When Keith and Beth DePass open the doors to their stately Colonial Revival home in Old Metairie on Thursday for the Country Day Holiday Home Tour, guests will have the opportunity to tour the elegant digs that the couple renovated not once but twice: before Katrina flooded it with more than 2 feet of water, and after.
“We started renovating when we bought it in 2002 and finished about a week before Hurricane Katrina hit,” Beth said. “We had taken our time on the first renovation and subbed out most of the work ourselves, but we knew going into the second one that we needed a contractor and fast. I wanted my boys back home, sleeping in their own beds.”
Beth contacted Michael LaForte, of Vintage Construction, and the couple and their sons, William and Nicholas, were back on Northline by the time Easter arrived in 2006.
“We were the first people back, and we worried about whether we had made the right decision,” Beth said. “A lot of people waited.”
Their worries evaporated quickly as one after another of their neighbors returned or new residents joined the mix. Gradually, the oaks on Northline recovered from the storm’s ferocious winds, and the neutral ground was regreened, thanks in part to the replanting fundraising campaign that Beth managed.
Today, the DePass home embodies the vision the couple had for it from the moment they purchased it 12 years ago.
“We had originally planned to renovate a house nearby, and then we thought we would build new. But we just couldn’t get comfortable with the plans, even though we were working with a wonderful architect, George Hopkins. Then a friend suggested we take a different approach,” Beth recalled.
The friend proposed that the couple identify a house they really liked and then ask the owner to sell. The DePasses knew right away which house they wanted, but neither was a personal friend of its then-owner. That meant placing a cold call.
“I started out with ‘You don’t know me but’ and by the time I was finished, he had invited us over,” Beth explained. “We struck a deal in the next 72 hours.”
The two-story home features an entry foyer with a curving staircase to the second level where three bedrooms and four baths are located. Keith’s bookcase-lined office is situated to the right of the foyer, a formal living room to its left. A cased opening leads from his office down a few steps to the family room, where one set of glass doors leads outside to a seating area (“the wine drinking area”) on Northline and another to a side garden and fish pond. Beyond the foyer is the dining room and to its right, the kitchen. Renovated to the studs after the storm, it now features an almost 13-foot-long island that seats six.
“This is where everyone likes to hang out anyway, and now they have a place to sit,” Beth said.
The generous island made the breakfast room obsolete, so the DePasses converted it into a pantry with built-ins and refrigerator drawers. They transformed the one-time laundry space next to the family room into a ground level bedroom suite (“in case someone breaks a leg and can’t go up steps,” Beth explained). On the opposite side of the house, they restored the original bar with its signature question-mark shaped railing. The two-story pool house was renovated and is now home to Beth’s office on the ground floor and a guest suite — plus kitchen — on the upper.
Rooms throughout are unified by a neutral color scheme in the taupe range with a hint of honey. A friend of Beth’s since kindergarten, designer Trudy Hurley of Green Parrot Interior Design coordinated the selection of colors, finishes, window treatments and accessories. In the kitchen, marble countertops adhere to the scheme, as does the herringbone-patterned backsplash. The neutral colors serve as an elegant backdrop for the antiques and art work that have been handed down by the couple’s grand- and great-grandparents.
The most spectacular space of all is “the sun room,” an all-glass, one story addition with sky lights across the back of the house, facing south. Comfortable yet sophisticated, its sofas and armchairs provide a setting for curling up with a book or enjoying the view of the rear garden and pool.
“Of everything that I like about this place, what I like the most is that every room has a great view of the outside,” said Keith.
The sunroom overlooks the manicured rear garden designed by Michael McClung of Four Seasons Landscape. Its large Savannah hollies and southern magnolias were lowered into place by cranes after flood water decimated the original plantings. Antique olive jars hold small citrus trees and accent the corners of the pool, where fountain jets provide visual allure even during cooler months. Clipped orbs of dwarf yaupon accent the design at regular intervals.
From Keith’s office and the family room, the oaks and greenery of Northline provide the leafy vista he loves and on the sides of the house, blooming sasanqua camellias — some pruned and other free-form — brighten shady spaces.
“With Nicholas at college and William in his own apartment, we have been thinking about downsizing,” said Beth. “But we just love this house!”