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High Point 

Mountain-climbing enthusiasts Monica and Jeno Kalozdi turn a house into a home in record time.

Less than two months after she climbed to the top of Mount Everest in June of 2005 and looked down on the world from its highest point, Monica Kalozdi found herself looking down from a summit she hadn't planned to climb -- the roof of her Lakewood South home. On Aug. 30, as floodwaters inundated the house, Monica and her family -- Jeno, her husband of 25 years; their children David, 16, and Hannah, 11 (Their oldest, Kicker, 19, was away at college.); and Bacon, their beloved French bulldog -- took refuge on the second floor, climbing out onto the roof periodically for a breath of not-so-fresh air.

Monica, who last summer became one of only about 20 women worldwide and the only woman from Louisiana to complete the seven summits (Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Vinson, McKinley, Everest, Elbrus and Kosciusko), hadn't had time yet to recover from the emotional highs and lows that can follow an experience like Everest. But she soon learned that the physical and mental conditioning she had developed for the climb would prove invaluable in helping her face the mountain of post-Katrina decisions that lay ahead. Among them were saving the family's Bywater business, which manufactures infant accessories and jewelry packaging, and buying, renovating and decorating a new house -- in just three months.

"We were all shell shocked," says Monica, who lectures in local schools about mountain climbing. "But when you climb, you learn that you just have to function. The conditioning gives you what I call 'nerves of steel.' You look at the situation and analyze the situation, but don't let it get to you. We said, 'We have a big problem. We have to solve the problem, and the only way to solve it is to get to work and do it.'"

"It wasn't easy," adds Jeno. "We just put on the blinders and started focusing."

After being rescued by boat and eventually evacuating to Baton Rouge, the Kalozdis made their way to Destin, Fla., where they have a vacation condo, and began the arduous task of putting their lives back together. Armed with two cell phones each (often all being used simultaneously), Monica and Jeno enrolled David and Hannah in school, rounded up as many of their employees as they could, and moved their operation to Florida. Juggling so many challenges at once -- including a weekly commute to New Orleans and back -- meant the Kalozdis were on the go, nonstop, 20 hours a day.

Once New Orleans residents were allowed to return to the city, Monica and Jeno gave themselves 24 hours to find and buy a house. The seventh house they toured, a 100-year-old residence one block from Audubon Park, was the charm. "We walked through the house, and in 10 minutes we said 'this will work,'" recalls Monica, noting that the house had to have enough space for both her and Jeno to have home offices, since their Bywater facility was not operational. To get the house more to their liking, the Kalozdis immediately hired Lars Jensen of Jensen Builders, the same contractor who had renovated and enlarged their previous home just two years earlier. Jensen added crown moldings throughout the house, replaced the kitchen's butcher-block counters with polished granite, added new plumbing fixtures and completely renovated the outdated bathrooms.

Having moved some of their art and valuables to the second floor of their Lakeview home in preparation for Katrina, the Kalozdis were able to salvage some of their most precious belongings, including heirloom paintings and silver. While the new house was being renovated, Monica selected furnishings and custom bedding from Norwalk Furniture in Destin, lighting fixtures from Destin Lighting & Design, and custom window treatments from Wren's Tontine Shade & Design in New Orleans. All of the rugs are from Tibet and were found online, except for the dining room rug, which Monica purchased while in Tibet to climb Everest. The rug had been special ordered for a room in the Lakeview house. But when it arrived, well after Katrina, the Kalozdis were amazed to find that it not only was a perfect fit for the dimensions of their new dining room, but also had a diamond grid and floral pattern similar in color and design to the border already painted around the top of the walls.

Inspiration for the vibrant, conte- mporary decor came in part from the recent renovation of their Lakeview house. Decisions were made quickly and easily, in typical "Monica fashion," and in each of the rooms, the starting point was often something as simple as a piece of furniture, a fabric or a lamp. In the upstairs sitting room -- a step-down space tucked neatly to one side of the hall leading to the bedrooms -- a pair of chairs small enough for the space came first, and accompanying pieces were chosen around them. While the springboard for Hannah's room was a polka- dot lamp she fell in love with while living in Florida.

"My family was in textiles, and as a designer of infant products, I deal with colors and prints and textures all day long," Monica says. "I'm very confident in making quick decisions when it comes to texture and color." So much so that less than a year after the renovation was completed, not a single pillow, tieback, or light fixture seems to be missing.

In addition to using every inch of the house, the Kalozdi family has become enamored with the convenience and quiet pace of their Uptown neighborhood. Monica jogs in the park every morning, and the kids are just minutes away from the school they both attend. They've also reaffirmed their love of New Orleans and their commitment to its future. "In the long run, [New Orleans] is going to be even better," says Jeno. "Even the depressed areas are going to be fixed up, and people will appreciate them. Everybody who goes through this is going to be stronger and more appreciative of life and of what they do have."

click to enlarge Sunny outlook -- In contrast to her previous kitchen, which was bright red, Monica Kalozdi chose a neutral shade of khaki for the kitchen walls and used vibrant colors as accents. Her dog Bacon likes to lie in a patch of sun that filters through the glass doors overlooking an outdoor deck. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Sunny outlook -- In contrast to her previous kitchen, which was bright red, Monica Kalozdi chose a neutral shade of khaki for the kitchen walls and used vibrant colors as accents. Her dog Bacon likes to lie in a patch of sun that filters through the glass doors overlooking an outdoor deck.
click to enlarge Family gathering -- A persimmon-colored leather sofa, a granite-topped coffee table and a pair of barrel-back upholstered chairs form a cozy seating arrangement where the family watches TV. Colorful ceramics and family photographs of the Kalozdis' frequent climbing expeditions and skiing trips add to the room's distinct personality. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Family gathering -- A persimmon-colored leather sofa, a granite-topped coffee table and a pair of barrel-back upholstered chairs form a cozy seating arrangement where the family watches TV. Colorful ceramics and family photographs of the Kalozdis' frequent climbing expeditions and skiing trips add to the room's distinct personality.
click to enlarge Food and fun -- Heirloom silver and paintings saved from Katrina's floodwaters are displayed in the dining room. The Tibetan rug was ordered for the Kalozdis' Lakeview home, but fit their new dining room perfectly. The chocolate curtains made from quilted silk and trimmed with metallic beading are from Wren's Tontine Shade & Design. Above the mantle hangs a portrait of the Kalozdis' children (left to right) David, Hannah and Kicker. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Food and fun -- Heirloom silver and paintings saved from Katrina's floodwaters are displayed in the dining room. The Tibetan rug was ordered for the Kalozdis' Lakeview home, but fit their new dining room perfectly. The chocolate curtains made from quilted silk and trimmed with metallic beading are from Wren's Tontine Shade & Design. Above the mantle hangs a portrait of the Kalozdis' children (left to right) David, Hannah and Kicker.
click to enlarge Memory lane -- Earthy greens and ocean blues color the upstairs sitting room, a small, step-down space off the hall leading to the bedrooms. Framed articles (from such notable magazines as Sports Illustrated) about the family's history-making climbing trips line the walls. All five members of the family have climbed together since Hannah was born; Monica is one of only about 20 women worldwide to have climbed the seven summits; and at the age of 12, David made the record books as one of the youngest people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The hobbled roman shade made of ribbed green/blue fabric is from Wren's Tontine Shade and Design. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Memory lane -- Earthy greens and ocean blues color the upstairs sitting room, a small, step-down space off the hall leading to the bedrooms. Framed articles (from such notable magazines as Sports Illustrated) about the family's history-making climbing trips line the walls. All five members of the family have climbed together since Hannah was born; Monica is one of only about 20 women worldwide to have climbed the seven summits; and at the age of 12, David made the record books as one of the youngest people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The hobbled roman shade made of ribbed green/blue fabric is from Wren's Tontine Shade and Design.
click to enlarge Home Base -- Jeno and Monica with their French bulldog, Bacon. The couple, two of their three children, and Bacon were rescued by boat three days after floodwaters from the 17th Street Canal filled the first floor of their Lakewood South home. When residents of New Orleans were allowed to return to the city, the Kalzodis bought a new house and renovated it in three months. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Home Base -- Jeno and Monica with their French bulldog, Bacon. The couple, two of their three children, and Bacon were rescued by boat three days after floodwaters from the 17th Street Canal filled the first floor of their Lakewood South home. When residents of New Orleans were allowed to return to the city, the Kalzodis bought a new house and renovated it in three months.
click to enlarge It hits the spot -- Eleven-year-old Hannah's room was designed around the polka-dot lamp she found in Florida. The furniture and custom bedding is from Norwalk Furniture, and the striped curtains, trimmed with looped fringe and ornamented with large tiebacks, are from Wren's. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • It hits the spot -- Eleven-year-old Hannah's room was designed around the polka-dot lamp she found in Florida. The furniture and custom bedding is from Norwalk Furniture, and the striped curtains, trimmed with looped fringe and ornamented with large tiebacks, are from Wren's.
click to enlarge Rest stop -- Icy blues are paired with dark, chocolate browns in the master bedroom, a quiet haven for the busy couple. The custom bedding, as in all of the bedrooms, was ordered through Norwalk Furniture in Destin. The curtains made of dupioni silk trimmed with brushed fringe and finished with double-ball tiebacks are from Wren's. Monica bought the painting of a Tibetan boy (over the mantle) while in Tibet to climb Everest. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Rest stop -- Icy blues are paired with dark, chocolate browns in the master bedroom, a quiet haven for the busy couple. The custom bedding, as in all of the bedrooms, was ordered through Norwalk Furniture in Destin. The curtains made of dupioni silk trimmed with brushed fringe and finished with double-ball tiebacks are from Wren's. Monica bought the painting of a Tibetan boy (over the mantle) while in Tibet to climb Everest.
click to enlarge Rejuvenating spot -- In the master bath, Monica chose a paint color that echoes the soft, neutral tone of the travertine. The horn-shaped sconces of Murano glass were found through a lighting store in Florida, and the shutters are from Wren's. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Rejuvenating spot -- In the master bath, Monica chose a paint color that echoes the soft, neutral tone of the travertine. The horn-shaped sconces of Murano glass were found through a lighting store in Florida, and the shutters are from Wren's.
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