It hasn't been easy to keep tabs on Bryan Francher and Daniel Brockhoeft. If you met them when they lived in a Queen Anne house on Esplanade Avenue, you may have been surprised to learn they moved to an Italianate mansion — the Catherine Club — on Coliseum Square in the Lower Garden District. And if you met them at the Catherine Club, you may be surprised to find them on Valmont Street Uptown today.
“We like to live in the house for two or three years, then sell it and move on to the next one,” said Francher, a Realtor from the Francher Perrin Group with Gardner Realtors.
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The success of this semi-nomadic lifestyle depends on the fact that the couple doesn’t get overly attached to any home. It isn't hard to understand their romance with New Orleans residential architecture. In this city, the wealth of historic homes is mind-boggling, so why not experience as much of it as possible?
Their approach to their house extends to their home furnishings as well, according to Brockhoeft, a Culinary Institute of America-trained cook who works for the Omni Royal Orleans as their conference services manager.
“We like to get new things all the time,” said Brockhoeft. “So sometimes we sell pieces at auction to make way for new pieces.”
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It’s a tactic they have employed during each of their eight or nine moves over the past 20 years.
“The house on Esplanade was about 4,000 square feet, and we thought that was a big house until we moved to the Catherine Club: It was about 6,000 square feet,” Francher said. “This house (on Valmont) is about 2,300 square feet, so we sold a lot of furniture to move in here.”
Having said that, the couple agrees the house on Valmont Street is ideally suited to their current lifestyle.
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“Everything is on one level, and it seems like a perfect amount of space to take care of,” Francher said. “When we moved in, we renovated the guest house into living quarters for my father-in-law, who has since passed away.”
Although the move from Coliseum Square to Valmont Street necessitated significant downsizing, you wouldn’t know it to see their home today. A vibrant mix of antique furniture and contemporary pieces, the furnishings blend perfectly with the wallpaper, painted floor and other elements left by the previous owner.
“This house was different from some of our others because it was owned by an artist who had great taste,” said Francher. “We love the the wallpaper in the hall and left it, for example, but we changed the color of the formal living room."
There was some renovation. The couple made a master suite by taking out a wall that used to divide two bedrooms.
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"Since it’s just the two of us ... it made sense for us to have a big bedroom and guest room rather than two smaller bedrooms plus a guest room,” Francher said.
As is the case with other rooms in the house, the large bedroom benefits from having windows on two sides that allow light to flood in. The dining room, an enclosed rear porch off the living room, has glass from floor to ceiling that illuminates the space. And at the rear of the house, west-facing windows allow an abundance of light into the breakfast room and dazzling white kitchen. A narrow porch off the back of the house provides a place for drinking coffee in the morning or merely take in the expansive garden.
Some furnishings made the journey from previous dwellings, such as the dark chocolate-colored velvet sofa in the den, as well as the collection of antique animal horns and tortoise shells that cover two of its walls. Another element of the interior that remains constant is the couple’s art collection, which includes works by their designer and friend Joel Dyer and masterpieces by George Dureau.
“The painting in the living room is Dureau’s last work, a piece that we commissioned in 2008,” Francher said. It hangs above an antique gilded settee upholstered in fine needlepoint and draped with a fur throw made from a coat that belonged to Francher’s mother. Across the room from the Dureau work, her portrait surveys the scene which includes a wood-burning fireplace, a life-size bronze statue and an Aubusson carpet.
The couple has made Valmont Street their home for two years, about as long as they usually stay in one location. But things might be different this time around.
“This might be our last house renovation,” Francher said. “We are so comfortable here, and the house is so manageable. Should the day come when we are ready to move, we may look at the Four Seasons condos downtown. Until then, we're here to stay.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about homes and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.