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Comfort Zone 

Contemporary accents enliven neutral hues in the home of Jack Sullivan and Chet Pourciau

The old adage about the cobbler's children having no new shoes is rarely applicable when it comes to interior designers. More often than not, the way that a designer lives at home provides a window into his or her skills and sensibilities. Perhaps not his entire repertoire, but a sampling nonetheless. The Uptown house that attorney Jack Sullivan and designer Chet Pourciau share is just such a residence. Sullivan's love of art and Pourciau's passion for design are not only evident in the house's compelling personality, they are so seamlessly integrated, that it's difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends.

"I don't think designers should limit themselves to one look," says Pourciau, who recently opened Chet Pourciau Design on Magazine Street. "As a designer, you have to be flexible. But when I'm at home, I like to keep it simple: simple styles, simple colors. This house is all about being very organized. It's like a puzzle. Every piece fits with the others. And we agreed on everything we did."

"We didn't have a single dispute," adds Sullivan. "I'm more the collector, and Chet is more the designer."

Today, the house's decidedly contemporary demeanor -- part urban townhouse, part boutique hotel, and part summer getaway swathed in cool gradations of beige and taupe -- belies its age and commercial beginnings. The original portion of the house was built as a corner pharmacy in 1895, and a later 20th century addition was used as a barbershop. Over the years, a series of renovations dramatically altered its architecture, and vestiges of its turn-of-the-century roots gradually faded away. When Sullivan and Pourciau purchased the home in 2003, the previous owner's award-winning, neo-classic decor (the house was named Metropolitan Home magazine's Home of the Year in 2001) was rich with gilding and Directoire antiques. But beneath the formal ornamentation of its furnishings and appointments were the kind of straightforward, clean-lined bones that Sullivan and Pourciau prefer.

Human Art Forms -- Pourciau anchored the living room with a sectional sofa and chaise, both by B & B Italia, a pair of ottomans covered in linen, and a checkerboard pattern of modular carpet panels by Flor. Human forms -- a colorful, Warhol-influenced painting by Blake Boyd, a pair of acrylic busts by Steven Paul Day, and a Christopher Maier cabinet adorned with a carved male torso (not shown) -- are a recurrent theme in the room's art.

The task for the new owners was to lighten the house inside and out so it would live larger than its 2,000 square feet and have an open, airy feel. To that end, they completely gutted the second floor, turning what had been a small office, bedroom, bath and laundry room into a roomy, new master suite, complete with a private balcony, a meticulously arranged walk-in closet and a spa-inspired bath. By reconfiguring the second story -- raising its ceiling to the roofline and moving several of its walls -- they were able to add another 200 square feet to the house, which now includes a combination living and dining room, a kitchen, den, master bedroom, two bathrooms and a guest room. They visually expanded the interior even more by using a monochromatic neutral palette of beiges and taupes and emphasizing refreshing outdoor views that draw the eye beyond the confines of the walls.

"I like to feel as though I'm out of doors," says Sullivan. "We tried not to have a really defined line between what is outdoors and what is indoors. The thought was to do something that looked cool and summery," he adds. "I think what we were trying to do was to channel what was there in a way that we would be comfortable with."

Outside, the brick house is coated end-to-end in a single, canvas-like shade of beige. To the right of the house, the owners added a gated pavilion, designed to look like the house and to do double duty as a parking garage and a place for outdoor entertaining. Connecting the house and the pavilion is a quiet patio, lush with tropical greenery and centered around a luminous, bamboo fountain made of emerald green glass. Sullivan and Pourciau commissioned their friend, artist Mitchell Gaudet, to design the piece as a replacement for the more traditional cast-iron fountain that used to occupy the spot. On the opposite side of the house, the addition of a narrow meditation garden with a minimalist, metal fountain mounted against a masonry wall is underway. When completed, it will provide a serene view for the den and another, more intimate, outdoor "room."

Lights Fantastic -- The den's Florence Knoll chrome-and-glass table, Ligne Roset sofa sleeper and shag carpet are married with a mix of modernist light fixtures -- an illuminated acrylic coffee table that resembles a photographer's light box, a globe pendant that looks as if it were spun of organic material and a cylindrical floor lamp with a perforated, polka-dot shade. The painting above the sofa is by Allison Stewart.

Inside the house, Pourciau continued the use of neutral colors. The entire interior is painted with a pale taupe, which serves as a soothing, unobtrusive backdrop for the impressive art collection that Sullivan began acquiring 20 years ago and the contemporary furnishings and light fixtures that are Pourciau's specialty. Works by well-known local and national artists -- including the late Chris Karnes, George Dureau, Philip Core, David Halliday, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Blake Boyd, Margaret Evangeline, Elemore Morgan Jr., Lyn Emery, and Paul Cadmus -- are central to the unique character of the house. But implicit in the way that Pourciau and Sullivan have synthesized the decorative and fine arts is an obvious, mutual appreciation for furniture as art. One-of-a-kind, handmade pieces by Sullivan's close friend, the late furniture designer Christopher Maier, each every bit as imposing as the paintings, sculpture, and works of photography, are mixed with reproductions of iconic mid-century modern designs and sleek, contemporary creations destined to become iconic in their own right.

Clean lines and organic shapes and textures hold sway throughout the house, lending a light tone and an informal continuity. Pourciau chose a mix of ultra-suede and linen seating and a checkerboard pattern of modular carpet squares, which can be individually replaced when soiled or damaged, to anchor the living room. Above the sofa hangs a life-size Warhol-influenced work by Blake Boyd depicting two men wearing what look like bulls-eye emblazoned Mouseketeer hats. To the right of the seating area is a classically inspired Christopher Maier cabinet with doors carved from a casting of a human torso. In the dining area, which faces the living room, slender, minimalist silhouettes, that facilitate an open flow well suited to the couple's love of entertaining, are likewise punctuated with bold, colorful art. Beyond the kitchen, which is connected to the dining room via a cut-out counter, is a cozy den, also used as a home office and a place for informal dining. Transparent touches -- such as a pendant light fixture that looks as though it were organically spun and a sheer curtain panel that can be drawn to separate the kitchen from the den -- soften the narrow room's edges and keep it from looking overcrowded.

Inspiration for the master suite upstairs came directly from the kind of cutting-edge design seen in boutique hotels. Pourciau got the idea for the slip-covered headboard from one he'd seen while in New York, but took the concept a step further by tufting it and extending its width to incorporate Chris Maier side tables as well. He also maximized the master bedroom's small dimensions by using an illuminated cove ceiling, and visually enlarged the master bath's close quarters by extending a running bond stitch pattern of travertine all the way from the floor to the ceiling.

"It surprised me that it was harder for me to design my home than those of my clients," says Pourciau of the challenges he addressed throughout the house. "Now I strive to make them as happy with their projects as I am with mine."

Looking Up
A cove ceiling trimmed with crown molding draws the eye upward and adds visual dimension to the master bedroom. The homeowners also brightened the windowless room by adding a pair of side-lit doors overlooking a private balcony as well as putting a skylight in the adjacent bathroom.

The White Stuff -- The idea for the master bedroom's white tufted headboard came from the kind of minimalist design found in boutique hotels. Local artisan Janet Anderson made the headboard, the bed linens and the curtains of linen and peasant cloth. The claw-foot, basket-weave, Egyptian-inspired coffee table, the copper-leafed side tables and a dresser bearing the likeness of Gertrude Stein made with pixilated images (not shown) are by Chris Maier.



Water Works -- Travertine used floor-to-ceiling in half of the bathroom serves to make the room look larger and acts as a shower border to the open-front shower. The top-mounted ceramic sinks and stainless faucets are from the Lefroy Brooks XO line, and the sconces were found in New York.






Designer's Eye -- Interior Designer Chet Pourciau prefers to keep things simple and organized at home. Last month, he opened Chet Pourciau Design, a retail space specializing in vintage and contemporary furniture and lighting. For more information, see "Home Front," P. 14.

Environmentally Correct
-- A bamboo fountain of emerald green and patio furniture cushioned in a shade of taupe perfect the patio, playing off the natural tones of the plants and paving. Artist Mitchell Gaudet created the fountain, which can be lit from below.
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