When Aaron and Kim Burgau went shopping for a new home for their growing family, they found a 100-year-old residence in the perfect uptown neighborhood. The house had good bones, but the Burgaus felt it needed an extensive renovation to suit their needs with children ages two and four.
A magnificent gourmet and a perfectionist as a chef, Aaron is equally particular about his environment—one that he has fashioned for his two young children and busy wife. Kim is a full-time physical therapist; she also juggles a second career as an entrepreneur and co-founder of an online business, lilsquirts.net (a product line of children’s memory books with a New Orleans twist). Aaron now runs three restaurants, so their home was designed to serve as a comfortable, cozy sanctuary for quality time spent with their children.
After the Burgaus purchased the house, Aaron began conceptualizing the remodeling work. He wanted the Old New Orleans charm factor without all the frills and formal embellishments found in many similar uptown homes of the period. Rather, he endeavored to create a refined yet relaxed, kid-friendly environment, and did so with the help of a friend and prominent contractor, Clint Nunez, owner of Cain Construction and Designs.
“Although the man who previously owned the house was a contractor, it was in a rather bad condition, so I decided to take it down to the studs,” Aaron says. “It was a double. The foundation was good, we saw that the hardwood floors underneath the indoor-outdoor carpeting had potential, we liked the stained glass windows, and there were some interesting carving details on the stairs, but everything else had to go.”
From all-new plumbing and electric to removing walls, pulling out the linoleum flooring in the kitchen, removing the plaster that covered up the fireplaces, and refinishing all the floors, it was a major renovation that happened concurrently with the opening of Patois, Aaron’s fashionable neighborhood restaurant on Laurel Street. As the chef and co-owner of Patois, Aaron reimagines French bistro cooking with a brilliantly flavorful New Orleans accent. He has a large local following and was James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef, South; he has also garnered several regional awards.
Aaron and his longtime friend and partner of Patois, Leon Touzet, had selected Cain Construction and Designs for the restaurant renovation. “Kim and I loved Clint’s work, so when we bought the house, we called him for our home’s renovation,” Aaron says. “I worked very closely with Clint on the renovation of the restaurant and the house, and in the process, we became close friends. Later, when we opened Tru Burger on Oak Street, we had Clint do that renovation as well. He does really beautiful work.”
The traditional, two-story double gallery house that the Burgaus purchased is typical of New Orleans architecture during the first half of the 19th-century, when classical ideas blended with practical townhouse designs to create space-efficient homes. Many New Orleans houses, especially the two-story shotgun double, can be categorized as a double gallery residence such as theirs.
Aaron’s objective was to transform the double into a single family dwelling, which required the removal of walls, resulting in a 3,000-square-foot residence for his family.
“We stripped all of the wood floors throughout the house and restained them,” Aaron says. “The flooring in the kitchen was just beat-up linoleum, which we replaced with travertine flooring. The fireplaces were covered up with plaster, so we took all of that off and did the exposed brick. The carving on the stairs was painted white, so we striped it and left it rustic. We opened up the wall between the kitchen and living area, and utilized sinker cypress during the redesign process.”
“I wanted knotty alder cabinets in the kitchen, and I also didn’t want your typical granite. We put in an oyster gray six-burner Viking stove and a removable griddle, since I also cook a lot a home.”
During the renovation process, two bedrooms from the original structure were converted into the master bedroom suite. What was once a closet was turned into a walk-in closet for the suite, in addition to a master bath now adorned with carrera marble flooring.
“We also took the half bath underneath the stairs and made it into a little wine closet,” Aaron says modestly, as a serious wine connoisseur with an amazing collection. “Some of the furniture in our home was custom built by Bill Boesch, who has also done a lot of stuff for my restaurant, including the hostess stand. He custom built tables, a bed, the kitchen island, nightstands, and shelving.”
Since the renovation was completed, Aaron and his family have been enjoying their new home in uptown New Orleans. “We wanted a more relaxed and inviting atmosphere for our new home,” Aaron says. “We like our neighbors and the close proximity to Whole Foods and Audubon Park. The location is great, and we have been very happy here.”