Tag Archives: home and garden

Awesome Driveway Designs

Driveway and Gate

Driveways are often overlooked when it comes to home decoration, but they shouldn’t be. When you or a visitor arrives at your house, the very first thing visible is the driveway; and, as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. As such, for anyone caring about the appearance of their home, the driveway is a perfect place to begin decorating, designing, or improving. A driveway offers countless opportunities for artistic creativity, as well as self-expression. You can make your driveway uniquely you, completely unlike any other in your neighborhood or city, while still being gorgeous and functional. Here are a few awesome driveway designs:

Landscape the surrounding area
Perfect for long driveways, landscaping near the sides can enhance your driveway’s beauty. From flowers to bushes to trees, you can turn the area on either side of your driveway into a fairy tale nature haven that makes you feel like you are driving into a beautiful, exotic, and secretive garden every time you come home. There are few better ways to make your home classy, beautiful, and mystical than by properly landscaping the area around your driveway.
 
Beautify your concrete
One of the best ways to make a gorgeous and yet classy driveway is to go for the beautified concrete look. From different designs to various shapes and colors, the myriad possibilities presented to you with concrete beautification make it possible for you to create a driveway perfect for you, and completely unique to you. When your friends come over, they’ll be treated to a driveway unlike any they have ever seen before. Plus, the look of beautified concrete is modern, upscale, and artistic.

Plant in the median strip
One of the most unique driveway designs is the median strip garden. Simply by having the median strip (the middle part of the driveway, between the tires) lower than the rest of the driveway, you can create an entire garden impervious to the bottom of your car when you come and go. You’ll enjoy seeing beautiful flowers and exotic plants directly in front of you as you seemingly drive over them, assured in your knowledge that they are undamaged. It’s not only a fun way to support a gardening hobby, but it’s also a driveway that you can bet none of your friends have.
House with Gate
Brick surface
There may be no prettier building material than brick, and that is as true for driveways as anything else. If you build a driveway out of brick, you can add a mesmerizing and rustic element to your home. The beautiful color of brick will immediately set the tone for your home, welcoming any guests or visitors in classy and artistic fashion.

Wood surface
Similar to making a brick surface, a wood driveway can add aesthetic appeal to your home. Wood is classy, but also simplistic. A wood driveway makes the entrance to your home subtle and sweet, brilliant and beautiful. Plus, you can choose a gorgeous wood that perfectly complements your home, so that your driveway acts as trimming for your pretty house.

Plant grass
One of the quaintest driveways around is a grass driveway. Many people don’t think to build a grass driveway, because they know they’ll be driving on top of it. In actuality, your wheels drive over the same two lanes every time you enter or exit your driveway, meaning that the rest of the driveway is perfect for grass. A grass driveway with lush greenery and two perfect pathways for your tires can be an endearing path for years to come.

With these ideas, you can have the prettiest driveway you and your friends have ever seen, and it can be uniquely you. Build one of these driveways, and you’ll smile every time you come home.

This article is written by Jared Miret, home improvement blogger.  Jared recommends contacting beautifyyourconcrete.com as an affordable way to renew your driveway.

The Top 5 New Orleans Fountains

WaterFountains are found throughout New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter and the Garden District. They grace the courtyards of many private residences and they are commonly found among the restaurants and hotels in the area. Even Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street has a courtyard fountain that appears to be on fire at night. Here are the five most fascinating and historic fountains in the city of New Orleans.

Darlington Fountain

This fountain in New Orleans’s West End was erected prior to World War I. It was known as a musical fountain because an operator controlled the water flow and the lighting by hand to synchronize the fountains with the music contributed by bands and orchestras at special events. The three-dimensional effects produced resulted in it also being known as a “prismatic” fountain. This century-old masterpiece became one of the inspirations for later automated musical fountains, such as those found at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The original drawings for the fountain are dated February 1915, and construction likely concluded in 1916. The Darlington fountain later became the symbol for West End Park. Yacht clubs and restaurants also embraced the iconic fountain by using it in their logos. The fountain is slated for a full restoration by the Friends of West End.

Fountain in Jackson Square

This historic fountain is found in Jackson Square, which is situated exactly where the French Mississippi Company built the very first settlement. Fittingly, the fountain in Jackson Square was dedicated on April 29, 1960 to memorialize the visit of French President General Charles de Gaulle and his spouse, Yvonne.

The landscaped area on which the fountain stands was designed in 1721 by architect Louis H. Pilié. For a time it served as grounds for military parades. Today it stands at the heart of the French Quarter in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the longest continually operating cathedral in the U.S. The current home of the New Orleans archdiocese, the cathedral first opened in 1718. The present structure was built in 1789. Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.

Fountain at Coliseum Square Park

South of the French Quarter, in the lower Garden District, is the lush greenery of Coliseum Square Park and its beautiful fountain. Strollers and those on Garden District walking tours often stop to enjoy the tranquil sounds experienced here. Both biking trails and walking trails abound in this park that dates back to the mid-1800s. The park and its fountain are only two blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar stop.

Fountains at Longue Vue House and Gardens

Just off Metairie Road, at 7 Bamboo Road, are the Longue Vue House and Gardens and its 22 fountains. Longue Vue is often thought of as one of the highest quality city estates in the nation. It is open to the public on a paid admission basis. It’s been a National Historic Landmark since 2005.

The Classical Revival mansion serves as a stunning backdrop to a long rectangular pool and lyrical fountains. The fountains frame the mansion in endless photographs captured by enchanted visitors. The fountains are a vital part of the eight acres of gardens inspired by the Gardens of the Alhambra in Spain.

The home was built by New Orleans businessman Edgar Bloom Stern and his wife, Sears heiress Edith Rosenwald Stern. The gardens have been fully restored to the original specifications created when the Sterns built the estate.

Pavement and GrassFountains at the New Orleans Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, in City Park, is home to the country’s largest stand of mature live oaks. The cool shade and the fountains offer a wonderful respite from city life. Bronzed statues and sculptures blend well with the historic cast-iron fountains. Photographers never tire of framing scene after scene with low-hanging oak branches. The conservatory has been renovated, and it includes a roaring waterfall and beautiful hanging vines in a simulated rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species can be explored here.

New Orleans truly is a city of fountains, and these five examples have long represented, and help contribute to, its overall vibrancy and heritage.

The author found a great New Orleans-style copper fountain for his home at: www.fathomfountains.com/copper-fountains

Preparing Your Gulf Coast Garage for Summer

AC Seen from OutsideAs a homeowner in the Gulf Coast region, you can protect your home’s garage doors from summer weather by making a plan and by taking action to implement it. The first of June is the official start of hurricane season, and your prompt action can limit or avoid damage to your home’s structures. Planning for weather events that are predictable is a duty of responsible homeowners.

The National Hurricane Center cites sustained wind speeds at up to 95 mph for Category 1 and up to 157 for Category 5 storms. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale indicates that frame structures are especially susceptible to damage from wind, and garage doors that are typically constructed of wood or similar materials are vulnerable.

Make a Plan

As part of your general household defense plan, the security of a garage door will improve the structural integrity of your home. Successful efforts to stop hurricane winds from entering a garage can prevent extensive damage to the interior of your home. Interior doors that are not designed to resist impact can easily collapse in hurricane conditions. Captive wind forces inside a garage are extremely destructive, pushing upward and outward to destroy walls and roofing systems. Defensive methods that are commonly used in garage openings to limit wind damage include:

• Impact-Rated Garage Door – Hurricane-force winds pull as well as push against garage doors, shaking and weakening them in the process. Impact-rated doors are designed to withstand forces of extreme wind conditions and flying debris. Some are reinforced within each section of a door to provide increased resistance to winds. Prices start around $900 for a one-car garage door and $1500 for a two-car door.

• Braces – Vertical braces made of aluminum strong enough for use on airplanes strengthen a door and make it more resistant to hurricane winds. For about $200 per brace, you can add to the security of your garage door. The quality of your existing door governs the performance of braces that are a retrofit product. Doors that have glass windows or those that are in poor repair may not get as much protection as those that are solid or new. Manufacturers may choose not to offer guarantees for braces applied to substandard doors.

• Hurricane Panels – Steel offers the best protection from hurricane damage. Aluminum panels are lighter and less capable of deterring damage. Installation of either type of material is a difficult task, and the quality of installation has an effect on effectiveness. Poorly installed panels can add to flying debris and cause damage to people or property. Panels for doors of various sizes are available for less than $1000.

House with a Lot of WindowsImplement a Plan

To assess the need for garage door protection, you may choose to hire a home appraiser. Some companies offer a free evaluation of garage doors to assess the wind load that they can tolerate, their ability to resist impact, and their compliance with local building codes. Checking for effectiveness of protective measures and the cost of installing them is a first step you can take to prevent hurricane damage.

Taking the next step to get the work done is the way to make sure that it is done correctly. The space occupied by a garage door opening is sufficiently large to require installation by someone with professional expertise.

With these tips in hand, the author has begun fortifying his Houston overhead door.

Window Tinting a Gulf Coast Home

Kitchen with Window TintWindow tinting makes any interior space cooler, more private, and more enjoyable; this is particularly valuable for homes in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast region. The addition of window tints can not only reduce cooling expenses, it will protect furnishings and art from the bright sun while also making it harder for intruders or strong winds to break a window. However, it’s important to choose the right team to tint the windows in any private home. Here are a few tips homeowners can follow when searching for a window tinting company.

Selection

Not all window tints are created equal. Some are darker and will cut more of the natural light. Special coatings are required to block the UV rays and protect fine artwork from fading. Security tints that hold glass pieces together when a window is broken are also specially designed and labeled. Look for a company that has a good selection and can provide you with the right window tint.

Experience

Look for a company with years of experience. They may also specialize in window and commercial tinting, but they should definitely have a few years of experience in residential windows. It takes time to learn how to smoothly install window tint that is free of bubbles or scratches.

Insured

When a contractor works on any home, they should have insurance. While it is not likely that a window tinter will break something inside a home, it’s still better to choose a company that protects its customers by investing in insurance. With this coverage, homeowners are protected in the unlikely event that something in their home is damaged or broken.

Timely Services

It’s also important to invest in a company that will provide timely services. When homeowners make the decision to invest in window tint, they don’t want to wait weeks or months to have it installed. Look for a company that can provide fast service to start benefiting from window tinting right away.

Ask About the Clean-Up

Installing window tint can be messy. The technicians will have to use water to get all of the air out from between the windows and the tint. Talk to the company you are considering about the installation process. Find out what steps they take to protect your home and clean up any mess afterward. The best companies will use protective covers under the windows, and they will clean up the entire mess after the tinting is installed.

Window FixGet Multiple Quotes

Talk with several companies and get more than one quote. This is the best way to find the most reasonable prices on window tinting projects and save money. Taking the time to talk with different companies also lets homeowners ask questions about scheduling, how long the project takes, and what steps are taken to keep the area clean.

Ask for References

Finally, ask for references for any tinting company. Reputable companies are happy to provide references for their work including pictures of homes and businesses they have worked on. Don’t be afraid to call the references and ask for more detailed information about how the company did, how long they were in the house, and how pleased the customer is with the work.

Window tinting can lower energy bills and help homeowners save money. The best tinting will also make the home safer by protecting furnishings from the sun and even intruders. Finding the right company for a residential project will require a little research, but homeowners will be much happier with the finished product when they hire a reputable, experienced company. From a decorative tint on a New Orleans bungalow, to a window film in Houston, homeowners across the Gulf Coast have been able to enjoy their summers again by pursuing this simple home renovation project.

Easy Tips for Gulf Coast Homeowners to Keep Cool This Summer

Woman in Front of ACBattling summer heat in an arid region is tough enough, but when you’re living in New Orleans, or any city in the Gulf Coast region, you have to deal with both heat and humidity. Use the following tips to keep you and your family nice and cool during your Gulf Coast summer.

Stay Inside and Crank Up the A/C

This one is simple enough. You probably don’t want to be a hermit all summer long, though, so if you’re going to spend time outdoors, aim for early in the morning or later in the evening when outside temperatures will be more manageable.

Electric Fans

Letting your air conditioner run all summer can be expensive. If you want to cut down your electricity bill, use an electric fan instead. Keep in mind that once temperatures go into the high 90s, an electric fan won’t ward off heat-related illnesses. Take a cool bath or shower if you start getting too hot. You can even turn your fan into a makeshift air conditioner. All you need is a metal bowl filled with ice. Place this bowl directly in front of the fan, and it will go a long way toward cooling the room.

Drink Plenty of Water

You should stay hydrated all year round, but this is even more important during the summer. Drink eight ounces of water each hour. Avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with high levels of caffeine, as these will dehydrate you quickly. Drinking enough water has numerous health benefits, so this is a good tip follow throughout the year.

Protect Your Body

Put on plenty of sunscreen and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied approximately thirty minutes before going outside. You should also wear a hat and sunshades in order to ward off heat stroke and prevent your eyes from being damaged by the sun’s UV rays.

Keep Strenuous Activity to Minimum

Those of you looking for a good excuse to avoid home and yard work are in luck. Participating in strenuous activities during a heat wave is dangerous, so either cut back on your work hours or limit your activities to the early morning or evening. If you exercise regularly, you should either alter your workout schedule to avoid the hottest time of the day or exercise in a building with a good air conditioning system. Or, you can take part in outdoor activities that can simultaneously keep you cool, like visiting some of New Orleans’ public pools.

Wooden TableTake Walks by a River

On hot summer days in the Gulf Coast, a large body of water is your friend. If you live in New Orleans, take a stroll through Woldenberg Riverfront Park and watch the ships sail down the Mississippi River. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful scenery.

The Canal Street Ferry

Speaking of New Orleans, a ride on the Canal Street Ferry can provide you with a fun and cost-free way to cool down. The ferry operates seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

To offset some of the costs associated with cooling his Gulf Coast home, the author recently invested in an energy saving water heater replacement.

Acadian Brick and Stone: Paving the way to a new gold standard

Written by: Jill Martinez

It’s been a hard road to hoe since his days working in oil field management almost five years ago, but Darriel Green and his wife, Dione, have stayed committed to their vision to create a service oriented business which provides quality brick and stone products to both residential and commercial projects in the Lafayette area. “Looking back, I get a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that we excelled at a business people told me years ago wasn’t even worth my time,” says Darriel Green. “We’ve been able to grow our business from a cramped modular building in a dusty, dirty brick yard to an expansive state-of-the-art showroom which features an array of brick, flooring and roofing selections. The journey has been tough and tears have definitely been shed, but in the end, myself, my wife and my amazing staff have stayed focus on our core company value – to always treat others as you would like to be treated,” notes Green. “That’s always been our standard, and it continues to set us apart within the industry time and time again.”

In addition to their general emphasis on hospitality and good will, Green’s success is also derived from his specialized selection of antique bricks, especially those extracted from areas around South Carolina, Virginia, St. Louis, and Birmingham. Without carrying the weight of all the green hype that permeates the market today, recovering and reusing bricks is and has always been a great way to recycle materials. And that is exactly the eco friendly manner in which antique bricks are produced. “People in Louisiana and throughout the Southern part of the country love the rustic character and charm of antique bricks. It is a more specialized product, so I have to travel around to different areas to select the best quality bricks available,” he says. “We have some that date back from around 1870.”
Amid all of his success in the industry, Green is probably most proud of his antique brick floor tile. “I burnt up almost $2,000 of equipment in a single day trying to slice antique brick to get just the right hardness, texture and color,” Green recalls. “And we are talking about a product that took an entire three years of this kind of exhausting experimentation to perfect.”

When Darriel and Dione began a renovation of their home in the area, their natural instinct was to use brick in the flooring. Instead of outsourcing the job, Darriel made up his mind to produce the flooring himself – a decision that in the end bolstered his business tremendously despite the many setbacks he encountered along the way. “The antique brick floor tile has been a really great product for us. It’s changed our business, that’s for sure!” exclaims Green. And although Green continues to expand his product selection, grow his markets, and target larger and larger areas, the service-oriented foundation he set into place years ago remains the same. For the Green family and the loyal, dedicated staff at Acadian Brick and Stone, it’s not what they are selling, but the way in which they relate and respect each and every customer they interact with that makes all the difference. “I can’t emphasize that enough. You can buy bricks in many different places, but being able to trust that you’ll get what you want, when you want it, and for the price you agreed to pay is such a relief to the homeowners and builders we deal with on a day to day basis, that they keep coming back or refer their friends and family,” he explains. It is amazing how far a smile and a dose of good old fashion respect will get you. Darriel and Dione Green could not agree more.

Acadian Brick and Stone
2431 S. College Road
P.O. Box 82207
Lafayette, Louisiana 70598
337.235.9516
www.acadianbrick.com

Romancing the Stone: D&D Ornamental Concrete

Written by: Simonette Berry

Where can you encounter a giant gorilla, a baby dinosaur, a slumbering dragon, and an angel with a six-foot wingspan surrounded by a host of genuflecting saints? Not in your dreams or even Disneyland (they don’t have saints), but the epic statuary section of D and D Ornamental Concrete. D and D has been offering an inspiring collection of statuary, fountains, birdbaths, garden furniture, and garden ornaments since 1986. With four acres in Napoleonville and another acre at the Baton Rouge location, D and D’s huge selection, among other things, has made it the largest wholesaler and retailer of statuary in Louisiana.

D and D was founded during the oil bust in the 80s and has grown steadily since its inception, thriving even through today’s recession. Founder Mike Dubois grew up working with his parents, Helen and Paul Dubois, at Dubois Nursery in Houma, where they carried a small selection of stone statues. Mike and his wife, co-founder Patricia Dubois, were attracted to the idea of being makers of their own destiny. With the help of Mike’s parents and a retiring statue manufacturer that offered to show them the tricks of the trade, the young couple started D and D Ornamental in 1986. “We started selling to other nurseries that I knew through my mom’s shop, and pretty soon I had a steady clientele. Almost every year we’ve earned more than the one before,” he says.

Patricia worked by Mike’s side as a statuary painter for the first 10 years the business was in operation. Now, she runs the Baton Rouge store and manages the accounting while Mike focuses on sales, production, and fountain installation at the Napoleonville location. People come through both stores on weekends in droves. Though D and D does a good bit of retail, the biggest business comes from wholesale customers; the company serves hundreds of them throughout the Gulf Coast region. “Wholesale was always our biggest market,” says Mike. “My mom’s nursery business gave me lots of ready-made connections, and word spread fast. For the first 15 years or so, it was word of mouth only. We didn’t need to advertise; we could barely handle the business we had! Now, we’ve expanded enough to advertise, and about seven or eight years ago we created the website. People can shop from their homes just by looking through the online catalog.”

“A lot of people come out just to look around. If you come here, make plans to spend a little time so you can see everything. We love having people, and we hardly ever lose customers once they’ve bought from us. Our prices are very competitive because we make 80 percent of everything we sell. So many people say to me they can’t believe how good our prices are, but I explain that we try to give our customers the same benefits we have.”

Mike pumps new life into the business every year with original sculptures, fountains, and ornaments. “We hire a sculptor from time to time to create new work or to do commissions. He’ll come into the shop and sculpt the pieces, and from those we make our own molds. He just did a huge fleur de lis fountain for us. He’s done giant tigers, 14-foot alligators, large Jesus and Mary statues, life-size angels, all sorts of things.”

“Our religious statues are very popular, especially here in the South. People tend to buy them especially after hurricanes, I’ve noticed. We have a lot of original religious pieces and a large selection, so people come from as far away as Houston, Shreveport, and Lake Charles to get them. It’s a fun way to meet people. The Wall Street Journal even did a feature in 1999 about our Virgin Mary statues.”

Driving around south Louisiana, you’ll find D and D pieces proudly displayed in front lawns, schoolyards, church courtyards, and businesses. St. Charles Avenue’s twin vistas, Audubon Park and Tulane University, are dotted with D and D classic benches, urns, and planters. Less than a mile away, Ursuline Academy has a seven-foot custom-made religious statue on their lawn. “The 12-foot-tall crucifixes with Jesus are popular around here, too—you’ll see them out on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge and in some of the church courtyards,” says Mike.

D and D statues are also popular for lighthearted lawn decor and advertising gimmicks. “The big blue gorilla statue on Highway 90 is ours. There’s one like it in Plaquemines Parish in a man’s front yard. He dresses it up like Santa, the Easter Bunny, sometimes like an LSU player. He makes the news just about every year,” he chuckles. “It’s a good feeling to ride down the road and see pieces you made 20 and 25 years ago in people’s yards. It’s a good feeling to make something that people want,” says Mike.

Bella Pietra, Bella Famiglia: The Stone Gallery

Written by: Simonette Berry

In business since 1999, the Stone Gallery is a sprawling, one-acre stone yard in Harahan. This is not your average stone experience; at the Stone Gallery, you can purchase slabs of stone for the same wholesale prices that are usually only offered to stone fabrication shops. There are stone selections to fit every budget. After 10 years in the business, the Stone Gallery owner, Johnny Altobello, Jr., decided his company was going to change the way natural stone was sold in southern Louisiana. He decided to clearly mark each color of stone with the name of the stone, the size of each slab, the price per square foot, and the price of the slab. “It’s the most honest way that I know of doing business,” says Johnny. “Customers leave our facility with all of the information they need to make an educated decision about their project. We take the mystery out of buying natural stone.”

“Our one-tiered pricing system is very important to me,” Johnny continues. “There are no games or gimmicks here, just premium quality material at wholesale prices. We charge the same price regardless if the customer is a stone fabrication shop, homeowner, contractor, or designer. Homeowners can buy their stone directly from us, and we will hold it for them until their job is ready,” he says. The Stone Gallery will also ship customers’ purchases to the stone fabrication shop of their choice, or if they don’t know a stone fabricator, one can be recommended from their list of preferred fabricators.

There are different grades of natural stone, just like there are different grades of diamonds, emeralds, and other gemstones. The Stone Gallery imports and sells only first-quality, premium grade natural stone, the highest grade available. “We have quality control people in Italy and Brazil who select the first quality stone just for us. Before we purchase the material chosen by our quality control staff, I must approve each stock. And I’m picky,” he laughs.

The Stone Gallery has over 150 colors of natural stone in stock and has access to hundreds more. The most popular have historically been marble and granite, but exotic quartzites are starting to take the market by storm. “It’s a natural stone that’s harder than granite, and it comes in some really gorgeous colors. The only stone harder than quartzite is a diamond. People are starting to ask for more exotic stones in unusual colors, so we’re importing more and more quartzite and unusual granites every month,” says Johnny.

“People’s taste in natural stone continues to mature. They don’t want the same colors of stone that they see everywhere; they want new, bold and fresh colors. We specialize in the unusual. When we opened in 1999, there were probably 10 colors of stone in this market. As we grew, I reinvested our profits into exotic stones, bringing colors to Louisiana that no one had ever seen. Some of the most popular exotic quartzites are Palomino, Fusion, and Symphony. We have many other colors that are here or en route from Brazil and Italy. We’re always adding new colors to our product line.”

By popular demand, the Stone Gallery also started carrying Blanco sinks and faucets. “Our customers wanted to be able to get everything they needed for their kitchen in one place. They told us that if we had sinks, tile, and backsplash ideas, they wouldn’t have to run all over the city! So, we’ve made it a one-stop shop. We also carry an extensive line of DuPont stone care and maintenance products, as well as stone remnants and half slabs of marble for vanity tops and smaller projects. Like the larger, full slabs of stone, these smaller pieces are on display in the stone yard and all marked with the stone name, size, and price. Customers can also shop by taking the virtual tour of our stone yard on our website, stonegalleryno.com,” Johnny says.

The Stone Gallery is the oldest wholesaler of stone in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and it has been a family owned and operated business since day one. Johnny started the business on a small covered lot on Airline Highway. “It was me, the forklift, a cordless phone, and the office trailer. Bathroom breaks and lunch breaks were luxuries,” he says. Though many members of the Altobello clan have worked at the Stone Gallery over the years, the sales team now consists of Johnny Jr., his wife and business partner Carolyn, their son Johnny III, and Johnny’s brother-in-law, John Bordes.

The family staff gives personalized golf cart tours to assist customers in selecting the perfect piece of stone for their project. While on the golf cart tour, you ride through rows and rows of beautifully displayed natural works of art. The Stone Gallery is truly an art gallery of stone, with an extensive natural stone and porcelain tile selection for flooring and backsplash materials. Carolyn offers free design services and advice for customers who purchase their countertops from the Stone Gallery. Once Carolyn and the customer have agreed on a backsplash selection, they again visit the stone yard with a sample of the backsplash to see it next to the slabs of stone selected for the kitchen or bath.

“I’ve done a number of things in my professional career and liked all of them, but none as much as this,” says Johnny. “It’s great to see our customers get excited when they find the perfect stone for their kitchen or bath. This isn’t a job; it’s a passion, and it’s one shared by my entire family.”

The Stone Gallery
5600 Mounes Street
Harahan, LA 70123
504-733-5566
stonegalleryno.com

LED-ing the Way: Valley Supply

Written by: Simonette Berry

The lighting industry is undergoing radical changes with the dawn of the green movement. In south Louisiana, a region not often thought of as a frontrunner in green technologies, Valley Supply in Houma has been sewing these seeds of change for years. Owner Cecil Zeringue, whose family has run Valley Supply for over 30 years, says he remembers customers requesting “long life bulbs” ages ago. “It used to be that the typical customer would walk into our store and ask George Chaisson for our long life 130v bulbs. They were known to live through power surges and last quite a bit longer than the 120v bulbs. I used to get a big kick out of these conversations, especially when they were in Louisiana French!”

The seeds of change were planted with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which contained, in part, energy saving standards and requirements aimed to move the country towards more energy efficient lighting. The intent was to shift the nation’s focus away from inexpensive, fuel-hungry, standard incandescent light bulbs that use only the basic technology invented by Thomas Edison over 130 years ago. The shift prompted manufacturers, not only in the U.S. but worldwide, to increase research and development for more energy efficient lighting technologies. LED (Light Emitting Diode), OLED (Organic LED), CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp), Halogen, and Cold-Cathode light bulbs are not necessarily new inventions, but these technologies have now become more affordable and available. “Embracing these new technologies has allowed consumers to save on maintenance cost, conserve energy, and have a wider pool of options to choose from,” says Zeringue. “It’s revealed some pretty cool lighting strategies and created real ingenuity in the marketplace.” “There are so many different manufacturers throwing their hats into the LED ring,” he says. “It’s kept us very busy lately on the research front. We have several customers, business owners and electricians, who are pretty hip on the LED potential. They’re always stopping by to learn about the hottest new technology and give us feedback. So, we have to stay on the cutting edge.”

“We are also seeing many customers in Terrebonne and Lafourche who really want to change the way they consume energy. Our community was hit hard by the oil spill, and in many ways I think everyone here wants to do their part, no matter how small that might be. ‘How can we save money? Could we reduce our energy usage? Do we really have energy efficient options that make sense now?’ That’s what we’re all saying these days.”

“We are continually field testing, learning, listening, and seeking out the right products for our customers and the trade-offs that occur between the different technologies and manufacturers. It is easy to make this complicated, because the new variables and choices in lighting have suddenly increased tenfold,” said Zeringue.

“We’ve had to learn a whole new language at Valley Supply to communicate with customers and distributors about things such as Kelvin temperature (whiteness of the light source), lumens per watt (amount of light per energy usage), CRI (Color Rendering Index; a fancy way of factoring the depth of color upon an object when illuminated), and the multiplicity of shadows created by the number of LED sources from a single light bulb. It can really push us at times, but it’s fun to learn,” says Zeringue.

“LEDs have been getting much of the press and excitement in our world, but they’re not the answer for every application and every customer…at least for awhile. I’m seeing some interesting lower cost solutions with TCP’s Infrared Reflective Coated Halogen bulbs and their shatterproof armor coated Insta-bright dimmable CFLs. They have great potential as well. So far this year, LED bulbs have taken off in the task lighting arena, with applications such as under-counter and cove lighting applications. LED landscape lighting and recessed down lights have also been in high demand. RAB Lighting has a great, affordable 20-watt wall pack that has become pretty popular as well.”

“The quality and right amount of light is very important to us and our customers. I don’t know anyone who enjoys climbing up a ladder on a consistent basis,” he chuckles. “Sometimes, though, the less expensive standard incandescent can still be the better overall option. It really depends upon what is most important to the customer in their application,” Zeringue explains.

Lighting isn’t the only area Valley Supply has updated. They also have a Facebook page, where Zeringue is constantly posting photos from their Lighting Market and demo videos. “It’s a great place to interact with our customers and share things with them that they wouldn’t normally get to see,” he says.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that many factors go into whether a new product or technology will succeed in our region: performance, compatibility, cost, quality, life-expectancy, and availability. I think it also depends on companies like us who actively listen to our customers and manufacturers to bridge the gap. That is our job. We enjoy what we do and we greatly appreciate the great people of this beautiful region. Nothing makes me happier than to hear from someone who was well served at Valley.”

Valley Supply Co. of Houma
1000 Barataria Ave.
Houma, LA 70360
985-872-1431
valleysupplyco.com
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Timeless Design: Supreme Ornamental Ironworks

Written by: Simonette Berry

Graceful scrolls, vine tendrils, and ornate old world designs are interwoven into the rich fabric of Louisiana’s architecture in the form of historic ornamental ironwork. Iron is a timeless medium; old houses are restored around it. Wood rots, bricks crumble, and cement sidewalks crack beside the gracefully aging balconies, railings, fences, and window grilles of yesteryear that stand strong through hundreds of hurricane seasons and frosty winters. These works of art crown the homes and businesses that local families hand down for generations.

Karl Adams, founder of Supreme Ornamental Ironworks, was drawn to the old ironwork in the Vieux Carré long before he began creating it himself. At the time, he owned a muffler and quick lube shop, where he enjoyed restoring classic motorcycles. “Every Saturday, I used to ride through the French Quarter with three friends of mine, and I’d stop and look at the ironwork. I still go there for inspiration today. I like studying the old European style, where the roots are, and looking at the workmanship. I’m always researching and looking for inspiration. I learn something new every day.

Adams started playing around with ironwork in 1994 in his shop. He made garden gates and small ironwork panels for friends and enjoyed the creative spark that happened with each new job. In 1998, a local contractor asked Adams to create a 200-foot fence across the front of a new cemetery. After creating a long, elegant fence, much larger than anything he had done before, Adams realized he had found his true calling in ornamental iron. Since completing the cemetery project for the Houma Thibodaux Archdiocese, Adams has gone on to build dozens of custom fences and architectural elements for their many schools, churches, and cemeteries over the past 13 years.

Three years ago, Adams made the final leap away from auto work and closed his muffler and quick lube shop. He converted the building into another fabrication studio for Supreme Ornamental, whose two facilities now span over 7,000 feet and feature cutting edge CAD design technology. Supreme Ornamental Ironworks now specializes in creating wrought iron fencing, gates, New Orleans-style posts and ornamental designs, staircases, balcony railings, and various architectural elements. They also offer custom awnings, chimney tops, dormers, flashing, and other ornamental iron pieces done in copper and colored metal. “I have eight specially trained team members. I could have 25 if I wanted, but for the quality of what I want to produce, I need a small, tightly knit team. I want to be positive about the quality of what I put out there, and I’m not out to do mass production,” says Adams. “I’m very particular about each piece of ironwork being completely solid. Everything we put out is a high quality, refined product, so no bolts or tack welding. After the construction is done, each piece is sandblasted, primed, and painted with industrial marine enamel. These pieces will stand the test of time.”

“I do everything hands-on. When you call me for a job, I make an appointment and we’re going to spend at least an hour together at first. Then, I’ll invite you out to the workshop to see how things are done. Then, we sit down to create the final design. I am with my clients every step of the way,” Adams says.

Adams and his team spend three weeks out of each month constructing and finishing; the rest of the time, they are on the road, installing work throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. “If someone wants our work, we will travel wherever they want us to,” he says. After Gustav, Adams was called to Mississippi to painstakingly replicate and restore damaged ironwork that dated back to the 1800s. He is most popular, though, in South Louisiana, where he has woven old New Orleans ironwork styles along the main boulevards of Thibodaux and Houma. His work can be seen at the Ellendale Country Club, the Baton Rouge Country Club of Louisiana, St. John’s Episcopal Church (the oldest church south of the Mississippi River), in every home in the Acadia Plantation subdivision, and throughout countless other commercial facilities, businesses, schools, churches, and homes. “I’ve worked for a lot of high-profile, popular people, but I respect their privacy. Sometimes I won’t even take pictures. I’ll just say that I’ve worked on some pretty amazing projects in my time.”

“I wanted to create a company that no one else around here had, something people had never heard of. The fact that everything is custom designed, built by hand, and tailored to the customer’s needs is what has made us so successful. I like building something you can’t find anywhere else. If a person can explain what their vision is, we can create it. We can build anybody’s dream.”

Supreme Ornamental
2870 Hwy 1
Labadieville, LA
(985) 526-0056

The Secret to Success: Brian’s Furniture

Written by: Simonette Berry

Louisiana has many “locals-only” secrets; where to get the best boudin (Hebert’s Meat Market in Maurice), where to go hear the best music (if you don’t know, ask a local), and where you got them shoes (according to the French Quarter scam artists, they’re “on yo’ feet!”). In the heart of downtown Port Allen’s historic district, there is another well-kept secret; a city block transformed into a shopper’s paradise. Brian’s Furniture is anything but a simple furniture store. The 40,000-square-foot complex is made up of four specialty shops offering indoor and outdoor furniture, accessories, art, and miscellaneous architectural pieces. You’ll find everything from bedroom sets and patio furniture to original Louisiana art and a life-size Star Wars C3PO and E.T. for your lawn.

At one time, Brian’s was a 5,000-square-foot warehouse that offered interior furnishings only. Thirty years later, it has become a destination spot where shoppers stop to spend the day. Brian Fourroux, owner of this unique, family-run business, says his success is no secret. He is constantly recreating and adding to his space. Brian works with his wife, Keri, and his nephew, Tyler, to keep each space lively and never the same the next time you visit. “We’ve become the superstore of outdoor living. People come from all around to see what we’ve got,” Brian says.

“Saturdays are big here,” he says. Across the street from the large indoor furniture store, Brian converted his father’s old service station into a quaint, New Orleans-style courtyard. On certain weekends, a musician plays traditional jazz, his melodies filtering sweetly through the sunlit rows of chairs, statues, and fountains. Several artists hang their paintings along the fence, and you’ll often find Brian’s in-house artist painting on the patio or decorating the sugar kettles and furniture in brilliantly colored finishes. A variety of aluminum patio furniture, mailboxes, lawn ornaments, bronze and copper fountains, and garden ornaments fill the space. “The jazz and the art on the fence give the space that old New Orleans feeling. It’s got charm. People love it,” he says.

Brian’s Furniture offers a milieu of outdoor elements. The New Orleans courtyard is filled with the largest selection of unique outdoor furniture, architectural pieces, mailboxes, light posts, and miscellaneous outdoor accents. “We have New Orleans-style light fixtures in aluminum and copper, and over 20 different styles of mailboxes alone to choose from.” A popular item is Brian’s custom designed fleur-de-lis patio set, which he had custom designed around the fleur-de-lis that was once on the old Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi. The fine workmanship and designs of Brian’s aluminum patio furniture almost supersedes its other charms. By virtue of being aluminum, it’s easy to move around and rust-free; and the pieces are all powder coated, which makes the product virtually maintenance free.

“Our niche is the New Orleans-style courtyard, but we have much more to offer, and people see that once they walk in the door,” he says. Brian’s Furniture just added another location within the complex; a sugar kettle yard. “We have hundreds of sugar kettles, probably the largest collection and selection in the entire southern region. We have cast iron sugar kettles guaranteed not to rust in two, three, four, five, six, and seven foot. We call the seven-foot sugar kettle ‘the coonass hot tub!'” he laughs. Brian’s Furniture also offers fiberglass sugar kettles made from molds of old Louisiana sugar kettles, with New Orleans, LA stenciled on the rim. “We have the fiberglass in two, three, four, five, and six foot. They are absolutely beautiful kettles, and once the natural aging process begins, you can barely tell the difference between the fiberglass and the iron.

In the main furniture store, Brian has a huge selection of indoor home furnishings. “In our main store, we specialize in reclaimed cypress pieces,” he explains. “I have a talented carpenter, a true Louisiana craftsman who was trained as a cabinetmaker. He creates beautiful consoles, desks, dining tables, end tables, armoires, buffets, and many customized pieces from Louisiana cypress wood.” The main store also houses Brian’s mid- to high-end imported reproduction accent pieces for the home. Next door is Brian’s furniture warehouse, where you can find great deals on discounted pieces. Biannual auctions are held in the warehouse (for more information on the auctions and special events, subscribe to the newsletter at www.briansfurniture.com).

Brian’s Furniture also features over 400 pieces of art by local artists inside the main store. Every week he spotlights a few of them, creating a constantly rotating wall space filled with Louisiana imagery and local color. If the music and art doesn’t grab you from the street, the comic relief out front will. Brian’s sense of humor shines through his choice in statuary; his street looks almost like a scene from a fantastic children’s book or television show. “We’ve got a life-size tiger, a huge alligator, life-size cigar Indian, a giraffe, and a six-foot-tall pelican along the fence out front. It adds a unique touch to downtown,” he chuckles. “Bring your camera!”

Living Like George Jetson: Select Automation homes of the future

Written by: Lauren Noel

However cliche the title sounds, it is literally the only way to describe the things that Select Automation of Mandeville has to offer for your home. Security systems of the highest quality, lighting control systems, media and audio systems, or all in one package: anything you can think of to create your very own “smart home,” Select Automation can install and maintain for you.

When I began working on this story, I had no idea what “select automation” even meant. When I spoke with someone from the company, all they told me was that I had to visit the store to get the full effect. Wow, did I ever! I was taken into a conference room set up as a model home with all the different amenities that Select Automation had to offer. From there, it was a presentation of automatic lighting adjustments, security cameras, audio options and movies galore, throughout which my jaw stayed on the floor.

I had no idea these sort of things were available for a home. They offer an audio system that loads (and stores) up to 1,000 CDs (and album artwork) for you to choose from at any time with the push of a button, or a security system that rings all of the phones in the household ring if someone presses the doorbell and allows them to converse through the phone and an intercom outside. Say you are miles away on a beautiful vacation, but you are worried about the safety of your home. Using a “smart phone,” you can check all of your security cameras around the property, ensuring your home’s safety. One last thing that I will mention has to be my favorite of the available options. Using Select Automation’s system, you can set your lighting, television, or audio to a wake-up time, where at any given time your TV or any song will turn on to wake you up, while your lighting can gradually increase over ten minutes to slowly awake you. Now really, how cool is that?

The most important thing Select Automation offers is their certified technicians that install every piece of equipment, including wiring—which, by the way, is installed within the walls of your home, eliminating ANY exposed wiring. It also helps to know that you don’t need to install everything at once, or at all. You can pick and choose from any of their customized packages for what you think is the most beneficial to your home, and you can customize based on pricing—which is also surprisingly not that bad.

I could go on and on describing the things that Select Automation can do for your home. However, the best thing I can recommend is a visit, because that is all it took for me to become convinced, and I am sure you will be, too.

Select Automation
68445 James Street
Mandeville, LA
985.871.7717
www.selectautomation.com

Particular About Pianos: Tips on buying the best

Written by: Simonette Berry

The first time I sat at a piano at age nine, I didn’t know a note of music. After six years of ballet lessons and seemingly glorious recitals, my parents forced me to change course and study music, to my utter horror. Didn’t they get it? I was destined to be a famous prima ballerina like Anna Pavlova! I wanted to live forever in a tutu and leap across stages.

Very reluctantly, I began taking piano lessons from a serious, no-nonsense teacher who would crack a pencil across my hands when I missed a single note. Despite this, I eventually grew to relish the daily discipline of practicing scales.

Five years later, at age 14, I was performing piano for Broadway musicals at school with the ULL orchestra, competing statewide, and taking pipe organ lessons at the college with a very demanding, phenomenal university professor. Despite his steadfast goal of sending me to Juilliard for the organ, I jumped ship. The piano was my true love. Besides, it made me popular at parties. I became grateful for that harsh (and wise) parental intervention, as my tutu gathered dust in the closet.

After graduating from high school, I moved to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, armed with dreams and a scholarship to Loyola’s College of Music. I would spend four to six hours a night practicing on the funky old upright pianos on campus. It was during those four years while performing recitals on concert grand pianos that I fell head over heels for Steinways.

Having played every kind of piano imaginable over the past few decades, I still feel there is nothing comparable to a Steinway and Sons piano. In north Louisiana, the best place to find a great Steinway is at Pendley Piano Gallery (5803 Youree Drive; 318-219-1900); in south Louisiana, it is Hall Piano (901 David Drive in Metairie; 
504-733-8863).

When those who play piano professionally are asked which piano is the best one in the world today, the answer is inevitably a Steinway. According to Grammy award-winning Emanuel Ax, one of the best known concert pianists of the 21st century, “When one plays a Steinway, there is a warmth and nobility in the sound that is unequalled by any other instrument.”

Buying a piano is a major investment, much like buying a car. You may want to consider purchasing one that will increase in value rather than devaluate. Steinway pianos, which are made by hand by master craftsmen in limited numbers, are great investments. I have been told that my own, beloved Steinway has tripled in value since it was purchased over 30 years ago.

“They only make around 7,000 Steinways worldwide each year,” says James Pendley, manager of Pendley Piano Gallery. “Each one is made by hand over a period of one year, so none of the pianos are the same. From an investment standpoint, the value of your Steinway will go up.”

There are many things to consider when purchasing a piano, from the space you have in your home to the interest and level of the person who will be playing it. Pendley continues, “For children who are beginning to study piano, most parents purchase a vertical piano for a child who may or may not continue to play, because they are less expensive.” Pendley Piano Gallery offers Steinway verticals (uprights), baby grands, and various styles of grand pianos, from new to used, and they also offer rent-to-own Steinways. Whoever purchases a piano there gets free delivery (which can be costly) and free tuning upon delivery.

A console is the most popular of the vertical pianos. Many piano teachers recommend that young beginners should learn on an acoustic vertical piano, and most will advise strongly against a digital piano. My grandmother, a pianist, treated me to a new console piano for my bedroom when I first started taking lessons, even though we had a baby grand in our home. It proved to be a wise move.

There are four types of vertical pianos, based on height: console, spinet, studio, and upright. I advise against a spinet because of the indirect “drop action” design. Try at least for a console, 42 inches or higher. Of course, the tonal quality of a Steinway grand piano cannot be matched. Larger soundboards and longer strings produce greater volume and resonance of tone.

If you have to move your piano at some point, go with only the best movers, because disasters can happen; I learned that lesson the hard way. I recommend using Kid Gloves Inc. (601 S. Galvez Street in New Orleans, 504-309-6894), which is the largest specialty moving company in this region of the country, with a great reputation. The 23-year-old company runs trucks nationwide. They are piano moving experts, and can also move antiques, fine art, chandeliers, and accessories. You can rest assured that your piano will be moved exactly right, which is a great comfort if you love your piano as much I love mine. Owning a piano and learning to play is a joy that can last a lifetime.

Stairway to Success: The Stairway Shop

Written by: Simonette Berry

Has your house every felt like a scene from The Money Pit? In this movie about a home renovation gone hilariously wrong, a young couple buys a house only to find that what they thought were minor repairs turn into months of renovations. In one iconic scene, the main stairway collapses and Walter and Anna are forced to move things from floor to floor by ladder and pulley. After Katrina, scenes of this nature occurred in thousands of flood-ravaged homes, yet there was no place for New Orleans residents to buy custom stairway products. Everything had to be ordered off the Internet, and if something went wrong, clients had nowhere to turn. Phil Cerminaro of Industrial Products, an industrial supply company, saw the need for a shop that offered a comprehensive service for clients in the market for stairways, complete with a showroom and full-service design and installation. Cerminaro worked fast to open by the end of 2005, meeting the demand of post-Katrina rebuilders. It was a godsend to many New Orleans residents in need of a local service they could trust.

Six years after the storm, the city has rebuilt and the local market revolves around renovation rather than building or rebuilding. Cerminaro’s business has grown with the city’s residents, now offering a turnkey solution for a variety of stairway and railing products. They offer everything from prefab DIY spiral staircase kits to custom stairway design and installation geared toward home and business renovations. The Stairway Shop’s 1000-square-foot showroom allows customers to browse through a wealth of traditional stairways, spiral stairs, attic stairs, library ladders, and a host of railing systems. The Stairway Shop renovates existing staircases to update the look and bring them into code compliance. It’s also common for clients to come to them in need of a fix when a carpenter or contractor has installed a stairway incorrectly. A full-time custom stair builder and installation team are on staff, and customers can buy standard stair parts or have a stairway designed and built to spec. Custom stairs require careful design and planning to adhere to building codes.

The Stairway Shop provides each customer with a unique style to fit their space, while keeping the cost in line with the project budget. “We can either create or have fabricated any type of stairway product for any residence or facility. Our network of craftsmen, stair builders, and factories across the country can supply anything we don’t make in-house. Recently, a family from Ville Platte was building a new home, and they wanted a custom, curved, freestanding wooden staircase. We created it with a combination of oak and iron balusters and had it made by some Amish craftsmen in Ohio. They drove it down here and we installed it,” Cerminaro says.

His team works through each phase of the design, construction, and installation process to ensure a positive result for their clients, which has led to overwhelming positive response and a business that finds success wherever it chooses to go. In addition to using the typical industrial materials, Cerminaro began using reclaimed wood to meet his clients’ needs. “A lot of clients had antique heart pine floors, and they wanted their stairs to match. We use reclaimed wood from local renovation projects. We got our first load of reclaimed heart pine when a space on Canal Street was being gutted and renovated post-Katrina,” he says. “My brother-in-law is a builder, and he had to tear out the walls during the renovation of an old house uptown. They found this beautiful 100-year-old cypress bargeboard beneath the sheetrock, and we got a hold of that and started offering it to our clients.” Eco-friendly and timeless, the reclaimed wood has been a hit with Cerminaro’s clients. Cerminaro recently started a new venture: building furniture out of the re-claimed heart pine and cypress bargeboard. To maximize the skills of his gifted in-shop artisans, Cerminaro asked them to play around with making coffee and dining room tables from the reclaimed wood during their down time. This classic furniture has become another offshoot of Cerminaro’s creative business model.”Now, we’re making dining room tables from 100-year-old cypress,” he says. “We can create anything we put our minds to.”

The Stairway Shop
A Division of Industrial Products
5632 Salmen Street
Harahan, LA 70123
888-243-3339 | 504-734-1315

Building Better: MLM Incorporated

Written by: Simonette Berry

For environmentally friendly kitchen and bathroom design, remodeling, and renovation in Boulder, Co., click here!

If you’re like most New Orleans residents, you or someone you know has a home renovation horror story. From Chinese drywall to carpetbaggers that take off with the cash, this city has seen it all since Katrina. It still seems like a gamble when you’re looking to hire someone to do renovations: will they give you a fair price, get the job done on time, and do it right? At MLM Incorporated, the superb work ethic, superior customer service, competitive rates, quick turnover time, and impressive workmanship will make renovation a surprisingly pleasant experience.

Making changes to your house is a big decision, and MLM Inc. is there for you every step of the way, from picking out the look to putting on that final touch. Is your kitchen in need of an update? Is your flooring tattered and begging for a fresh shine or a new look altogether? Do you want to make that dream of a luxurious shower in your master bath come true? How about that outdoor kitchen or deck you’ve been dreaming of? Owner Machi Medrzycki is emphatic that it’s possible to get the look of your dreams while still staying in your budget. Medrzycki offers competitive pricing with low hourly rates and never an overcharge in sight. No job is too small or big for Medrzycki, who jumps on each task with a positive, friendly attitude.

“I really enjoy what I do,” says Medrzycki. “There is nothing better then a huge smile on my client’s face after performing our service and a simple ‘thank you, great job!’ I enjoy designing and coming up with bold ideas. I treat it more like a hobby rather than a job, so essentially I never work.”

Before he came to New Orleans, Medrzycki worked for a company in Florida for many years doing high-end construction in the Daytona Beach/Orlando area. “I’ve done everything from custom renovations of luxury condos to single family homes. In 2005, I established my own company and have been growing ever since.” Medrzycki, along with COO Nick Udych, built the company from the ground up. “Nick has been with us from the beginning and has played a big role in building this company,” Medrzycki says.

The devastation left by Hurricane Katrina gave MLM Inc. their first boost in business and sped up the growing process. “MLM Inc. contributed to rebuilding of the city, which in its turn helped us to establish roots in the New Orleans area. Our excellent work ethic and outstanding customer service helped us acquire great commercial and residential accounts, such as Red Wing Shoe Stores, Stirling Properties, and Register Real Estate. Bathroom and kitchen design and remodeling became the core of our operation in the last 24 months,” he says.

“The hottest items with clients right now are bathrooms and kitchens. The spaces we design are one of a kind, very unique. We also work with interior designers, but our spaces are one of a kind!” says Medrzycki.

MLM Inc. currently offers a large spectrum of services: residential and commercial maintenance services (Register Real Estate, Keller Williams, Century 21), residential and commercial multifamily renovations (Esplanade at City Park; Diamond Lakes, Castlebrook, Palm Isle, and Audubon Pointe apartments), REO preservation services, and the newest venture that was added in 2011, real estate investments and development, which grew more than 50 percent in the first year.

“I want clients to experience that great design ideas can be performed without breaking the bank. I have personally been doing custom design bathrooms and kitchens for about ten years now. The key to our success is in creating spaces that look high-end and stay on the budget at the same time,” says Medrzycki.

Medrzycki doesn’t endorse any specific products, but he enjoys using natural stone and glass combinations in bathrooms, large mirrors, open space, and simple, elegant designs. He can design in any style and accommodate any request a client might have.

“We are trying to develop our bathroom and kitchen design and remodeling division even more in 2012,” Medrzycki reveals. “We have a huge amount of quote requests via our website. My goal this year is to perform six to eight projects per month so we can lower the price even more for our clients based on company work volume. As of right now, we have a competitive price structure, but everyone loves to have even more savings.” ✦

MLM Inc.
3500 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste. 160
985-788-1541
Metairie, LA
mlm-inc.com

 

A Personal Touch: Inessa Stewart’s Antiques and Interiors

Written by: Simonette Berry
Inessa Stewart is a rare gem in the antique world. It’s unusual to find a business owner who personally selects each piece of merchandise, especially for an antique store. It’s common practice in the antique world to send out “buyers” to do the legwork or to buy online, but Inessa insists on keeping a personal touch. After 20 years of experience and refinement, that personal touch has made her business wildly successful. She and her husband and business partner John Stewart still personally select each piece that fills their 55,000 square feet of showrooms over three locations across Louisiana and Texas. They are now one of the largest importers of European antiques in the country.

“I handpick each piece as if I were buying it for my own home,” says Inessa. “Our whole house is done with nothing but antiques, and I always consider if what I’m buying would be something I’d want to live with and display in my own space.” Inessa travels to Europe every few months to bring home a variety of fine French, French Country, and Italian antiques. She also carries Contintental antiques and specializes in classic décor, offering antique and reproduction home furniture, accessories, art, mirrors, lighting, culinary antiques, and architectural elements. The large showrooms in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas and Plano, Texas, bustle with activity; inventory moves fast and new containers come to each store two or three times a month. Customers often spend years slowly building their collections through Inessa’s inspiring cache. “I think it’s wonderful to integrate antiques into today’s interiors. You can mix and match with modern décor, or fill your house with special pieces as you find them. We are always excited when we reach a client before they’ve begun a home renovation or new construction plan. I grew up in Europe, and we didn’t throw things away. We used our furniture for generations, and my mother taught me to love old pieces. My mother and I antiqued in the 70s, before it was in vogue here. It was just something we did on the weekends, but for me it became a lifelong passion,” she says.

Though she sells the beauty of the old world, Inessa has modified her business to complement modern tastes. What started as a mom and pop antique store 20 years ago has blossomed into a booming business with a busy website and an international client base. “Anyone who owns a business knows you’re either growing or you’re dying. Our business model is adaptive, constantly changing and expanding to reflect the market trends. We keep our ears to the ground,” she explains.

“Adapting antiques to a modern lifestyle is our trademark,” Inessa says. “People often want tables to be bigger, beds to be king sized, buffets and armoires turned into entertainment centers.” A score of expert craftsmen trained in the old and new world techniques are on hand to transform any antique into a modern luxury. “It’s attracted a lot of the younger generation. One thing we do that’s become popular these days is modernizing pieces with media. For example, we can adapt a buffet so that, at the push of a button, a plasma screen television quietly rises up from the top. It’s great because you can enjoy having something modern inside while the outside shell is a beautiful antique.”

“People are often surprised at how reasonable our prices are. They think that we’ll charge more because we’re a big company, but I can never stress enough how that’s not true. We ship at such a volume that we can pass the savings on to our customers,” she says. “We even have a part of the business that is devoted to bargains””on the website it’s called Antique Website Sale; in the showrooms we call it the Designer Outlet. A lot of pieces get reduced because we like to move them quickly to make room for incoming containers, so there’s always a sale going on.”

One of the Stewarts’ most successful tools is their website, a unique blend of personal service, accessibility, history, and real-time sales. It features a comprehensive catalog of antiques and home décor, educational information about antique genres and fodder for the history buffs, the latest scoop on market trends, updates about what’s going on at each location, and two blogs that Inessa and John update weekly. “We were one of the first antique stores to have a website, and it’s become an enormously useful tool. We’ve built a large client base on our web presence alone. The site is updated every day, several times a day, by our website team. It’s not something we outsource; I feel it’s important to do this in-house. If people can’t come to the store, they still get personal service and can access us 24/7.”

A few years ago, Inessa and John added the two blogs (“Antique Living” and “Mirroring History”) to interact with customers and keep them updated on the latest trends, shipments, and events. They even feature an “Antique of the Week,” usually a piece they find intriguing, unusual, or special in some way. Inessa explains, “Through the blogs, we’re able to share new ideas and interact with the customers. It’s a great way to connect.”

“Owning a business is like owning a living, breathing thing,” Inessa says. “We’ve been having fun with it, embracing the technology and growing with it. The members of our teams in the States and in Europe are a daily inspiration. But most of all, our clients inspire us. We enjoy creating beauty and bringing excitement to people’s homes. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Inessa Stewart’s Antiques and Interiors
225-368-8600· 5330 Bluebonnet Rd, Baton Rouge, LA
972-378-5100· 5800 Legacy, Ste C-4, Plano, TX
214-742-5800· 1643 Dragon at Oak Lawn, Dallas, TX

The Hidden Treasure of Old Metairie: Sister’s Antiques

Written by: Simonette Berry

At first glance, Sister’s Antiques looks like just another tiny shop tucked away in the heart of Old Metairie. The diminutive exterior of Kathy Collins’ quaint double shotgun storefront is deceiving; once over the threshold, customers discover 12 large rooms filled with antiques and interior décor accessories. After a few hours of getting lost in the artful maze of vignettes, set up naturally as if in a home environment, customers discover what a treasure the Sister’s Antiques collection is. “The outside is deceiving. Once I get customers through the door, they’re surprised by how big the store is and the quality and variety of the pieces I carry. After they’ve come once, they come back again and again,” says Collins.

Collins remembers when her neighbor introduced her to the joys of antiquing when she was a tot. “I loved the hunt! Estate sales, auctions, little places you find by the side of the road; it’s still so exciting to me. You never know what you’re going to come across, and more often than not, there’s a good story to go along with it,” she says. Collins grew up to become a nurse and only antiqued on the weekends, until 17 years ago, when she and her sister Kim decided to open Sister’s Antiques. Collins kept her nursing job and Kim had another job as well, so they managed the store in shifts. After three years, Kim went on to pursue another venture, but Collins felt she had found her calling at last. She left the nursing profession to manage Sister’s Antiques full time, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“Most of my things are from Louisiana. I specialize in furniture from the 1930s. I think it’s popular not only because it’s beautifully made, but because a lot of people like to have pieces that they remember their parents or grandparents having. It reminds them of their childhood. This furniture has an elegance to it. Old armoires done in rich mahogany, marble-top buffets, sideboards, dressers, chests, classic old Louisiana furniture. I also get a lot of Duncan Phyfe and Eastlake furniture, pieces from the early 1900s,” Collins says. Sister’s Antiques is also known for their interior décor accent items, glassware, and vintage jewelry collection.

“I have a real variety in my inventory here,” she says. “There’s always something new and different.” The 12 showrooms of Sister’s Antiques are filled to the brim with vintage treasures. Whether you’re looking for French Country, English, Primitive, or Fine American Made Furniture, Sister’s has the right thing for that space you’ve been longing to fill. Sister’s Antiques also carries a selection of vintage outdoor garden elements and patio items.

“I get pieces from all over. I have several people who are always on the road, scouting for me. One of my best sources is a retired couple from Morgan City who go all over the state to these little auctions. I also go to a lot of estate sales and auctions myself,” she says. Collins enjoys the hunt, but she also appreciates the variety that comes with a staff of experienced buyers. Her scouts traverse the highways and winding back roads to find special items with enough character to make the cut for the Sister’s Antiques collection. Shipments come in every two to three weeks, and merchandise turns over quickly. Collins especially enjoys coming across items from long-forgotten local furniture makers. “There were some great cabinetmakers in Louisiana that made beautiful quality furniture. It’s a treat to find remnants of the trade still in circulation.”

The holiday season brings a festive atmosphere to Sister’s Antiques. “My customers tell me it feels homey in here during the holidays. We do an open house the first week of December, with prizes and promotional sales. It’s a great place to come for gifts,” she says. “You never know what you might find that will be perfect for someone on your list.”

The holiday season is a time for storytelling and reflection, and there’s no better place to come for stories than Sister’s Antiques. “The stories are my favorite part,” says Collins. “When people come in, I get to hear how they grew up, or what a certain piece reminds them of. I, in turn, have a story to share with them. I try to find out the history behind each piece””that’s what makes antiquing exciting. Each piece is your own little piece of history.”

Sister’s Antiques
504-828-6701
114 Codifer Blvd, Metairie, LA
sistersantiques.biz

Inside the Interiors of Ty Larkins

Written by: Simonette Berry

Award-winning interior designer Ty Larkins is a rising star in the Louisiana interior design community. Looking at his portfolio, you’d never guess he was arguing cases in the courtroom instead of drafting designs in the studio just a few short years ago. The jump from attorney to interior designer is quite a long way, but for someone who sees each project as a test of his ingenuity, it came naturally.

For as long as Larkins can remember, he’s been told he has “good taste.” His first home, a small 1,600-square-foot cottage, got rave reviews from visitors, and soon friends were bringing their friends over to get inspiration. This home was later featured in the 2002 issue of City Social magazine, which to Larkins was a huge validation for his budding design sensibilities. “My first projects involved decorating for friends and associates. My advice was sought out, though I had never advertised myself as an interior decorator,” he says.

“Although almost everyone realized I was an attorney, it got to the point where I was being sought out for design advice as much as I was for legal consultation! I also learned a lot when I got into real estate investing. I bought fixer uppers that required extensive renovation along with the myriad of design decisions required to be made with these types of endeavors. Over the years, I slowly gained confidence and knowledge about architecture, construction, reading blueprints, and contracting. I read everything I could get my hands on related to interior design, space planning, and drafting. Eventually, this led to designing spec houses from the ground up.” Larkins “coming out moment,” as he jokingly calls it, occurred as a result of a project he had been hired to work on for some clients living in Chicago. They had been selected by the HGTV network to participate in a reality show called Dream House, which chronicled the interior design and building of their dream home. “As their interior designer, I made numerous appearances on this show. The show aired for 13 weeks. I guess this was the first time I officially considered myself something other than an attorney,” he laughs. Since his appearance on HGTV, Larkins’ work has been in demand and in the spotlight, garnering national attention.

Larkins made his official debut by starting his own design business in 2006. In 2009, he opened a retail showroom and design studio; and he had another huge break when House Beautiful magazine published a spread on his current home in their December 2009 issue. “My primary reason for opening up the design showroom was to illustrate my design aesthetic and preferences to a larger audience who may not have been familiar with my approach. It was also to establish a place where people could shop for quality, carefully selected furniture, art, and accessories,” he explains.

Larkins doesn’t advocate any particular style, though he does enjoy working with traditional architecture decorated in a modern 21st-century kind of way. “I try never to make it about me and my personal preferences. I believe that an individual’s “tastes”—which can loosely be defined as what one responds to subjectively, primarily derived from experiential and visual associations, both positive and negative—should ultimately inform the design of the environment they are going to feel happy living in.” In spaces where one spends the majority of their time, like bedrooms, family rooms, and kitchens, Larkins advocates a more neutral, restrained environment that doesn’t involve a lot of strong color. “Neutral spaces are simply more restful over long periods of time. You don’t tire of them as quickly. On the other hand, in spaces only used occasionally, like dining rooms and powder rooms or pass-through zones like foyers, I often do designs that are bold, memorable, and daring.”

Larkins’ design process with new clients involves learning as much as he can about what they respond to, both negatively and positively. He uses this information to create a design plan which reflects those preferences, but only up to a point. “I would suggest that although one’s personal tastes should be reflected in their own homes, it should not be applied without barriers or a disregard for what is appropriate. After all, in the same way one might have their own unique fashion style in their dress, it would be inappropriate to wear your pajamas to a job interview. The same can be said regarding the appropriateness of applying certain design styles to certain types of conditions. For instance, most will agree that the design style appropriate for an urban loft is quite different from the style befitting a cottage at the beach. Ultimately, my job as a design consultant is to use sound judgment, my sense of scale, color, and light to successfully bring together all the client’s preferences into a seamless cohesive whole.”

“Ever since childhood, I have been a creative person. That creativity eventually brought me to the field of interior design, but it didn’t happen overnight. Although I was not unhappy as an attorney, it was not my life’s passion. I believe we all have a gift or the ability to be extraordinary at something. It was time to see where my aptitude for creativity would lead me,” Larkins says. “Looking back on it, I have always had the ability to bring out the hidden beauty in something that had underlying potential.” Larkins has realized the potential creativity in both his life and art and is now happily at work with his design team on major home projects in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Fort Worth, Texas.

1948 Government Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
225-372-2821
tylarkins.com

DJ Dada: Paul Dean

Written by: Simonette Berry

Baton Rouge artist Paul Dean is best known for his collages and sculptural assemblages, made through a process he’s dubbed “Punk Rock Dada.” These compositions combine images in new, entertaining ways. His themes range from socio-economic commentaries to art for art’s sake, and they are expressed by juxtaposed images referencing everything from long-playing records to the Renaissance. Dean is an LSU professor of graphic design, typography, and color; he also moonlights as a freelance graphic designer and a DJ. In the past few years, he has expanded his scope to painting. His background in graphics carries over into his meticulous paintings, which often use catchy images, intense colors, and sharp detail. During the month of February, his work will be exhibited at the Baton Rouge Gallery along with Charles Barbier, John Harlan Norris, and Tom Richard.

Dean’s show is “Spectra-Sonic,” a title inspired by the old hi-fi logo that advertised, rather redundantly, Spectra-Sonic Sound. Dean explores one of his ultimate themes: music and images used to describe it. His passion for music runs deep; one of his first “aha moments” was the advent of the punk rock movement. “Spectra-Sonic” is a collection of laser-cut album cover collages. “The record covers I’m using come from over 35 years of obsessive record collecting; it’s about time I put them to some use,” Dean kids. “Two album covers are laser cut with a typographic or purely visual image, and then the resulting pieces are swapped. This is, in a way, a return to some ‘recombinant’ jigsaw puzzles I made almost twenty years ago, combined with some other elements, such as the use of record covers and stereo logos that are also a return to earlier themes. This show consciously relates to other themes I have worked with in the past, but it’s a new combination and a refined aesthetic.” Dean will also show some paintings as a part of Barbier’s adjacent show, “Deep Space.”

Dean started making art as a high school senior in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I had a teacher, Mabel Bullock, from nearby Durham, who was incredibly supportive. Everything I did was wonderful in her eyes, and a week after I made a small plastic and metal assemblage, which I spray-painted silver, she came into class with her newest piece, a glove on a coke bottle, spray-painted silver. I realized I had influenced the teacher, and that she wasn’t just being nice to me,” he says.

Dean graduated from high school in 1976 and attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1976 to 1980. He took art classes in college, but mostly for fun, and made collages on the side. He realized there was an interest in them when he sold one to a friend in the dorm. Punk rock hit the world in 1977, and it had a profound effect on the young artist. “This was the late seventies, and punk rock hadn’t solidified into a precise look and sound; it was all about creative exploration, without regard to the rules imposed by authority figures or the past.” Dean also recalls that explorations with psychedelics in the 70s, like with many other artists and musicians in that period, “opened me up to the aesthetic appreciation of life, especially color and form, and joy.”

“There suddenly seemed to be an alternative to the mundane and plodding path of conformity and material wealth that I had been bound to. My interest in punk rock led me to an exploration of its precursors, especially Futurism and Dada, and this strengthened my belief in collage and assemblage and mixed media of all sorts as valid and valuable art forms. My interest in punk rock and “˜new wave’ record covers, especially the Sex Pistols first record, brilliantly revealed that album covers were just ink on paper and were created by real people, not anonymous record companies.” This epiphany later paved the way for Dean’s career in graphic design.

Another early influence on young Dean was a friendship with Gretchen Sedaris, sister of famous essayist David Sedaris and actress and comedian Amy Sedaris. “Gretchen and I were in the same circle of friends, and we all spent a lot of time at her family’s house. Gretchen’s mother Sharon was a remarkable woman who collected art, mainly from the Little Art Gallery at the North Hills Mall in Raleigh. This was not just art in frames, it was art that jumped out from the walls, relief sculptures and ceramic pieces that invaded space and were arranged asymmetrically on every wall in their very modern””mid-70s modern, I guess””house. You couldn’t be in that house and not be entertained by the art. That affected her family enormously””they are now a famously talented family””and I think it touched everyone who ever visited their home. Sharon died of lung cancer in the 1980s, as is recounted in the last essay of David’s book Naked, but I now realize that her aesthetic and the influence of her very creative children steered me toward art before I even knew it was happening. Art was not only fun, it was everything in that house! And Sharon Sedaris’s collection, one that practically jumped off the walls, was a visual suggestion that art did not have to sit in self-contained frames. It could invade the real world, as it has for her children and for me,” Dean says.

Dean made many more collages over the years, often more for pleasure than financial gain. Cutting and pasting together fragments of advertisements, packages, photos, printed material, and even money, Dean crafted his vibrant collages around themes that inspired him. “I worked with money as a theme for while, exploring the difference between money as a material commodity and money as an aesthetic object. I collected credit cards so I could cut them up and put them in my assemblages, and played with the theme of real vs. counterfeit money. Interestingly, I wasn’t paying enough attention to actual money in my real life at this time, and it wasn’t until I was suddenly in debt up to my ears that I noticed! The debt crisis hit the news just as it hit me at home. I have a better handle on things now, though.”

Dean’s themes and sources of inspiration range from the macro to micro. “I am inspired by things that catch my eye, in books or in life, and by my instinct for a particular image or form. I will see something and immediately think, “˜Yes, I need that!’ and then gather it for possible use in the future. I actually don’t try to think about my collages too much. I think that too much thinking up front makes for boring art. And, incidentally, I pay a lot of attention to my dreams. I look forward to my dreams every night, and I enjoy recalling their details over the course of the next day.”

A few years ago, Dean was encouraged by fellow artists Paul Neff and Charles Barbier to explore painting. He finds comfort in collaborating on painted works, which he was able to do in a weekly painting group Neff held at his apartment for many years. “It loosens me up to be able to collaborate on a painting, as we do. The pressure I put on myself to make a “˜perfect’ painting is enormous; it’s actually very stressful for me. So I prefer to collaborate. Collages are, of course, collaborations with the source material. I have made some solo paintings, though.” Both Dean’s solo paintings and collaborations will be part of Barbier’s show at the Baton Rouge Gallery.

“Some of the artists who have influenced me the most are Josef Albers; Marcel Duchamp; Kurt Schwitters; Christian Marclay, whose early work with records was a revelation to me; Andy Warhol and his unsung collaborator Brigid Berlin; and, especially, Charles Barbier. His encouragement and drive and his pioneering style has had an immense effect on me,” Dean says.

Though he still draws on his early inspirations, Dean’s message has changed over the course of his career. It’s still Dada, but now more illuminative than ironic. “Punk rock was largely ironic and it inspired me, but now I believe that irony tends to get missed by the general public. I want to make art that can appeal to and be appreciated by anyone and everyone. I also like to include my sense of humor in my work. I think that art should be, if not out and out funny, then humorous, at least on some level. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m a humanist now; I believe that art should be a positive and enlightening influence on the people who see it.” ✦

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.”