Sometimes, the third time really is the charm. At least it was for Ed and Laura Moise.
The couple returned to New Orleans in 2007, having lived here twice before: first as Tulane and Loyola students, and then later, after they were married.
This time, they were ready to make a commitment.
“We knew we wanted a real house, not transitional — one we could move our family into and stay,” said Laura Moise, a graphic designer.
Landscape designer Michael McClung, a neighbor during the couple’s second New Orleans sojourn, had his eye out for the right place for the couple — one that had history, style and space. He found it on Coliseum Street.
Eight years and a renovation later, the public will get the chance to see what finally enticed the Moiseses to stay when the Preservation Resource Center stages its Holiday Home Tour on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 13.
The historic Italianate residence will be one of eight Garden District homes featured on the self-guided tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
Set on a piece of land measuring 105 feet wide by 120 feet deep, the circa 1871 residence is surrounded on three sides by gardens.
On the left is a pool, which Ed, an investment banker, and the family’s golden retriever, Mollie, use regularly. The water provides a tranquil view from the kitchen and dining room. On the right, visitors pass through a garden en route to the side entrance. And in front, a hedge of azaleas lining the front porch and a pink sasanqua hedge along the fence provide privacy as well as visual interest when viewed from the formal living and piano room.
“We loved the house right away and lived in it for a good while before making any changes,” Laura said. “It was owned by the Porteous family for more than 40 years, and they took very good care of it. But once we felt we knew better how we lived in the house and how it worked for us, we decided to renovate.”
Renovate they did, at least as far as the formal living room, dining room, kitchen, entry hall and upstairs rooms were concerned.
“Those spaces are original and make up the front two-thirds of the house but the rear third was a later addition,” Laura said. “You had to step down to it and the ceilings were lower. It didn’t feel as though it was all of one piece.”
As a result, the rear third of the house was dismantled and rebuilt according to plans devised by architect Peter Trapolin. The new space was designed to be about 11 feet wider than the original house to make room for a full sized family room as well as a more spacious home office for Laura.
Contractor Louis Chevalier recycled everything he could from the dismantled portion of the house and incorporated it into the new spaces. A marble slab from one room reappeared as a countertop in another and mouldings were reused.
To ensure the seamless transition the couple wanted, new doors were milled to match the distinctive originals, complete with their double gothic arch motif. Glass French doors similar to those in the original portion of the house were added to the new family room to offer access to the patio.
In the original portion of the house, floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room were converted to doors, which open to the pool side of the house. An uncovered porch now offers a spot to relax alongside the pool, plainly visible from the 10-foot-long kitchen island.
“When my daughters were a little younger, I would always keep an eye on them through the glass doors while I was in the kitchen,” Laura said.
The enjoyable task of furnishing the 4,000-square-foot home fell mostly to Laura and designer Melissa Rufty, recommended by McClung.
“Our goal was a comfortable and functional space. One of my favorite accents in the living room is the pair of framed Gracie wallpaper panels on the front wall. The entire dining room was papered with the pattern, but it had been damaged in Hurricane Katrina. So we salvaged it and had a third panel framed for Mr. Porteous’ daughter.”
The distinctive dining room chandelier was another find that McClung, “the godfather,” spied for the Moises.
“Michael is literally the godfather of our daughters (Madeleine, 17, and Lily, 14) so our families are really close. He stumbled across the chandelier at New Orleans Auction. It’s pretty unusual because the strands aren’t all crystal but have pink glass beads on them,” Laura said. “Michael called Ed and Ed got excited, so that’s how it came to hang in our dining room. It dictated the color of the Venetian plaster walls that Madilynn Nelson did.”
McClung also personalized the garden design.
“Michael knows I love white, so the azaleas in front are breathtaking in the spring,” said Laura. “He did a great job of showcasing the old oak in the side garden and keeping the bed design loose. I am not one for topiary, but he convinced me that boxwood balls in graduated sizes along the entry path would enhance the garden. He was right about that, too.”