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Dual Renewal 

Kenny Guice and Alison Cody's Uptown Renovation Was Designed To Meet Both Their Individual Needs And Their Needs As A Couple

Even before Katrina catapulted New Orleans into a frontrunner position among cities undergoing major, widespread renovation, Americans have had a longstanding love affair with the art of renovating homes. Twenty years ago, we tuned into PBS's This Old House for a look at how an outdated house can be renewed with the right expertise. Today, our growing interest in the subject has spawned an entire entertainment industry that includes everything from shelves of shelter magazines to HGTV. Our desire to preserve and honor the past combined with our very American ideal of enjoying every modern convenience has made us a nation of renovators -- and unforeseen snags, delayed deadlines and compromised budgets aside, many homeowners find a successful outcome as rewarding as the process is challenging.

To that end, local couple Kenny Guice and Alison Cody left as little to chance as possible by approaching their renovation methodically and pragmatically. For them, the right house was less about imposing columns or a quaint picket fence and much more about form following function. "We made a list of all the things we do and how much we do them," says Cody, a graphic designer, who served as consultant and designer. Guice, a real estate investor and construction manager who's renovated 18 properties Uptown and in Mid-City, served as designer and builder and did much of the work himself.

"We made a list of all the furniture and its dimensions. Then we took the layout and modified it to meet our needs together and separately, the dogs' needs, and the furniture. The concept was to open up everything as much as possible but still have some separate spaces for when we want to be alone. Kenny likes big, loftlike spaces, but it was really important to me to have privacy at times. We both wanted all the spaces to be peaceful and comfortable."

Built around 1905 in a transitional blend of Victorian, Edwardian and Arts and Crafts styles, the house's floor plan and architecture were convoluted and congested, partly from a previous renovation in the 1970s. In an effort to simplify and modernize the 2300 square-foot residence, Guice and Cody gutted and reconfigured the interior, removed fussy details like elaborate, large scale fireplaces and excessive moldings, replaced mullioned windows and French doors topped with transoms with solid-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows, and lightened the interior with a palette of neutral, custom-mixed wall colors. Because the original heart of pine floors couldn't be sanded anymore, they were overlaid with red oak and sealed with water based polyurethane to maintain their light color.

On the ground level, the couple eliminated the wall and pocket doors separating the living and dining rooms and joined them into one elongated room delineated by furniture. Across the rear of the first floor, they reclaimed a 15 x 15 area used as a utility room and combined it with adjoining space that had been a den and powder room to create one large rectangular room, which now houses a new kitchen and den overlooking a deck on one side and a patio on the other. "It was important that the den and kitchen be connected because I cook and I like to be in the action when I cook," says Cody. "This part of the house is the great room," adds Guice. "We share it with the dogs and we spend most of our time here." What had been a small kitchen was transformed into an office for Guice and a powder-room-size full bath that cleverly economizes on space with a minimum of fixtures: a slim, pedestal sink, a glass-front shower, and a medicine cabinet designed to look like an aspirin. Upstairs, which previously included three bedrooms and two baths, was reconstructed to have two bedrooms, two spa-inspired baths, a walk-in closet, a laundry room and an office for Cody. Though the living space increased by only about 225 square feet, the renewed house lives larger and is a brighter, more pared-down version of its traditional roots, a canvas well suited to the couple's combined aesthetic.

A collector for thirty years and the former co-owner of Melange, an antique silver business, Guice is drawn to fine antiques and iconic 20th century furniture designs. Silver, Napoleonic items, military motifs, and signed modern pieces put out by licensed manufacturers like Knoll are among his favorite belongings. He also collects works by the renowned French Symbolist (a precursor of the 20th century Surrealist movement) Odilon Redon, an ancestor on his mother's side of the family. "My taste is eclectic," says Guice. "I don't have a problem with mixing things up." The common denominator among his selections is an appreciation for quality, integrity and good design.

Cody, whose penchant for design with wit and weakness for accents of red and bright color can be found throughout the house, likewise believes that good design is available from a variety of sources, including thrift stores, flea markets and mass market retailers like Target, Pottery Barn and IKEA. "It doesn't matter where I find it, if it's designed and made well and it works in the space, I'll buy it. Most people can't tell which things in this house were expensive and which were inexpensive," she adds, noting that she spent hours online researching and comparing prices on everything from light fixtures to hardware. "We collected pictures of everything we liked and then tried to find the most cost effective way to replicate it." The sink in the guest bathroom, for example, was inspired by one in a high-end retail catalog, but purchased for about half the price through a plumbing supply representative. Cody is acutely attuned not only to how a design looks, but also to how it functions. "Everything about the house was designed for an easy, relaxed lifestyle," she says. Features that make the house easy to maintain include a central vacuum system, plenty of hidden storage, Corian countertops, and kitchen flooring made of marmoleum, a durable, nonabsorbent material used in hospitals and battleships.

"I looked at this project as I do my graphic design work," says Cody. The challenge was to create an elegant solution to a clearly defined, if complex, problem. A lot of work went into the layout and selection of materials, and, for me, it pays off every day."

"I like that we maximized the use of every square inch of the space," adds Guice. "I'm just glad it's finished and I'm looking forward to the next project."

click to enlarge In The Round -  - The dining room revolves around a contemporary, round - trestle table that Cody discovered in the clearance - section of a local department store. The ebony colored - legs of the chairs were chosen to play off of the dark - tones of the 18th century Dutch sideboard, the signed - Joan Miro lithographs, and the circa 1900 silver plate on - bronze chandelier, which Guice found at a Paris flea - market. The dining chair fabric is a cotton-silk tweed - from Maximilian's. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • In The Round

    The dining room revolves around a contemporary, round trestle table that Cody discovered in the clearance section of a local department store. The ebony colored legs of the chairs were chosen to play off of the dark tones of the 18th century Dutch sideboard, the signed Joan Miro lithographs, and the circa 1900 silver plate on bronze chandelier, which Guice found at a Paris flea market. The dining chair fabric is a cotton-silk tweed from Maximilian's.

click to enlarge Reclaimed Territory -  - Guice and Cody converted a 15 x 15 utility area into a - new kitchen with white Corian countertops, sleek cherry - veneer cabinets from Nordic Kitchens & Baths, and - stainless fixtures and appliances. The frosted glass - pendant lights are from Armstrong Supply, and the - counter stools by mid-century designer Harry Bertoia are - from Knoll. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Reclaimed Territory

    Guice and Cody converted a 15 x 15 utility area into a new kitchen with white Corian countertops, sleek cherry veneer cabinets from Nordic Kitchens & Baths, and stainless fixtures and appliances. The frosted glass pendant lights are from Armstrong Supply, and the counter stools by mid-century designer Harry Bertoia are from Knoll.

click to enlarge Breathing Room -  - A slipcovered sofa by Mittman, antiques and classic 20th - century designs -- the Barcelona chair and table by Mies - van der Rohe and the Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni, - converge in the living room. To one side of the window, - a marble bust and framed miniature of Napoleon are - paired together; on the other side is an early Louisiana - pie safe, circa 1800. Guice stripped the original green - milk paint finish and replaced the screens in the doors - and sides with wood panels. The ultrasuede curtain - panels are from Pottery Barn. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Breathing Room

    A slipcovered sofa by Mittman, antiques and classic 20th century designs -- the Barcelona chair and table by Mies van der Rohe and the Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni, converge in the living room. To one side of the window, a marble bust and framed miniature of Napoleon are paired together; on the other side is an early Louisiana pie safe, circa 1800. Guice stripped the original green milk paint finish and replaced the screens in the doors and sides with wood panels. The ultrasuede curtain panels are from Pottery Barn.

click to enlarge Exhibition Space -  - A length of wall along one side of the living/dining room - was conceived and lit to serve as a backdrop for Guice's - collection of lithographs and engravings by French - Symbolist Odilon Redon, an ancestor on his mother's - side of the family. The table is country French and the - chairs are 18th century American Federal. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Exhibition Space

    A length of wall along one side of the living/dining room was conceived and lit to serve as a backdrop for Guice's collection of lithographs and engravings by French Symbolist Odilon Redon, an ancestor on his mother's side of the family. The table is country French and the chairs are 18th century American Federal.

click to enlarge Retro Vision -  - A 1920s-style sink, white tiles and marble floors veined - with gray and taupe give the guest bath an ambiance - that's both retro and contemporary at the same time. - Great care went into selecting the pendant fixtures, - which had to be trim enough to frame the mirror set - inside the window. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Retro Vision

    A 1920s-style sink, white tiles and marble floors veined with gray and taupe give the guest bath an ambiance that's both retro and contemporary at the same time. Great care went into selecting the pendant fixtures, which had to be trim enough to frame the mirror set inside the window.

click to enlarge Rising Above -  - The square motif of the banister and the diamond - pattern of the glue glass windows add architectural - interest to the stairwell, which the homeowners painted - in shades of beige and white. Cody found the hand- - blown Italian pendant fixture at Lighting Inc.; it was - marked down because it was discontinued and had a - damaged cord. Now repaired, its amber glow and conical - shape compliment the golden tones and angles of the - windows on the landing. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Rising Above

    The square motif of the banister and the diamond pattern of the glue glass windows add architectural interest to the stairwell, which the homeowners painted in shades of beige and white. Cody found the hand- blown Italian pendant fixture at Lighting Inc.; it was marked down because it was discontinued and had a damaged cord. Now repaired, its amber glow and conical shape compliment the golden tones and angles of the windows on the landing.

click to enlarge Nice 'N Easy -  - Anabelle (left) and Maggie (right) enjoy the comfort of - the den's Storehouse sofa. In addition to being an easy, - casual room, the den is home to some of the objects that - illustrate Cody's love of whimsical design: she found the - colorful torso made of chicken wire, wax and matchbox - cars in the trash of Newcomb's art department and the - rare Johnny Walker promotional lamp at the Salvation - Army for a mere fraction of the price it recently sold for - on eBay. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Nice 'N Easy

    Anabelle (left) and Maggie (right) enjoy the comfort of the den's Storehouse sofa. In addition to being an easy, casual room, the den is home to some of the objects that illustrate Cody's love of whimsical design: she found the colorful torso made of chicken wire, wax and matchbox cars in the trash of Newcomb's art department and the rare Johnny Walker promotional lamp at the Salvation Army for a mere fraction of the price it recently sold for on eBay.

click to enlarge Alison Cody and Kenny Guice reconfigured their home to - suit their needs and style. - EUGENIA UHL
  • Eugenia Uhl
  • Alison Cody and Kenny Guice reconfigured their home to suit their needs and style.
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