Stephanie and Jeff Haigler's mid-century modern house combines modernist style, present-day convenience and the comforts of home.
Designed by modernist architect Victor Bruno for the Cuccia family and constructed in 1960, Stephanie and Jeff Haigler's mid-century modern house in Lake Terrace has had only four owners. In preservationist terms, that's a good thing because the house survived virtually untouched for many years.
"It was like a time capsule," says contractor/designer Tad Breaux, who renovated the house for his family before selling it to the Haiglers in 2011. "It was all original."
Few mid-century houses hit the real estate market in original condition. But thanks to shows like Mad Men and the influence of stores such as Design Within Reach and West Elm, mid-century modern architecture appeals to a growing number of buyers.
While a student at the University of Arkansas, Jeff became acquainted with works by architect E. Fay Jones, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright and taught at the university. Inspired by her husband, Stephanie also became a fan.
When the two searched for a mid-century modern residence in New Orleans, they reached out to Breaux, a client of Jeff's who coincidentally wanted to sell. Not only had the couple found a classic example of mid-century modern architecture, the house was move-in ready. Breaux had renovated the house with respect for Bruno's architecture and the way families live today.
The home's original footprint was almost the same as it is now. By reworking elements of the interior, Breaux made it feel larger. He removed a wall between the living and dining rooms and replaced it with a curved, partial wall that houses a fireplace and flush-mounted television on one side and ebony-colored cabinetry on the other. He also removed floor-to-ceiling Japanese-style doors that separated what now are the breakfast and dining areas. Breaux opened up the small kitchen, conceived as a behind-the-scenes prep area, by removing the doors, incorporating what had been the laundry room and carving a circular cutout in the wall. He covered the room's clerestory windows and added horizontal cabinets above a wall of green glass, a linear configuration that echoes the shape of the kitchen.
Because the original ash paneling had been damaged by cigarette smoke, Breaux replaced it with custom ash panels, laying out and numbering each naturally patterned piece like an artist's collage. In the living room, he mimicked the ash's shape and arrangement with minimalist white aluminum reglets, a detail more commonly found in commercial applications. The pool also is new.
"The house just screamed for a lap pool," says Breaux, who cut away and rebuilt part of the house to get the equipment necessary for digging the pool to the backyard.
Breaux doubled the master bedroom's size by vaulting the ceiling and absorbing square footage that had been a shed. He enlarged the master bath with a vaulted ceiling and a bay window that bumped out the existing wall. He remodeled the bath with new surfaces and fixtures.
When the Haiglers stepped in, the house's bones were perfectly in place.
"Tad did everything," Stephanie says. "He respected the period of the house but he also modified the kitchen and baths. It was refreshing. All we had to do was to pick out things like paint and carpet."
Jeff contacted Mary Satterlee, a friend and decorator who designed the interior of his previous home. "From the moment we bought the house, I never even thought about calling anyone else," Jeff says.
Combining Stephanie's and Jeff's tastes was key to the success of the project.
"They had somewhat differing ideas of how to decorate the house," Satterlee says. "Jeff was more of a purist, gravitating to true mid-century modern pieces, whereas Stephanie's priorities focused around comfort. My job as the decorator was to marry these two desires together. I needed to find a balance between the sterile, clean lines of typical mid-century modern decor and the livability and coziness of a plusher style."
The Haiglers wanted the decor to jibe with its modernist backdrop, but they also wanted it to be warm and inviting, have hints of red (Jeff's favorite color), blend iconic mid-century pieces with other finds and include something local. Splashes of red are present throughout and there are timeless mid-century designs — Saarinen's tulip table and womb chair, an Eames lounge chair and ottoman — as well as newer ones. To satisfy their desire for something local, the Haiglers commissioned craftsman Shaun Wilkerson to design and build a table for 12. The finished product – a thick slab of scallop-edged cypress mounted on a plain metal base – is one of their favorite furnishings and is used regularly because the couple entertains dinner guests nearly every Sunday.
Original sliding glass doors and terrazzo floors lead seamlessly from the dining area to the patio and blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living, a concept that suits the Haiglers' lifestyle. During warm months, they frequently place outdoor chairs in the shallow, wading-depth end of the pool while barbecuing for friends. On the north side, there's a second outdoor area consisting of a patio paved with aggregate, a lawn and a raised flowerbed with a 25-foot wrap-around wooden bench – all original to the house. Roomy and secluded, it's ideal for larger gatherings.
But it's the simple things that Stephanie, a nurse, and Jeff, a capital advisor with J.P. Morgan, enjoy most: relaxing after work, taking walks in their lakefront neighborhood and spending time with their two puppies.
"This house feels very open to me with all the glass," Jeff says. "But it's also very private because you can't see in from the street."
"I love coming home," Stephanie adds. "Our house is an oasis."