Interior designer Donna Maselli is known for comfortable elegance with a great respect for place and time. So when out-of-state clients called on her to oversee the renovation and decoration of a spacious Uptown home built in 1911, she jumped right in to create a high-functioning space that oozes with classic New Orleans patina and charm. The clients are two business partners and their young families that share a fondness for the Big Easy. As Donna explains, “These are two interesting families with active grandparents and friends from all over that love New Orleans. They wanted a second home that would be packed with fun and joy. The renovation happened over the pandemic, but now between Christmas, rolled into Mardi Gras, then Spring Break and now Jazz Fest…the house is seeing all of the nonstop activity that the owners envisioned.” For the renovation, Donna collaborated with Jeff Hamilton, the founder of Hamilton Bros, who shares her passion for building and design. “The owners were highly sensitive to the history of the house, but also open to the many ideas we had for updating the floor plan to maximize how the rooms would function and flow. Jeff is an amazing talent. If I had an idea with a picture or a sketch on the proverbial napkin, he could make it.” The end result is a breathtaking refresh of a venerable old house that is poised to create a lifetime of memories for its new owners.
The architectural details and the house’s woodwork are standouts that truly sparkle in the custom white paint color that Donna has perfected over her career. The entire first floor — walls, ceilings, and millwork — is bathed in this dreamy shade that changes with the shadows and light throughout the day. There’s a formal living room, resplendent with the original dropdead chandelier, plaster ceiling medallion, and pink marble fireplace, that is perfect for adults. A reworked family room, kitchen, and dining area provide multiple opportunities for gathering. I love how Donna pairs the super sunny Schumacher drapery and velvet sofa from Lulu and Georgia with pink pillows that pick up the fireplace hues and how she mixes formality with more casual elements which keep everything relaxed. A pair of handsome Italian commodes, a gilt mirror, and wood-carved armchairs from Karla Katz Antiques are nods to her love of balance and symmetry while a rugged natural rope rug, burled wood coffee table from Crate & Barrel, and abstract patterned pillows deliver texture and a looser vibe. The La Cornue stove with a beautiful plaster hood anchors a dream kitchen complete with custom cabinetry, Vicostone counters, and an island surrounded with counter chairs from Serena and Lily. “My goal is to love your kitchen now and 30 years later,” Donna explains. Well, what I love is the stunning hood that she and Jeff designed and built. “Neither of us had ever done one, but we wanted to and my clients were game. It’s really like a sculpture for the space.”
Throughout the home, Donna establishes an “old New Orleans” aesthetic through the use of color, decorative wallpapers, and mix of furnishings. “My clients wanted the décor to feel authentic to the city and neighborhood. The goal was to have it be a little bit swampy, to have some serious soul. That was right up my alley. We had so much fun finding swamp paintings, bamboo furniture, fabrics, and murals that leaned into the locale.” For a tiny powder room, she chose a French scenic paper from Ananbô and a murky green paint color to achieve a dramatic bayou effect. In a guest bedroom, she went with the aptly named paint color Alligator Green by Benjamin Moore and an upholstered bed in Banana Palm by The Inside. The upstairs landing with a fabulous settee from Karla Katz Antiques was covered in a hand painted landscape mural by Paul Montgomery that exudes old world drama and classical style. I love the European aesthetic of another one of the guest rooms — Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light, a Swedish dresser, and fortuny pillows — and the floor-to-ceiling windows and canopy bed in the primary bedroom.
All of the exquisite custom details, such as the plaster reproduction of the ceiling medallion in the family room and the new window for the spa-like primary bathroom, speak to the fabulous collaboration between designer and craftsmen. Preserving the original beauty of our stately old homes while updating them for modern living is something New Orleanians hold dear. Subtle things like Donna pulling colors for the downstairs palette from the stained glass window near the front entry are graceful choices that beckon and welcome new families to create their own stories for decades to come.
This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of Adore