John's Gray-Hued Victorian Cottage

House Tour

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Name: John Malta
Location: Uptown; New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: 8 years; Owned

In New Orleans, a brief respite from the searing summer sun is always welcome, whether provided by a front porch, a sprawling live oak, or a daily summer thunderburst. Walking into hairstylist John Malta’s gray-toned uptown cottage has such an effect; one simply feels a breeze has rolled in. The home’s dark gray tones are a shadowy, cool contrast to the golden southern light.

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John’s home, an early 20th century Victorian which he shares with Boston Terrier Edie, was renovated over a period year and a half as time and budget permitted. As might be expected, the historic home threw John a few curveballs (and delays) during the renovation process, but the effort yielded a gem. The home’s original pine floors were bleached and a glaze with a touch of the wall color, giving the space a cooler, modern feel while retaining some historic texture. The balance of the renovation followed a similar formula, preserving the home’s character while utilizing more modern materials and details in added elements. The kitchen and baths were provided by Ferguson, with design guidance by the store’s Bryan Dudek. While the home is small in footprint, keeping the the interior's color scheme to one main hue visually expands the cottage. Contrary to the serene atmosphere of the home, the main paint throughout the house is called “Storm Cloud.” “I picked the colors of the house based on their names," John jokes.

While John claims that his home continues to be a work in progress, the somewhat sparse interiors feel more intentional than in transition. Similar to the renovation, the furnishings are a mix of the old and new, gifted, found, and restored. Many pieces—such as the living room armchair, which was his grandfather’s—are family heirlooms. John had the expertise guidance of good friend and designer Jack Mayberry to help pull the collection together, as well as provided a few key pieces in the mosaic, such as the foyer’s chandelier, which was a gift from the designer. In the front parlor, a vintage, gilded, wheat shaft coffee table adds some Hollywood glamour as a thrift store find suit of armor stands guard. In the kitchen/dining room, a pair of salvaged doors with mirrored glass conceals the pantry and laundry, providing a major focal wall while visually balancing the opposite wall's kitchen cabinetry. John spends much of his time at the back of the house, between the den and cozy bedroom. By closing French doors to the kitchen, he can create a small suite unto itself. The deep blue velvet sofa (found at a consignment shop), along with the jewel tones in the Oriental rug, adds vibrance to the deep mocha-gray room. Though small, the master bedroom is high-drama with a fully draped wall behind the bed, an antique piece from Bush Antiques on Magazine Street.

Despite being a very edited collection, there is no lack of art or accessories in the cottage. Art throughout the home is very important to John, as he claims it as his biggest inspiration. Much of the photography is his own, and a prized Karoline Schleh piece hangs in the front parlor. A charcoal sketch by George Dureau hangs in the mostly monochromatic guest bedroom.

It could be said that art adds a soul to a home, and accessories contribute a personality. A python mirror in the powder room (a bit of Katrina-therapy shopping for John while evacuated to Houston) elevates a nice, but staid powder room to the glam standards on par with the rest of the interior. John’s guitars (which he does play) add a bit of rock-themed sculpture to the collection.

The weather is usually hot and humid in the city, but New Orleaneans make a point to enjoy their outdoor spaces, tiny as they sometimes may be. In typical local fashion, John’s front is more garden than yard, providing a lush frame to watch passers-by from the porch rockers. In the rear, John created a useful oasis out of what otherwise may be considered little more than alleyways. The small deck off the den includes a soaking whirlpool tub as well as an outdoor shower; both of which get much use thanks to the extended warm months.

Although gray is the prevailing thread, the home’s vibe is not drab, but more of a lively serenity that works well for John and Ellie’s elegant yet laidback lifestyle.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: A mix; vintage, mod-century, modern, and antique pieces. I have a thing for other people's things.

Inspiration: Art, of all kinds.

Favorite Element: I love the warmth of wood and wood tones.

Biggest Challenge: Making the small square footage and layout work for modern living.

What Friends Say: After, "Where's the vodka?" He needs a personal assistant.

Biggest Embarrassment: The laundry room! It's basically makeshift right now, and a mess.

Proudest DIY: Getting the closet organization in.

Biggest Indulgence: Just doing the remodeling at all!

Dream Sources: ABC Carpet and Home in NYC

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

The main paint color throughout is Sherwin Williams "Storm Cloud" 6249, and the trim is a lighter version of the same. The den walls are Benjamin Moore "Gargoyle" 1546. The floors are the original pine. I wanted them to be a cool tone, so FloorMasters bleached them and then glazed them. They put some of the wall paint in the glaze to make them silvery, for sort of a pickled look.

ENTRY

The chandelier was a gift from artist and interior designer Jack Mayberry.

LIVING ROOM

The arm chair up front belonged to my great grandfather, who is my namesake. Jack Mayberry gave it a facelift with Fortuny upholstery. The big arm chair is also a family piece. It was in my dad's study when I was a kid. I bought the coffee table from Valorie Hart. She said Liz Taylor had one exactly like it. The floor lamp is by a Hungarian artist Viorel Hodre, who showed at Prospect 1, available at Perch. The suit of armor is a thrift store find. The art in the living room: the box shaped off-white one is an encaustic painting by New Orleans artist Kaoline Schleh. I'm proud of it. I love her work. She is a printmaker too. The monkey painting is from a Bywater sidewalk sale. The acoustic guitar is a vintage Washburn and I got it from my teacher Scott Perro.

DINING ROOM/Kitchen

I got my kitchen (and bathrooms) from Ferguson Plumbing Kitchen and Bath in Metairie. Bryan Dudek helped me pick it all out.The dining table in the kitchen is a late 1950s piece by Paul McCobb. I got it at Loisel Vintage and Modern, on Magazine. I am crazy about that store. Vic Loisel has great taste and sells authentic mid century pieces that are very livable. The Hudson chairs are from DWR and the green doors are from Bush Antiques on Magazine. The large painting over the kitchen fireplace is mine. It's mixed media, containing leftover pieces of some other of my paintings that I didn't like as much, cut into squares, and glazed.

POWDER ROOM

The table in the powder room is from David's Found Objects and Collectibles in The French Quarter. The mirror with a snake skin finish came from the sale bin at High Fashion Home in Houston when I was therapy shopping after Katrina. The photos are mine, from 1993, that I submitted to hairdressing magazines but they were rejected because my model was nude.

DEN

In the den the area rug, the blue velvet sofa and the giant angel painting (the artists name is Stinnett) all came from Heirloom Furnishings on Saint Charles. That's a great store to shop for consignment pieces, I love other peoples things. The Eames Chair and mid century dresser are from Loisel, and the white rocking chair is from Ebay. I found the ottoman on the street in the French Quarter about 20 years ago, it's on wheels so I rolled it home and reupholstered it. The Floor lamp and tall mirror are from IKEA.

MASTER BEDROOM

The bed in my room is also from Bush Antiques. Bedding is from Target. The glass lamps are from Pottery Barn and the pair of antique marble top nightstands are a hand-me-down.

GUEST BEDROOM

The guest room bed belonged to my Uncle Norman when he was a little boy. It's my prized possession, and it's Heywood Wakefield. The alabaster lamp is a family hand-me-down, too. The charcoal over the bed is a George Dureau, from the artist. The bedding is from Target and the metal night stand was left behind, I found it in the yard when I moved in.

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Thanks, John!

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(Image credits: Paul Zansler)