If Laurie and Glenn Langdon had renovated their home for resale, they might have done things a little differently.
They might not have converted a utility closet on the second floor into a dance studio or devoted an entire room downstairs to a glistening black piano, for example.
But because Laurie is a dancer and Glenn a musician and conductor, they made the house over to suit only themselves.
“We don’t really see ever selling this house,” said Laurie. “It’s where I grew up, and after my mother died in 2011, Glenn and I made the decision to buy out my sisters and settle here. But we knew we had to renovate — the house was built in 1967 as a tract house.”
For plans, the Langdons engaged Wayne Troyer and Tracie Ashe of studioWTA, architects who saw the potential of the house on Tartan Drive in the Bissonet neighborhood of Metairie.
“We were on the same page the whole way,” said Laurie. “No one wanted to make the house into something it wasn’t, but we knew it had potential to be much more attractive.”
The Langdons felt the spaces in the original floorplan were too small and felt cramped. There was outdated carpet in most of the house, cultured marble in the baths and a small kitchen that suffered from poor space planning.
“My biggest wish was for a light and airy feel, with an open floor plan and a great kitchen,” Laurie said. “I love to cook and I wanted a deep sink, lots of counter space, double ovens and a six-burner gas stove.”
For Glenn, having a room for playing the piano was of paramount importance, as he is recovering from nerve damage that left him unable to play for a period of time.
“Ever since I sat down at a piano when I was 7, playing has been important to me,” said Glenn, who has conducted occasionally for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. “I’ve had to teach myself how to play again.”
First step: A sunken slab
After months of planning, work on the house began in 2012.
The first step was to level the slab which had sunk as much as 12 inches in some places. Then came removal of all finishes in the interior, exposing studs as well as wiring and plumbing.
“We had not counted on having to replace all the wiring and plumbing,” said Glenn. “It turned out that some parts of the house were wired with copper wire and others with aluminum. And the old iron pipes had rusted so much on the inside that the picture our contractor texted to me looked like the cross-section of a clogged artery.”
Most important to the creation of an open and flowing floor plan was the removal of walls, especially those on either side of the stairs. No longer boxed in, the stairs (and their bamboo treads) float in the foyer, suspended from the ceiling by stainless steel tubes.
“Now I can play piano in the front room, look through the stairs and dining room and into the kitchen,” Glenn said.
Next: a dream kitchen
The kitchen got the total overhaul that Laurie wanted. Handsome rift-sawn oak cabinets, by Nick Conner, of Conner Millworks, line the walls and conceal the refrigerator. The laundry room gave up a few feet to make the kitchen larger.
The countertops are HanStone Aspen, contributing to the clean lines and light color palette of the space.
Once partially separated from the kitchen by a hanging bank of ’60s cabinets and a pass-through, the living room now flows seamlessly into the kitchen.
Ceramic tiles that mimic the look of wood add patterning to the floors and unite the downstairs rooms. A bank of cabinets and shelves at the far end of the living room holds the couple’s books and photos.
What looks like contemporary abstract painting turns out to be translucent resin cabinet doors that slide open to reveal a 65-inch television.
“Wayne and Tracie showed us a material called 3Form, a resin that can be used for doors or walls or whatever,” said Laurie. “You can customize it by embedding paper in it. The pattern in the doors that hide the TV are strips of old Broadway scores and programs that were important to us.”
After a lifetime in the arts and 14 years on the road in the touring company of “Phantom of the Opera,” the Langdons had amassed an extensive collection to use in the project.
Project’s scope grows
Had the project gone as planned, contractor Sandra Tomasetti would have been finished once the walls were configured, the cabinets and kitchen installed and the downstairs baths modernized. But as Glenn and Laurie witnessed the dramatic transformation underway, the scope of the project grew.
“We weren’t going to do anything but the downstairs,” Glenn said. “But we realized we would regret it later if we didn’t do other things while we had the chance.”
The original horizontal-paned metal windows were replaced with double-hung windows. The upstairs ceiling was vaulted, and mirrors and a ballet barre now line one of the walls of the former utility closet.
Outside, the mottled blonde brick got a coat of off-white paint, the trim and weatherboards received a crisp white coating, and the original front door was replaced by a custom door of wood with horizontal bands of steel.
Sod and a horizontal-board fence have been added in the rear, landscaping has been installed in the front, and beds for an herb and vegetable garden have appeared in the side yard.
“We are so happy with our ‘new’ place,” Glenn said. “And so are our neighbors. One of them thanks me all the time for increasing his property value.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org