When Dr. Eric George and his wife Kim purchased a new home near New Orleans several years ago, they contacted Nancy Hirsch Lassen, owner of Interiors and Extras in Old Metairie, to begin updating the two-story, five-bedroom residence. Lassen’s associate, Nicole Ruppel Jones, was brought on board to assist with the project.
The two designers initially began with updating the interior of the home, and ended up transforming the entire property with beautiful colors and textures that are reminiscent of Lassen’s vibrant, mixed media contemporary paintings. It was a perfect fit, since the Georges have an extensive collection of contemporary art. A portion of that collection now includes numerous paintings by Lassen.
When I first saw the house in March, Lassen had been working on the project for five years. She brought me around to the rear of the residence, and I was instantly reminded of a grand resort in Jamaica where I had once vacationed. It was on a much smaller scale of course, but every bit as pleasing as the fabled five-star resort. Although we were just outside of New Orleans, I was at once transported to the tropics while watching the palm trees swaying gently in the spring breeze and hearing the soft splashing of the waterfalls.
With a beautiful, remote-controlled hi-tech pool area flanked by a two-story, two-bedroom cabana and tennis courts, the Georges’ home has become a wonderful “playground” for their two beautiful teenage daughters, who enjoy entertaining their school friends poolside.
What began as a rather colorless, monochromatic backyard/pool area ended up as a colorful little resort, minus the roar of ocean waves rushing into shore. When the sun goes down each evening, a rock formation above the main waterfall (set on a timer) shoots fire and water six feet up into the air atop a reflective fire pit. Multicolored underwater lighting at the base of the waterfall enhances the dramatic effect.
A smaller waterfall cascades into the hot tub rimmed with aqua “bar-code” glass tiles that extend around the coping to the in-pool seating area. Custom copper fire pits filled with reflective cut mirror and aqua fire glass were added around the pool, rendering a dazzling effect at night. “The fire pits are surrounded by Mexican pebbles. We sprayed them with a varnish so that they always look wet,” says Lassen.
An underwater audio system was added, so that music can be heard while taking a dip beneath the sparkling water. The music also drifts outdoors and throughout the backyard and tennis courts.
“This has been a fun project that has been years in the making,” says Lassen. “We started with just the great room and the project grew and grew. Our first assignment was to make everyone want to congregate in the great room. We added a huge, very plush and inviting sectional sofa, and placed a five-foot-square coffee table in the center so that everyone can put their feet up and place drinks there.” A contemporary metal art piece was placed above the oversized marble and wood fireplace. “That’s what we pulled all the colors from in the room,” she notes. “It’s their favorite art piece.”
“Most of the art in the home is from local artists,” adds Jones. A wooden chair sculpted in the shape of a hand reaching upwards resides in the corner of the great room, in a nod to Dr. George’s practice as a hand surgeon.
An accomplished artist with a fine arts degree from Newcomb, Lassen’s 35-year career as an interior designer grew from her love of art. She utilized her passion for painting to create stunning colors, textures, and furnishings for the home and also for the redesign of the pool and cabana, with its spiral staircase, skylights, and tropical mural covering an entire interior wall. The exterior of the cabana was painted a soft sea-foam aqua. Giant etched jars with twisted Elmwood poles were placed near bronze tree trunk tables and butterfly bar tables from the Phillips Collection.
The plain lounge chairs were discarded and replaced by sea grass weave-leaf chaises, a loveseat and ottoman with boldly patterned cushions and throw pillows, and a large bronze weave swivel lounger. “It turns around 360 degrees; the girls love it,” notes Jones. Bronze-colored outdoor draperies with aqua tie-backs were placed on either side of the cabana. Oblong tanning rocks for sunbathing lend a seductive touch of the tropics. The feeling is contemporary, yet organic.
Just outside of the great room, Lassen and Jones created a breezy outdoor dining area overlooking the pool. A custom-made teak table from Panama is surrounded by Java weave dining chairs with custom cushions by the Silkworks Textiles outdoor collection. “The base was made locally,” adds Jones. Gently whirring ceiling fans spin slowly up above. Raku “pirogues” in a variety of colors serve as wall art. Large purple pots from Aquatic Gardens complement the “painterly stripes” exterior dining rug by Liora Manne. Debbie Gelpi assisted with the landscaping around the grounds. The walkway leading up to the front of the stately residence is centered by a multitiered trickling fountain and symmetrical foliage in perfect geometric patterns, which is in stark contrast to the informal rear pool area with its large palm trees and exotic plants.
Upon entering the residence, the dramatic two-story foyer is flanked by a formal dining room to the right. A Steinway grand piano in the vestibule leads into the cathedral-height great room overlooking the pool through a tall wall of windows. Filled with contemporary art, the great room is the heart of the home.
A catwalk on the second floor overlooks the great room, and is adorned with a large, mixed media work by Lassen and an assembly of whimsical wall sculptures and smaller contemporary paintings. The second floor includes a media room, bedrooms, and a large glassed-in exercise room overlooking the pool. The banana plant wallpaper gives the work-out room a tropical, fun look.
The master bedroom, master bath, and adjacent dressing room on the second floor were completely redesigned. “The original carpets that were in the master bedroom when they purchased the house looked like something you would see in a casino,” Lassen exclaims. “All of the windows behind the bed didn’t allow for any privacy, since they open onto the public areas outside.”
After collaborating with the homeowners, the design team transformed an unexceptional, overly busy bedroom setting into a sleek luxury suite, adding custom faux-finished cabinetry with a fireplace on one wall, and placing silk curtains with tassel trim and silk basket weave valances on the windows behind the bed for an element of privacy and opulence. “The homeowners trusted us every step of the way,” Lassen remarks. “I used my sensibilities as an artist to conceptualize the colors and textures.”
A tasteful, inviting sitting area with soft lighting and plush furniture was also added. “Dr. George has a very busy practice as a hand surgeon and he needed a relaxing retreat for the master bedroom suite,” Lassen adds.
The rather regal custom headboard adorned with hand-painted silk velvet complements the sensual bedding fashioned with Nomi silk velvet topped by an embroidered sheer overlay. The Georges selected artwork by Lassen for the bedroom, their most intimate space.
The master bath, once dreary with plain white cabinets and standard fixtures, was transformed with honey onyx countertops, custom cabinetry with a metallic faux finish, metallic foil wallpaper with an acid wash, Kohler brushed bronze fixtures, ambient rain tile with digital lighting, and marble flooring with iridescent glass tile inlays. The marble flooring has an electronic warmer for added comfort.
Flanking the master bath is a cleverly orchestrated his-and-her closet and dressing room adorned with art by Carlos Lopez. The space was conceptualized by the interior design team and custom built by Ricky Ramirez. From its custom belt cubbies and floor-to-ceiling glass shelving to the monorail lighting and art glass globes, the closet is, in itself, a work of art.
“We went to great lengths to make sure everything we did was what the homeowners wanted,” says Lassen. “This has been an ideal project. Nicole and I work so well together, it has been a perfect fit all around.”