Paul and Kelly Stahls said that you can get pretty spoiled living in their neighborhood.
“My daughter’s school is just a block away, so we can walk her there. Our favorite grocery is four blocks away and it has a terrific wine selection,” said Paul. “My commute to work is 5 minutes and we can walk to great restaurants and shops.”
If you would guess that the Stahls family is making the most of living in New Orleans, you would be wrong. Instead of the sliver by the river or other Orleans Parish neighborhood, the Stahls live in Covington in a well-located neighborhood brimming with walkable amenities and historic homes. Eleven residences (including the Stahls’) will be open Sunday evening from 4 to 8 p.m. for a candlelight tour, when the Covington Heritage Foundation and City of Covington present History and Holly. All of the homes are located in an area known as the West Twenties, just a few blocks northwest of downtown, and the recently renovated Southern Hotel.
The Stahls’ cottage dates to the turn of the 20th century, and features high ceilings, a steeply pitched roof, a front bay and turned millwork. Occupied for more than 60 years by the unofficial matriarch of the neighborhood, Margaret McLachlan, who with her husband, Jim, raised five children in the house. After a nearby neighbor purchased and renovated it, the Stahls bought it in 2013.
“What sold me was the kitchen,” said Paul, an electrophysiologist with St. Tammany Parish Hospital and a man who looks to cook. “I remember standing in the kitchen and telling the agent ‘I think I’m going to buy this house but I’ve got to make sure my wife is OK with it first.’”
Kelly was more than OK; she was elated. Paul had been commuting to the northshore from Uptown New Orleans for six months and both were ready to resume a regular schedule. More than that, though, they were eager to get to know their new community.
“Everyone knows everyone else and can tell you stories,” Kelly said. “I loved learning about the Maravich family across the street and hearing the tales of our house when the McLachlans lived here.”
Although the house had been renovated before the Stahls purchased it, the couple took it to the next level with the improvements they made.
“Some were small, like adding the kitchen island light fixture. It’s blown glass and we bought it locally at History Antiques and Interiors on North Columbia,” Kelly said. “But other projects were much more extensive.”
The pride of the Stahls’ home is the new front door that Albany Woodworks crafted for the house from sinker cypress. The couple added gas lanterns to the porch, one on each side of the new door. A brick pathway, installed by Josh Braswell (whose dad owns the local pharmacy) now leads from the sidewalk up to the front porch.
The couple also landscaped and installed a white picket fence, changing the view of the house from the street.
“You can actually see the house now,” said Kelly. “Before, there were gigantic azaleas in front that made it hard to do that.”
The couple changed out the overly exuberant azaleas for a more disciplined look, adding beds around the foundation and planting them with ShiShi camellias, boxwoods and cool season annuals. A live oak was planted in a far corner of the large lot as a memorial to the couple’s beloved dog, Jackson. Fruit trees — including citrus and mayhaw — are located in the back yard, as is a raised bed for growing herbs. An enormous Camellia japonica was a gift to the previous owner from Pete Maravich, the famous basketball player.
Inside the home, the couple stripped the doors down to the bare wood and repainted them to ensure a smooth finish. Kelly chose fabrics for window treatments: Velvet in the living room and dining room, striped linen in the guest room.
“I had to have the shades in the kitchen custom made at the French Mix on Lee Lane because the windows were irregular sizes and not one of the three was the same size as the others,” laughed Kelly.
The public side of the house includes the large living room, dining room and kitchen. A dazzling Pottery Barn crystal chandelier hangs above the dining table, not far from the glass-front bookcase Paul’s parents gave him for a recent birthday.
The private side (on the right after one enters) accommodates the guest room, master suite and nursery for the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Virginia, and 7-month-old son, Foster. There is even a small painting studio for Kelly, who studies with Gretchen Armbruster.
Completing the handsome interior is the couple’s art collection, which features prized pieces by Mississippi artist Walter Anderson. Included are a crab, a rooster, a tree and a series of three pelicans.
“I got interested in Anderson’s work when I was in college before I even met Kelly,” said Paul. “It turns out that Kelly had bought a couple of pieces before she met me. It’s sort of like we were meant to be together.”