Tina Lemoine is a woman who is used to living large.
Growing up in Cottonport in Avoyelles Parish, she lived with her five sisters, two brothers and parents in a plantation-style home on the banks of Bayou Rouge, surrounded by 16 acres of land. It was the same house she returned to after a divorce took her away from her adopted home of New Orleans.
But Lemoine recently moved back to the Crescent City and traded in her big house for half of a shotgun double in Mid-City. And she couldn’t be happier.
“It’s just 700 square feet, but it feels so much bigger,” Lemoine said. “I listened to everything that Val said to do, and that’s why it came out the way it did.”
Val is architect Valeton Dansereau, Lemoine’s longtime friend, someone she met 35 years ago when her then-husband was manager of La Boucherie in the French Quarter. At the time, Dansereau was working for Curtis & Davis architects, and its staff would gather at the night spot in the evenings while working on designs for the Superdome.
“When I decided to move into half of this double, I called Val right away because I knew he would know what to do with it,” Lemoine said. “My original plan had been to buy a house Uptown, but I already owned this one, so why buy another house?”
The Eastlake double with a corrugated metal roof had not been renovated in the recent past, but it retained enough of its original fabric that Lemoine and Dansereau had plenty to work with.
Lemoine wanted Dansereau to design a floor plan that would eliminate the need to walk through one bedroom to get to the other and that would provide her with easy access to her back garden.
“I thought maybe I could put an entrance on the Bienville Street side of the house instead of entering through the front, but Val had a better idea,” Lemoine said.
Dansereau “flipped” the floor plan, as he says. He located Lemoine’s bedroom in what would normally be the front room of the house and connected it to the main living area (situated toward the rear) with a light-filled hallway. A second bedroom and full bath are accessed from the hallway, nixing the need to walk through one bedroom to get to the other.
Where there had been an unfinished shed addition at the rear, Dansereau engaged Jorgé Giron to create a small office and entry foyer. Now, instead of walking into the house from the N. Anthony Street side, Lemoine enters from her rear garden on Bienville.
“It just makes so much sense,” Lemoine said.
To make the space feel larger, every room was painted the same creamy off-white, and the same shade was selected for the Shaker-style kitchen cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling. Gray and white granite countertops in the kitchen and marble in the bath, complemented by a white subway-tile tub surround, continue the theme.
In Lemoine’s bedroom, gauzy off-white curtains extend the full width of the front wall of the house from ceiling to floor, concealing the front door and window while allowing natural light into the space. Dansereau worked a sleeping loft with a ladder into the plan for Lemoine’s grandchildren, the primary reasons for her return to the city.
Lemoine’s collection of antique furniture complements the home’s heart pine floors and original four-over-four windows. Two bookcases in the living room were once display cabinets at her father’s pharmacy in Cottonport. Faint scorch marks on the counter indicate where her dad and his employees rested their cigarettes while helping out customers.
Artwork — including a colorful three-dimensional metal peacock that Dansereau found — lines the walls. The color palette, light fixtures and open floor plan ensure that the tiny space feels spacious, airy and perfectly suited to Lemoine’s contemporary lifestyle.
“I love to cook and I love to have people over to eat and to play bourré,” Lemoine said, referring to the card game. “I play with my daughter and my French Quarter friends and we’re kind of particular about who we invite to play with us. We play for money so they better know what they are doing.”
The transformation did not end with the renovation of Lemoine’s half of the double. A newly configured and planted rear garden replaced what had been a barren area, taken over by the dumpster while the renovation proceeded.
“The trees were here, but I got a friend from the French Quarter to come over and help me figure out what to plant along the fence and along the back,” Lemoine said. “We put in some climbing roses and jasmine to cover the fence, and a combination of pentas, impatiens, basil and mint in the side bed. In the back there are gardenias and camellias and two huge ferns a friend gave me.”
A small deck off the rear of the house offers Lemoine a place to sit and enjoy the garden while a ceramic fountain shaped like an oversized fish contributes soothing sounds. She claims that what she likes most about deck sitting is the view of the Masonic Cemetery across the street, but Dansereau believes otherwise.
“She knows everyone who walks past,” he said, “and she talks with every one of them.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @rstephaniebruno