed a unique headboard extension that is embellished with a pair of sconces, and crowned with layers of loosely draped fabrics that give it a regal feel.

Situated on three large lots with a fenced-in yard, the house was purchased in 2004. A year later, hurricane Katrina hit in the middle of their renovation, which the Hardevelds completed in the aftermath of the storm. Maria transformed the modest, four-bedroom house into a showplace by lavishly decorating it with an array of beautiful antiques from her collection at the shop.

The Hardevelds were in business together long before they opened Antiques on Jackson. Married for the past 23 years, Maria and Simon met in Florida, fell in love, got married, and ran three restaurants together on Florida’s east coast before moving to New Orleans in 1993.

Born in the French Alps, Simon was a chef and restaurateur in Cannes before moving to Florida to peruse the culinary scenario there. A mellow fellow who speaks with a heavy French accent, he has long hair and wears a bandana reminiscent of the 1960s. In contrast, Maria is a savvy collector who was born in the Big Easy, where she developed her passion for antiques.

“We were living in Florida and I found out that my mother was ill, so I wanted to come back home to New Orleans,” Maria explains. “I always loved antiques and had an opportunity to open a shop here. We had antiques in our restaurants in Florida, plus I had a little antique shop down the street from our place in Stuart.”

After moving to New Orleans, Simon had a sea change when he began working as a chef at an old bar and grill in Metairie. He serendipitously found his muse as an artist by painting signs that listed the menu items he prepared in the kitchen. Little did he know that those funky signs would be the dawning of a new career. He had never held a paintbrush before.

As it turned out, the regulars liked Simon’s brightly colored, offbeat signs more than the food. Word spread, and folks began showing up to purchase and commission his clever creations instead of his cuisine. He eventually left the restaurant and stopped being a professional chef altogether, turning his attention full time to artful endeavors.

Simon’s vibrant signs symbolize the spirit of New Orleans and are adorned with icons such as alligators and golden coconuts. The punchy slogans are their main appeal: Geaux Saints, Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler, Shalom Y’all, and Beware of Dogs and Voodoo, for example. As Simon began to expand his repertoire, the signs started popping up in restaurants and storefronts throughout New Orleans. “He can’t keep up with the demand,” Maria exclaims.

Simon also makes one-of-a-kind furniture and decorative items that are on display at the shop. A few of his colorful pieces hang in their home, although the formal decor theme largely prevails.

When renovating the residence, Maria had the floors painted white to complement the antiques and give it a “fresh look.” Since she favors Florentine antiques (which are also predominant at the shop), Maria selected a variety of treasured pieces from the shop and on buying trips.

“Italian pieces from Florence have been my absolute passion for 30 years,” Maria says. “I prefer the Florentine pieces from 1915 to 1950; but I also like 18th- and 19th-century French, Belgian, Spanish, and English antiques.”

The Hardevelds’ elegant living room is appointed with a large 18th-century trumeau mirror with delicate lead figures of angels; a graceful settee from Sicily; and an assortment of Florentine chairs, tables, and chests. “The trumeau mirror is split in the middle, because they didn’t know how to make large mirrors back then,” Maria points out.

“I love my three-drawer Florentine chest with a serpentine front, it fits perfectly in the living room,” Maria states. “I wanted a piece that could be placed directly under the windows so that I could display my things on top. I saw this piece and fell in love with it. It isn’t overwhelming to the room, which isn’t that large. I also love the red Italian turn-of-the-century chair in the living room. Red is one of my favorite colors, and the chair is so ornate. It is beautifully made, as only the Italians can do. I enjoy sitting in it and having a cup of coffee in the morning while listening to music.”

The Hardevelds converted one of the original bedrooms in the house into a casual sitting room, which opens onto a sunny, L-shaped porch.

“For the sofa, I placed old velvet pieces on each arm and adorned it with a rug on the seats, and also placed throws on top,” Maria says. “I also used fabric to decorate a painted antique Italian chair in the living room. I ripped off the brand new polyester fabric that was on it, and threw a piece of old velvet green fabric on top of the cotton. I like dressing up antiques with interesting fabrics.”

Once again, Maria used various fabrics to decorate an Italian 18th-century settee in the living room. “It is covered in a yellow silk damask. In the winter, I place a green velvet throw with tapestry trim on top. It is actually an old curtain that came from France. In the spring, I use a throw made of old damask that is really tattered. It is trimmed with tassels. I find that the velvet is too heavy for the warm weather.”

Maria created wall art by placing framed fragments of Aubusson rugs on either side of the sitting room sofa, and placed a 19th-century tapestry in the center of the wall for added interest.

A large breakfast room is adjoined to the kitchen, which was formerly a porch. The spacious room features a narrow wooden table that was made by one of Maria’s friends.

“I found the boards for the table in a warehouse after Katrina, and then I found the little French legs,” she says. Italian cane-back side chairs are paired with antique Florentine armchairs for the dining table.

“I display my Old Paris china in a custom-made, glass-enclosed vintage cabinet from the 1920s. I put a large, old English scale on top; it is perfect for that space. The old bar near the dining table is from Texas. We ripped out the original bar,” she adds. A chalkboard listing drinks, located behind the bar, came with the house.

The master bedroom is adorned with richly textured fabrics and stately antiques. “When we bought the house, my master bath was a kitchenette,” Maria remarks. She appointed the master bath with a copper shell sink from France and decorated the walls with antique Florentine trays. “They work perfectly here,” Maria says. “You have to love it. Like I tell my clients, if you love it, the pieces you choose will always fit in somewhere.”