Stella Bedestani lay sprawled on the sofa in the family room as activity whirled around her. The towering Christmas tree was complete, and four stockings were hanging from the entertainment center cabinets. Peanut and Sophia Loren — her dogs — were fussing to be released from captivity. As Barbara and Ahmet, her parents, were busy soothing her baby sister, Elif, Stella did what any almost-3-year-old might do after a warm bath on a Sunday night: She fell asleep.
“It’s been a long day,” said Barbara Bedestani, a Realtor with Keller Williams and a professional singer. “Both the baby and I have been sick.”
No one would know it from the good cheer and holiday décor that brightened the family’s Uptown home.
Outside, white lights twinkled on the iron fence and gallery railings. The 11-foot-tall tree was visible from the sidewalk, perfectly aligned with the glass door at the entrance of this two-story centerhall house. And (thanks to Ahmet Bedestani’s deeply held conviction that a Christmas tree can never have too many lights) the vision was positively dazzling.
“It’s our second Christmas in the house, but it’s Elif’s first — I was pregnant with her last year at Christmas,” Barbara said. ”We can’t tell what she thinks of it all, but I do think Stella’s starting to get it.”
It is hard to please a real estate agent who is buying a newly built house, but the developer of the Bedestanis’ home went the extra mile in allowing the couple to make their own choices, Ahmet said.
“The interior of the house, what you see is all Barbara. She picked the colors, she chose the light fixtures and she chose the cabinets in the kitchen,” he said. “The countertops, they are all hand-selected marble.”
The couple met in 2010, when Ahmet moved to New Orleans from New York after completing his surgical residency at Mount Sinai. Most of his family still live in New York and New Jersey.
“I was brought by a colleague to Delachaise, and I saw Barbara sitting there. She was dangling a pink shoe from one of her toes, and I thought. ‘I must meet this person.’ So, I went over to her — my colleague had told me she was a Realtor — and said, “I am Ahmet Bedestani and I need a place to live. Can you help me?’” he said.
Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest introduction, but it worked: Barbara (then Hallenbeck) gave Ahmet her business card, he courted her by buying her a bike, and they married in 2013. Not long after, they started looking for the right-sized house for the family they knew they wanted.
“I was showing the house next door to this one to a client and saw this lot,” Barbara said. “It was huge — 55 feet by 120 feet — and that appealed to me. Construction hadn’t started yet, and I knew if we got in early, we could customize.”
And customize they did, especially in terms of appliances: A six-burner Thermador range (command central for family meal prep); a Sub-Zero French door fridge; and Ahmet’s favorite, the Manitowoc ice machine in the butler’s pantry (“It makes big ice,” he said). Apart from the appliances, Barbara insisted on a few more windows than the builder had planned, as well as a full-width gallery to walk out onto on the second floor. She also saw to it that the fine heart-pine floors were stained just the right color.
The home’s floorplan works perfectly for the family and their dogs. Barbara’s home office is on the left and the dining room is on the right of the entry foyer. The space that follows is a free-flowing kitchen, family room and breakfast room, filled with light from abundant windows.
There’s a butler’s pantry between the formal dining room and the kitchen, plus a door at the far end of the kitchen that leads to the covered porch. Upstairs, there’s a dedicated play area for the girls, designed by Ahmet and Barbara, where the builder had intended a fifth bedroom.
Having partnered on so many decisions about the house, it seems natural that both Barbara and Ahmet would expect to have input on all important decisions that impact the family — for instance, which Christmas tree to buy at Perino’s.
And so the couple planned a tree shopping expedition with Stella and Elif. Barbara would bring the girls out to the plant nursery on Veterans Boulevard near Causeway. Ahmet would join them after he finished surgery at East Jeff, and a greeting-card-style outing would ensue. But that’s not how the tree shopping party went down. Instead, Barbara and Ahmet learned the unwelcome truth that joyous families shopping for Christmas trees exist only in television commercials and on holiday cards.
Ahmet finished surgery slightly later than expected, and by the time he arrived at the nursery, Stella and Elif had melted down and, as Barbara put it, “the wheels were coming off."
“Barbara had to take the girls home,” Ahmet said. “But not before she made sure I understood all the details of what kind of tree to buy.”