Press Blog

A New Beginning in the Crescent City

 

A revived architectural gem in New Orleans provides a haven for a young family starting over

Originally published in Garden and Gun, August/September, written by Katy Simpson Smith

 From left: The Massengale home, one of a row of “sister” houses built by the architect Henry Howard in the 1860s; Artwork by Hasmig Vartanian in the foyer. Photo: Allison Gootee

From left: The Massengale home, one of a row of “sister” houses built by the architect Henry Howard in the 1860s; Artwork by Hasmig Vartanian in the foyer. Photo: Allison Gootee

In 1868, the renowned New Orleans architect Henry Howard built a row of nearly matching Greek Revival and Italianate shotgun houses on Coliseum Street. Nestled together in the heart of the Garden District, a neighborhood otherwise known for mansions competing in grandeur, these Seven Sisters, as they came to be known, face the street with linked arms, chins up, a unified block and a testament to the power of community. In 2014, Baton Rouge residents Shelley and Rick Massengale purchased the house at the end of the row, envisioning a weekend getaway and hub for entertaining. But when Rick passed away suddenly last year, leaving Shelley with two young daughters and a seven-month-old son, the house became a permanent home.

Having grown up in New Orleans, Massengale always yearned to come back, but her husband’s business settled them in Baton Rouge. When her life was upended, coming home seemed like the only sure thing. “He knew that I always wanted to get home,” she remembers about her husband. “So I always say, ‘Rick walked me to the door.’ I don’t take it lightly.”

Behind that door now lies an anchoring sanctuary for a young family facing its next chapter. The design of the side-hall shotgun had to blend all the pieces of Massengale’s dreams for the property, along with the challenges of raising three children. The yard, uncommonly large by New Orleans standards, was a selling point; the girls have already fashioned a hiding place beneath a towering palm tree strung with Mardi Gras beads. The interior of the house was restored by Michael Carbine and designed by Colleen Waguespack, who recently started her own firm after years with the Crescent City’s famed Holden & Dupuy, and it reflects the openness, color, and complementary styles that drew Massengale back to New Orleans.

 Swivel chairs face a custom-glazed Karl Springer coffee table beneath a painting by the Louisiana artist Ida Kohlmeyer in the Massengale family’s living room.

Swivel chairs face a custom-glazed Karl Springer coffee table beneath a painting by the Louisiana artist Ida Kohlmeyer in the Massengale family’s living room.

Each room pops with vibrant paintings by Louisiana artists, an eighteenth-century Swedish game table shares space with a peach Karl Springer coffee table, and the back room boasts a sectional sofa upholstered in the same striking pattern as the Sister Parish wallpaper. Styles and textures echo throughout the house; Waguespack believes in knitting together separate rooms with recurrent themes—the gilded sconces in the dining room, for instance, are picked up by the gilding on a stool in the living room. “I don’t like lonely items that have nothing to do with anything else,” she says. Many of the pieces can also be easily shifted in a house that was designed for entertaining. “That game table we move all the time, every holiday,” Massengale notes. “I flip it and I put it over there and I turn it into a bar.” This flexibility comes in handy during Mardi Gras season, when “if you live on or near the parade route and have a bathroom, they’re coming for you.”

Massengale had collected files upon files of photos torn from magazines, a heady mix of Indochine furniture, bohemian fabrics, traditional antiques, and Louisiana art, from Ida Kohlmeyer to Hunt Slonem. Waguespack thought, “How can we take all these dreams and actually make it look pulled together?” The rooms succeed in capturing both Massengale’s whimsy and her sense of tradition. A gumball machine sits below two Alex Beard paintings; the antique walnut dining table is surrounded by lively wallpaper reminiscent of old French Quarter street performers.

 The wallpaper in the dining room is a nod to New Orleans street performers.

The wallpaper in the dining room is a nod to New Orleans street performers.

The kitchen houses a small bamboo breakfast table that made the pilgrimage from Massengale’s first home with her husband. A library shines with dark lacquered walls and a silver chair purchased from the previous owners, another nod to continuity. “Every time I visit,” Waguespack says, “I can tell the girls have been napping and reading here; there are always little-kid tchotchkes all over.” The children have had a necessary, if unexpected, impact on the design. The dining room is now home to a high chair hand made by a former carpenter for the city of New Orleans. And when Massengale and Waguespack first purchased an antique Swedish dresser for the master bedroom, they had no idea its sturdy breadth would also make it the perfect changing table.

 The brown lacquered library.

The brown lacquered library.

And what does New Orleans itself offer? That same comfort of community that Henry Howard riffed on nearly 150 years ago. “That’s the beauty of it—there are people everywhere,” Massengale says. “Everyone describes it as eclectic, and if you can come up with a different word, good.” All manner of folks are united through the universal pleasures of the crawfish boil, the second line. Her daughters can now walk down the street to school, or hop on the streetcar to visit Audubon Zoo’s giraffes. Curled up in a striped chair beneath a strawberry-colored Kohlmeyer, Massengale truly seems at home in the house—and in New Orleans. “I tell my kids,” she says, “how fortunate they are to be able to grow up in this city.”

 A custom-forged iron daybed in one of the girls’ rooms.

A custom-forged iron daybed in one of the girls’ rooms.

 

For a closer look at the rest of this Garden District gem, click on the photos in the gallery below:

Making Waves: A Sleek Sailing Yacht Sets a Course for Nautical Style

 Registered in the Cayman Islands, Acadia was designed to be as comfortable for cruising with friends and family as it is racing in superyacht regattas. After decorating multiple homes on terra firma for these clients, Baton Rouge interior designer Colleen Waguespack was called upon to play an integral role in the interior styling of this 90-foot yacht, which was launched in late 2016. Photos by Onne Van Der Wal.

Registered in the Cayman Islands, Acadia was designed to be as comfortable for cruising with friends and family as it is racing in superyacht regattas. After decorating multiple homes on terra firma for these clients, Baton Rouge interior designer Colleen Waguespack was called upon to play an integral role in the interior styling of this 90-foot yacht, which was launched in late 2016. Photos by Onne Van Der Wal.

She glides across the rippling water, cutting a striking profile in red, white and varnished teak against a Caribbean Sea backdrop straight out of a vintage postcard. Acadia, a 90-foot sailing yacht that grabbed the attention of the boating world even before it was launched last fall, embodies that European car-commercial ideal of power and luxury, speed and beauty. But to its owners, this vessel offers something more—an unhurried pace, a cocoon of comfort, a reminder of childhoods spent on the Gulf Coast.

 The dining table in the forward cockpit is set with Hermes china and Christofle silverware and surrounded by banquette seating. Red patterned pillows link this area visually with the distinctive red hue of the underwater ship, the area below the waterline on the yacht’s aluminum hull.

The dining table in the forward cockpit is set with Hermes china and Christofle silverware and surrounded by banquette seating. Red patterned pillows link this area visually with the distinctive red hue of the underwater ship, the area below the waterline on the yacht’s aluminum hull.

A balance between classic marine style and sleek modernity is what keeps people talking about Acadia. Achieving such a status does not happen quickly, so even as layouts were being sketched and finishes were being selected, publications with names like MegaYacht News were taking cues from celebrity gossip rags to gush over leaked details about mast size and mahogany cabinetry.

“It was an incredible team effort involving naval architects at Hoek Design in the Netherlands, Ezra Smith yacht designers in Rhode Island, and Claasen Shipyards near Amsterdam,” says Baton Rouge-based interior designer Colleen Waguespack, who acted as a close advisor and design representative for the yacht’s owners throughout the process. “I had done three previous design projects for this couple, so when they first called about the yacht, I was so excited. They had a very clear vision for what they wanted—a yacht that they could take an active part in sailing and operating, with only a couple of additional crew members.”

 

Though Waguespack initially had visions of massive yachts “like floating hotels” with standalone furniture, she soon learned that the streamlined design of this watercraft would require a more exacting focus. “Every single solitary thing had to be built in,” she says. “Nothing could be arbitrary—there was no room for tchotchkes.”

 As its name suggests, the deckhouse rises up from the deck and offers clear views of the surrounding waters from a dining area and navigation station.

As its name suggests, the deckhouse rises up from the deck and offers clear views of the surrounding waters from a dining area and navigation station.

That meant that she and the owners had to painstakingly select and size each element of each space below and above deck, all the while keeping in close communication with the design and construction partners across the country and across the Atlantic. Three-dimensional models were created of each space to allow viewing from every angle. Busy lifestyles and disparate time zones made in-person or even frequent telephone conversations difficult, so Waguespack and her clients turned to a surprising tool.

“Pinterest was really fabulous for a job like this,” she says. “I could pin every detail, right down to decanters and votives, and they could go in and make comments at their convenience.”

As items like the Hermes “Bleus d’Ailleurs” china and Christofle flatware were chosen, yacht designers would finalize plans for cabinets to be built to fit them perfectly. “There can’t be stacks of plates or silverware floating in a drawer,” Waguespack explains.

 The master stateroom offers the yacht’s hands-on owner easy access to the aft cockpit, where he can play an active role in sailing. Here and throughout the boat’s interior, white-painted paneling is used strategically to keep the overall look from being too dark and heavy. Above the bed is a painting by Alabama artist Susan Downing-White that was commissioned by Waguespack to fit this space exactly and to evoke the owner’s memories of fishing by casting nets.

The master stateroom offers the yacht’s hands-on owner easy access to the aft cockpit, where he can play an active role in sailing. Here and throughout the boat’s interior, white-painted paneling is used strategically to keep the overall look from being too dark and heavy. Above the bed is a painting by Alabama artist Susan Downing-White that was commissioned by Waguespack to fit this space exactly and to evoke the owner’s memories of fishing by casting nets.

Another important consideration was the mix of varnished and painted wood throughout the yacht. “A boat like this is all about the woodwork and the detail,” she says. “It was a challenge to incorporate the modern touches that the owners wanted. We spent time modeling which surfaces to leave as the beautiful high-gloss wood and which to paint in order to make it feel fresher and more up to date.”

The list of design decisions ranged from the highly visible like those gorgeous woods to the more miniscule, including the stitching on leather trash cans and monograms on guest towels. Waguespack used a neutral color palette with classic blue accents below deck, while above-deck spaces were outfitted with red accents inspired by a brilliant red and white sail and the red on the hull.  Everyday placemats were sourced from Custom Linens in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, the owners made multiple trips to the Dutch shipyard to monitor the building process. “Everything was thought through,” Waguespack says.




Though this yacht was designed to be able to sail in far-flung corners of the world, Waguespack sought to include decorative elements that would recall the owners’ Gulf Coast roots. A silvery leaf-motif painting by Slidell artist George Dunbar was chosen to hang above a banquette in the salon, the living area adjacent to the galley. For the master stateroom, she commissioned a painting by Mobile, Alabama, artist Susan Downing-White that features a fisherman casting a net in a marshy landscape. Works by both of these artists also hang in the yacht owners’ main residence, giving these pieces even more of a link to back home.

Now complete, the yacht is operated by a full-time captain and first mate, with the owners and their family members and friends sailing along as often as schedules permit. A chef prepares meals for the family and guests, with all menus and quantities precisely planned. But it isn’t always about a life of languid leisure onboard. In February, Acadia’s owners entered her in the Antigua Superyacht Challenge, and with help from a crew of experienced sailors, they earned second place in the weeklong competition. Streaking through the waves or bobbing in the breeze—this is the ebb and flow of life on the water.

“I think they’re really having fun with it,” Waguespack says, “both using it and sharing it with others.”

For a closer look at the rest of this yacht, click on the photos in the gallery below: