Shortly after the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium, nationally acclaimed designer Monique Breaux got a call from Racquel Smith. She is the stunning wife of NFL star athlete Will Smith, the defensive captain of the New Orleans Saints. Racquel wanted Monique to assist in the remodel of the French château-style home that they had recently moved into with their young children. At the time, the Smiths were expecting another child.
The residence, located in a pristine gated community in Kenner, was previously owned by author Anne Rice, whose books have sold nearly 100 million copies. Rice is known for her extraordinary success with horror novels, including Interview with the Vampire, which was adapted for the hit movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. There was an assortment of rather dark rooms in the Rice home that did not suit the Smiths, who wanted light and airy spaces. So they contacted a designer who they felt could bring their new home out of the Rice era and into the light, one who could understand their lifestyle, love of family, and zest for entertaining.
Due to her reputation of personalizing unique interiors for stellar clients from coast to coast, the Smiths selected Monique, who is a resident of Lafayette (Racquel’s hometown). Will is a native of Queens, New York. As the president and principal designer of Posh Exclusive Interiors with a sizeable national client base, Monique has done a vast amount of design work in New York City near Will’s native Queens; she has been designing interiors and exteriors for the past 18 years. Her husband, Tim Breaux (with Iron Horse Development), was enlisted as project manager for the Smith remodel. “I always call my husband into the trenches when I promise these close-to-impossible deadlines, and he always helps make it happen,” she says.
“What made it a perfect fit was Will and Racquel’s desire for a chic and sophisticated home that was parallel to their personal lifestyle, and my design ability to make that happen,” Monique notes. “No matter what industries my various clients are the captains of, they are all similar in their overall requests: they want me to create something timeless, sophisticated, and chic. The Smiths were no different. They are a young, charming, and trendy couple with classic good taste.”
The new design of the Smith home began with the removal of all of the limestone flooring. “Will couldn’t stand the way the floors looked and wanted them out!” exclaims Monique. “I know it may be hard to believe that a guy who throws players around the football field like rag dolls and sacks quarterbacks as a weekly ritual would be interested in what type of floors his home had, but he was. Will was very methodical about the manner in which he selected the Italian marble flooring,” she points out.
“As always, I give my clients a few options to pick from, all of which are beautiful but have different qualities. Racquel, knowing Will’s disdain for the current flooring, felt it would be best if he selected what he liked and she would step in on other areas. He was also very interested in what types of surface finishes would be used on the walls, what types of glass tiles were being proposed, the overall look of the kitchen, and the type of wood we would use in his office.”
After submitting storyboards of designs to the Smiths, Monique concluded that they were all on the same page and the project began full speed ahead.
“It was July, and the Saints players were still enjoying their travels all over the country and receiving Super Bowl notoriety,” she recalls. “I needed to move them out of the home and start the demolition process. This was a sizeable remodel and I knew that Will would start football season out of his home, so we fast-tracked this remodel and worked endless hours to get them back into their new home in November.”
Because the home has many public spaces that are connected, Monique felt that it was important to control the colors and textures in the residence. The sun-drenched living room with cathedral-height ceilings is appointed with dramatic 28-foot-tall windows.
“Keeping these spaces light and airy seemed a natural fit,” she notes. “I wanted to retain the charm of a French château with antique marble floors, Old-World finishes on the walls, and elegant fabrics chosen for the furniture, while the furniture silhouettes needed to be timeless to complement the home. And so I went for texture; everything had to have texture and a ‘good hand’ as we call it in the industry. Due to the home’s open spaces, scale was also very important.”
The vast majority of the furniture in the home was custom-designed for the Smiths. “With the manufacturing access that I have with my full-service design firm, many of the design project selections are custom designed in-house, specifically for the client’s space. This includes everything from window treatments and custom furniture to exclusive lighting, accessories, closet styling, custom linen and bedding,” Monique points out.
“Will and Racquel are extremely organized, and their home is always immaculate and ready for any impromptu social event due to their social status. Although their home is very well kept, the spirit of children and laughter is apparent, so I made certain that all furnishings were functional and durable.”
Like many pro ball players, Will has a game room that features various items reflecting his journey as an athlete. The rest of the home is uncharacteristically devoid of the usual plethora of sports memorabilia. Monique enlarged a photograph of Will to adorn the mantel in the game room. “I surprised him with it. I personally think it’s the perfect piece of art for the space.”
Among the various services Monique offers that was implemented with the Smith home is Posh Interior’s comprehensive turnkey service. “I find it is best when the client walks into a turnkey situation and sees all of the work completed with a fully dressed home, including their pantries stocked, and their clothes stylized in custom closets and on monogrammed hangers. That is the ‘Posh Exclusive Interior Lifestyle’ we promote,” she says.
“Racquel was on board for this approach, although Will did drop in to keep an eye on his investment, which was great because he gave us feedback, and this added to the project,” Monique notes.
Aside from football, Will is involved in various charities. He created a nonprofit organization, “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” that focuses on leading youth to achieve their goals. “I was so moved by his constant consideration of others and his will to give back that I donated a room from my online company, www.buyposhrooms.com, to be given to a needy family by Will’s charity,” Monique says. “The online packages were designed to be delivered to a client’s door, complete, and within a budget. I designed one for Will and Racquel’s guest bedrooms to showcase the work.” Monique points out that her room designs and packages can be purchased on the www.buyposhrooms.com website.
“As with many of my other projects, I developed a wonderful friendship with Will and Racquel,” Monique says. “I never take for granted, and am always humbled by the request to design a space in which clients will live and create memories with their families. It is always interesting to see them at home in their daily life, something that few others get to view.”