Patricia Merrick Brinson’s tale of how she and husband Vernon came to own their palatial home on Audubon Boulevard begins with a familiar sentiment.
“I had always admired this house,” she said. “So when I learned at a party that it was for sale, I told Vernon we needed to go see it,”
The couple was living in the Garden District at the time, in a large apartment at the corner of Washington and Prytania streets.
“We loved it there, and it made the perfect retreat for us after Hurricane Katrina flooded our home in Old Metairie,” Brinson said. “It was a lot like living in Paris, with everything so close by. But after almost 10 years, I was ready for a house again.”
Brinson’s husband was unconvinced until they visited the home together.
“He walked up and down and back and forth but didn’t say anything,” Brinson said of the showing. “He didn’t have to: I knew he was sold.”
The Brinsons will welcome a crowd into their home Tuesday night, Oct. 20, when they host the ninth annual “Fall into Fashion” party, an Encore Shop fundraiser for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Guests will have the opportunity to mingle on the ground floor of the home, as well as on its terrace and manicured gardens.
Brinson is an interior decorator who worked for many years with party co-chair Alix Rico. Because of her long career in the design field, Brinson said she had little problem filling the large residence and making it the showplace that fundraiser guests will enjoy.
“The interior colors were already perfect. Ann Holden lived here at one time, as did Robert and Ann Boh,” she explained. ‘The color palette is neutral but warm.”
The Brinsons’ collection of furniture and artwork made the move from Prytania Street to Audubon Boulevard seamlessly, comfortably expanding into the home’s 5700 square feet of living space.
“It seems like a lot for two people, but you better have plenty of bedrooms if you have children and grandchildren who live out of town, as we do. You want them to have their own spaces when they come to visit,” Brinson said. And because she conducts her design business from home, she was especially attracted to the ground level addition which serves as her office and has become the repository of hundreds of wallpaper and fabric samples.
According to research published by the Preservation Resource Center, the home was built in 1919 for B. Palmer Hardie, the secretary-treasurer of Williams-Richardson Co. Ltd., a drygoods company. It was designed by engineer and architect Walter Cook Keenan (1881-1970), who briefly partnered with Leon Weiss early in his career.
Later, he would serve on the Louisiana State Board of Architectural Examiners with Solis Seiferth and Richard Koch. Described in the research as “an eclectic variation of the craftsman movement,” the house also features elements of “Colonial, California and Mediterranean styles.”
The symmetrical façade features a portico and front entrance on the left, balanced by a sunroom on the right. The entry leads to Vernon Brinson’s office, where the Royal Honda owner can often be found watching favorite football teams (especially the Georgia Bulldogs) on television.
Off the entry to the right, a long, wide room serves as the formal parlor, distinguished by the couple’s art collection which includes works by George Dunbar and Jim Steg, among other luminaries.
The sunroom is Patricia Brinson’s favorite spot, due in part to the privacy provided by curtains on all three glassed-in sides.
Plenty of pillows ensure comfort, as do a pair of French Bergeres upholstered in an understated coffee and blue stripe.
In the dining room adjacent, a gold mirror reflects light from the crystal chandelier that hangs above the table, its chairs slip-covered in a Fortuny fabric that Brinson turned inside out. Billowing window treatments are crafted of embroidered linen by Fortuny.
Doors lead from the dining room to the breakfast area which in turn opens through French doors to the terrace and pool.
The kitchen — immediately adjacent to the breakfast area — can be separated when desired by releasing the tiebacks on the portieres (curtains that hang across a doorway) rendered in a muted blue and taupe check. The kitchen features a non-traditional island, a custom piece used for assembling dishes rather than as a dining center surrounded by stools. Also in the kitchen area, a blue French buffet, or enfilade, neatly stores napkins and spirits. Above it hangs a painting by Brinson’s mother, Elaine Gelpi, made in France’s château country.
However perfect the interior seemed when the couple bought the place in 2013, Brinson has taken it to the next level using her skilled eye and taste in art, rugs, chandeliers and textiles.
“It is a wonderful place to begin with, but I just had to put my own stamp on it,” she said.