When Mary Ann and Harry Barkerding bought their home on Mulberry Drive off Metairie Road two years ago, they knew they had found a wonderful house for entertaining in their classic style. Having lived in Austin for 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated their Lakeview home, they were eager to return to town and resettle.
What they did not know at the time was just how much their home means to their Old Metairie neighborhood.
“From what we learned, it was built between 1947 and 1951 by Lamar Smith, a developer who built a lot of hotels in town, and then it belonged to Dottie Brennan before Jim and Glenda Barkate lived in it,” Harry Barkerding said. “It seems as though, over the years, neighbors began to have certain expectations."
The Brother Martin Holiday Home Tour features the Barkerding residence as the site of its patron party on Saturday, Dec. 2. The patron event runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon and the tour, which includes three additional homes in the area, continues from noon to 3 p.m. Tour-goers will have the opportunity to visit the storied home on Mulberry and get a sense of why the house means so much to neighbors.
“We learned the hard way that every year at Thanksgiving, the previous owners would hang giant lighted stars from the limbs of the oak trees out front to begin the holiday season,” said Mary Ann Barkerding. “The first year we were here, we put the stars up after Thanksgiving and got calls from neighbors grumbling because we didn’t put them up early enough. We learned our lesson, though, and now they are up.”
The Barkerding home is a sophisticated ranch house, that sprawling American architectural invention that became much-loved after World War II and was constructed in abundance well into the 1980s. Built at grade, or ground level, many ranch houses are composed of intersecting wings that make it possible to separate private areas from public spaces. The Barkerding home encompasses nearly 5,000 square feet of space, with a master bedroom on the ground floor and two bedrooms upstairs.
“When we were looking for a place and saw this one, we wanted it — lock, stock and barrel,” said Mary Ann Barkerding. “We bought it with everything in it, even the artwork.”
During a visit to the home, it is easy to understand the allure it held for its new owners. Handsome chandeliers and wall sconces grace the home’s dining room and living room, where an original marble mantel at one end of the room serves as a striking focal point. Bookcases turn out to be hidden doors, and the picture window in the front bows outward gracefully. A chandelier in the master bedroom features purple crystals that once inspired walls to be upholstered in purple silk. Light floods the rooms from every direction.
Thanks to some minimal reconfigurations of the interior, pocket doors now lead from the formal living room directly into the den, originally an outdoor space that was enclosed decades ago. The expansive space now includes a custom shelving system that holds family holiday mementos as well as an entertainment center.
The kitchen is the only space that changed dramatically after the Barkerdings moved in.
“I love to cook, so having the kitchen just right meant a lot to me,” said Mary Ann. “The stove had been in the island, and that meant a range hood coming down from the ceiling and breaking up the space. So we moved the stove where the sink had been against the wall. We replaced ceramic floor tiles with marble, added knotty alder cabinets and installed countertops of Absolute black granite — honed, not polished.” Contractor Brad Fuselier did the work under Mary Ann Barkerding’s direction.
A large bay window in the kitchen and glass doors in the den offer backyard views, where a swimming pool, cabana and waterfall beckon.
“We were told that Dottie Brennan put in the pool, and the legend is that it was the largest residential pool in the city at the time. Another part of the legend was that the waterfall was installed by the same company who installed one in Audubon Park,” said Harry Barkerding. “It’s amazing the tales we have heard about this place.”
The all-glass cabana in the rear of the house is said to have been installed by Brennan at the same time as the pool. Distinguished by its glass walls and soaring, vaulted ceiling, the cabana has been brightened by the Barkerdings.
“The interior was a dark chocolate color, and we painted it white and replaced the brown canvas between the roof joists with blue and white striped ones.” Harry Barkerding said. The new color scheme lends a nautical feel to the outbuilding, appropriately, as Harry’s main recreational pastime is sailing (he also serves on the board of the Southern Yacht Club).
The lush plantings in the rear yard have to do with Mary Ann Barkerding’s frequent visits to the Pelican Greenhouse plant sales in City Park, where she has bought all manner of exotic gingers and other tropicals. In the front, the Barkerdings recently initiated a subtle makeover, working with The Plant Gallery.
“That’s when we learned just how little our neighbors like change. We got a postcard signed ‘A Concerned Neighbor’ that expressed displeasure over the fountain and plants we put in,” said Harry Barkerding.
The postcard confirmed a suspicion of Mary Ann Barkerding. “No matter how long we live here and pay the bills, this house won’t ever be truly ours — it belongs to the neighborhood.”
Brother Martin Holiday Home Tour
WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 2
Patron Party at 10:30
WHERE: 105 Mulberry Drive, Metairie, noon
TICKETS: Tour: $25/$30 day of
Patron party: $55/$60 day of