When Liz and Poco Sloss bought their house on State Street 30 years ago, they might not have foreseen that they would live there decades later.
But such is the allure of their 1929 Mediterranean Revival residence, designed by builder, architect and developer Paul George Charbonnet (1897-1974).
With its stucco façade, terra cotta tile roof and arched-top openings, it embodies the gracious style of the era in which it was built as well an elegance that abides today.
The Sloss home is one of seven Uptown and University area residences open to the public today during the inaugural home tour organized by the New Orleans Architectural Foundation.
A companion nonprofit of the AIA-New Orleans chapter, the NOAF aims to provide education that “enhance public appreciation of architecture and design.”
Slated for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the tour is a fundraiser for the group, which recently sponsored an architectural film series.
Homes on the tour span decades of design by prominent architects including Nathaniel “Buster” Curtis Jr., designer of the midcentury modern house on Marquette Place, and Errol Barron, architect for a post-modern residence on Garfield Street. Tickets for the event are $30, available at Holy Name of Jesus School, 6325 Cromwell Place.
A 1931 ad for the Sloss home trumpets its “Artistic Architecture” and “Tiled Roof.” The advertisement also lists its features, which included a “reception hall, handsome stairway, ornamental iron balustrade, spacious living room, marble mantel, sun parlor, and large dining room.”
Remarkably, all of those features endure 85 years later.
'All we did was paint'
“When we moved in, we didn’t do what people do today when they buy a place; we didn’t tear everything out and start over,” said Liz Sloss, who designs exotic pearl bracelets and necklaces under the brand Eugenie. “All we did was paint the kitchen cabinets and replace the tile countertops with Corian.”
It wasn’t until four ears ago that the Slosses worked with Michael Carbine to completely redesign the kitchen and to install honed Vermont slate, a Wolf range and new cabinetry.
When the grandson of the home’s first owner rang the doorbell and asked for a tour just after the kitchen project began, Liz Sloss told him he could have seen the original kitchen (sans tile countertops) had he come a few days earlier.
Spaces inside the 4,000-square-foot home flow from one room to the next, thanks to a thoughtfully designed floor plan and the arched openings, rather than doors, between many of the rooms.
On the first floor, the “spacious living room” appears to the left of the entry hall, stretching from the front of the house to the “sun parlor” or solarium at the rear. Double glass doors with demi-lune transoms open inward and ensure a bounty of light.
The “handsome stairway” with its “wrought iron balustrade” and a newly renovated powder room — here, Liz worked with Ann Holden — are to the right of the “reception hall.”
The “large dining room” extends across the back of the house and connects to the patio via glass double doors. The dining room leads to the renovated kitchen and a den, added in the 1950s.
Prior to the den addition, the backyard featured a reflecting pool, “graceful in form,” that was described in a 1931 article in The Times-Picayune as having “curved corners set in stepped square corners and glimmering in the midst of a great circle that changes its flowers with the season.”
Art and antiques
Under the stewardship of the Sloss family, the house has been furnished with a collection of antiques and art to match its compelling architecture.
“My mother was Nina Sloss, who owned Nina Sloss Antiques on Magazine near State, and she was also a designer,” said Poco (officially Lynes) Sloss, owner of the computer consulting firm Bellwether Technology. “Because of her, I grew up with wonderful antiques.”
Among the most striking pieces in the collection are the antique tavern table from Nina Sloss in the den and a fanciful 1930s Chinoiserie secretary — a wedding gift from Liz’s parents — in the living room.
A shield-back bench in the entry hall with Ikat-patterned cushions belonged to Liz’s parents for many years. Notable pieces in the dining room are the fruitwood dining table and four Hepplewhite chairs.
A Murano glass chandelier — acquired by the couple on a family trip to Italy — hangs from the dining room ceiling. The theme repeats in the foyer with Venetian glass sconces from Nina Sloss’ home.
Liz Sloss said her mother, the late Eugenie Jones Huger, loved art and had a fine collection, much of which now hangs on the walls of the Sloss house.
The most prominent painting in the living room is the portrait of Liz Sloss' grandmother, Eugenie Penick Jones, painted in the 1920s; it provides a counterpoint to Tim Trapolin’s portrait of Liz, painted circa 1988, which hangs in the stairwell.
A small Enrique Alferez sculpture sits atop a pedestal in the living room. Street scenes and landscapes by Phil Sandusky, a George Dureau print, works by Auseklis Ozols and George Dunbar, recent paintings by Billy Solitario, and abstracts by Hans Hofmann provide points of visual interest throughout the home.
Room to raise a family
Upstairs, four bedrooms, three full baths and a half-bath provide the space Liz and Poco needed when they were raising their three children, now in their mid-to-late 20s. A fifth bedroom serves as a sitting room, studio and home office, where Liz Sloss works on her jewelry line and Poco Sloss tends his computers.
The abiding appeal of the home derives from the talent of Paul Charbonnet (sometimes referred to as “Senior” to distinguish him from his son, also a designer and builder), who began his career as a builder.
One of his earliest projects — when he was in his 20s — was the design and construction of seven Arts and Crafts bungalows in the 2800 block of Calhoun Street near Fontainebleau Drive. Later, he designed larger projects, including the French Consulate on Prytania Street in the Garden District and Corpus Christi Church on St. Bernard Avenue in the Seventh Ward.
Accomplished though he was, Charbonnet had the inside track when it came to getting the commission to design and build the house on State Street for Joseph James Ferguson.
As it turns out, Charbonnet had married Ferguson’s niece, Helen McEnery, in 1917, 11 years before Ferguson bought and then demolished a two-story frame residence at State and Franklin (now Loyola) from Tulane’s SAE fraternity.
Ferguson was president of the Orleans Parish Levee Board in 1928 when construction began on his new home, served as the interim Orleans postmaster in 1932, and earned the full title when he was appointed by the United States Senate in 1936.
After Ferguson’s death in 1944, the house went on the market, was sold in 1947 to the Doyle family, and then purchased in 1955 by Otto Ramsey.
The Ramseys — part owners of Hubig’s Pies — lived there for 31 years before selling it to the Slosses in 1986.
When Liz and Poco Sloss bought the house 30 years ago, it was not with the express idea that it would be their “forever” home.
“Who thought about that back then? We weren’t even 30 years old; what did we know?” she said. “But this house has a timeless quality to it and it’s the perfect size. We toyed with the idea of a bigger house, but decided we then would just have to downsize!”
New Orleans Architecture Foundation
When: Today (Saturday, Sept. 24), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Tickets available at Holy Name of Jesus, 6325 Cromwell Place