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Interiorssneak peeks

Jolts of Color Restart an Old New Orleans Home

by Garrett Fleming

If there’s one city in the United States with pizazz, it’s New Orleans, LA. It’s fun, it’s bold and it’s vibrant. But the city itself can’t take all the credit. Much of New Orleans’ flair and fabulousness is thanks in part to its creative and inspiring residents. One of them being seamstress, designer and artist, Merry Lake. She and her home are as lively and colorful as the city she lives in.

The early-1800s gem Merry owns struck her the moment she walked in six years ago. It radiated with a palpable energy that told Merry she was definetly standing in her next home. Twelve years of sitting vacant had left the home with its fair share of issues, but there was character in its bones, so she went for it — and she got it. With the keys in hand, she gleefully stepped up to the plate to clean up this diamond in the rough.

Now completed, the house is a masterful example of bold design. It lets you know the moment you set eyes on it. Vibrant dashes of copper, blue and orange highlight the grooves and swoops of the house’s exterior architecture. It’s an unexpected mix, but one that ensures this beauty can’t be missed. Step inside, and it becomes clear that choosing the right piece of artwork is one of Merry’s gifts. Her den’s gallery takes up an entire wall and features an eclectic mashup of artists and styles. The pieces entrance you, make you smile, and immediately you realize you’re someplace special.

What most draws me to Merry’s house, though, is how each room has a distinct personality. Each room boasts a wall color of its own and a signature mix of traditional and modern furniture that gives off a slightly different vibe. Under anyone else’s watch that method could be sporadic and disorienting, but clever Merry’s found the cohesive sweet spot. She’s made them all work together like I’ve never seen before. Click through to see how she’s done it. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Sandy SooHoo

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Friends and family stay here in the guest suite's bedroom and sleep atop a fabulous bed frame they'd never know came from a salvage store. A black paint job gave it a classic new look. Behr "Blue Luxury" covers the ceiling and from it hangs a chandelier Merry snagged on eBay.
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Homeowner Merry first fell in love with New Orleans when she visited the city at age 17, and the second she could buy a home there she jumped at the opportunity. She bought this house with her husband at the time, and they both put extensive work into it.
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The view from the parlor looking into the guest suite, one of Merry's favorite rooms in her home.
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The front parlor's 1920s-era piano's original owner was an Atlanta man fond of entertaining and show tunes.
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The front parlor is part of the guest suite. Merry loves this room because it's "the quintessential New Orleans space: vibrant and colorful, yet still calm and relaxing." Another quintessentially New Orleans aspect of the room are these french doors. When opened, they catch just the right amount of summer breeze.
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The den's both the best spot in which to cozy up during colder months and the top place to cool down in the summertime. Lie down on the sofa during either season and you can gaze upon the ceiling's unique treatment. With a few sponges, some painter's tape and a keen eye for making a straight line, Merry gave it this striped look.
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A pair of golden velvet chairs Merry found at a garage sale sit below a window overlooking the home's garden. The walls are painted in a custom Behr hue Merry created.
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This giant "M" from Marquee Market appropriately sits above the den's fireplace. Why is this spot so appropriate? Because this wall of the room is all about honoring family. The den's desk came from Merry's great uncle's family and dates back to the 1840s. The tiny portraits sitting on the mantel are family heirlooms as well.
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Merry tells us the den's orange chair will always hold a special place in her heart. "It was willed to me by one of my dearest friends, the late architect and artist Fred Bookhardt. He purchased it in NYC in 1968 for his partner as a reading chair. He can be seen sitting in it during this interview with Pelican Bomb."
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Merry saved money by making these countertops out of wood she found underneath her home. As it turns out, they were from old barges. "In the 1800s, early 1900s, barges came down the Mississippi loaded with stuff and couldn't go back up obviously, so they were dismantled and the wood (was) used to build houses and fences." The ventilation hood of Merry's Bertazzoni range is made from tin ceiling panels. They lead to a bursting dose of Behr "Ancestral Gold." The hue sits in perfect contrast to the cabinetry's softer, "Shire Green" color.
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To further cut costs, Merry's father generously stepped in and built the open shelving for his daughter. Merry loves to cook, so being able to have her ingredients nearby and at-the-ready was a no-brainer. If she needs a bit of extra light, this Anthropologie scissor light will do the trick.
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Merry enjoys being in the dining room so much, she rarely reserves its 1920s-era baking table solely for meal time. She often sits here in chairs from the courthouse in her hometown of Cynthiana, KY to have a drink with friends or even to get a little work done. The robin's egg blue paint she matched to one of her favorite places, a chapel at St. Roch Cemetery.
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Many of the furniture pieces and decorations in Merry's home came from a "magic barn" on her parents' farm. Its namesake comes from the fabulous treasures she's been able to find inside. Her bedroom's decorative headboard is one such piece. It belonged to her great aunt Lillie.
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Some wallpaper paste, old sheet music and a can of Behr "Epiphany" are all it took for Merry to give her bedroom this unique wall treatment.
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A piece of lingerie from Merry's clothing collection and a 1930s gown steal the show in her at-home studio. "I love working in the space!" she says. "It is tiny but has plenty of storage and great light."
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The table in Merry's studio was built by her father in the 1960s. It's made of cherry wood he got from his own father.
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Old magazine pages cover the studio's cabinetry.
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The front portion of Merry's home was built in the 1860s. At the time it was quite quaint, but through additions in the 1890s and early 1910s its footprint has grown. Merry put her own stamp on the property by dousing it in a stellar color scheme. Her eclectic palette includes Sherwin-Williams "Copper Mountain," "Antiquity," "Ripe Olive," and "Blue Plate."
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The 1,500-square-foot space's floor plan.

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Comments

  • Love the colour and life in this home tour. Attainable, yet aspirational, and a nice break from all-white/neutral colour schemes (which I don’t mind now and then).

    • thank you so much elizabeth. that is a pastel done in a 1970’s by the late NOLA artist Valentine Panetta.

      • Hello, I’m Matthew Panetta, Valentine’s nephew. I was hoping to speak to you about that painting. Please let me know the best way to get in contact.

  • Every room in this home is like a breath of fresh beautiful air. Your rooms made me feel so inspired. Bravo! You have excellent taste & your home is lovely!

    • thanks so much! when i was a baby my mother put floral wallpaper on the ceiling of my room instead of on the walls…that method of not neglecting that space stuck!

  • Like so many characterful New Orleans homes, this is simply beautiful, layered with inherited items and pieces with prior history not to mention the beautiful colours and finishes.

  • Very personal and warm home. May I ask where you got the sea grass floor covering in the dining room? I’m looking for the squares that you can cut to size. They were ubiquitous in the 70’s but now I can’t find them anywhere!

    • thank you lynn! the seagrass rug came from world market, and you can trim it to size and also lash them together with thick thread to make them bigger. this one i trimmed down to fit my space. i think it was about $100.

  • I love this home and how it has evolved under Merry’s creative force.Kudos to you Merry!

  • Wow, each room is a study of colors having fun together. Combinations I’m going to have to stare at for a while!

  • I’m obsessed with this house! Can Merry please decorate my home? haha I really love the unique use of colors and the fact that so much of it is family heirlooms and vintage pick-ups. I’m definitely saving this for my own design inspiration!

  • I L O V E this home!! Merry you made your home so beautiful and cozy – I’m going to borrow lots from your home w/my old farmhouse. Thank you!!

  • One of the most inspiring and exciting homes I’ve seen in a looooong time. So rich, warm, and just full of life! The bold use of color is awe inspiring…I mean, the kitchen! Wow!!

  • Grace what a great bold use of colour in this image, it does bring the ceiling down a bit and with the colour extending down to the Dado rail it shows off the fabulous flame style gold light. The only thing that i am not sure about is the distressed drawers as they look out of place. Great blog Grace.

  • Merry, what a wonderful surprise! Your home is just stellar and so you. Grace is the perfect word for your style and manner. It is such a warm and beautiful space with all of the character of the Southern woman you are. Your colors and placement of family items and things you cherish as such a delight to see in a real home. Bravo!!!

  • Great article! Such inspiring design choices throughout the home Merry. I found my eyes scaling the walls and furniture in my own home as I read and admired the colorful creativity in this beautiful abode.

  • Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!! What a great job you have done- so charming!

  • Merry Lake!!! This is astounding!! I always recognized your unique talent, intelligence, & spirit; but this is beyond my imagination. You go girl!!

  • Merry, Now we’ll all have to come and visit you from Kentucky. What a beautiful home you have created with all of your love for art. Sounds like this began as a little girl with your Mother decorating your ceiling. What a very creative idea and very smart Mom. Just maybe one day Reggie and I will end up in New Orleans in your beautiful home. Love, Claudia

  • I haven’t commented before but felt compelled to here – such a great use of colour and such a charming and unique home! So inspiring x

  • Could you please tell me what the color paint is on the kitchen cabinets, or what brand that is? I can’t seem to find a “shire green” that is that exact color. I am so in love with it!
    Thank you,

  • Merry, I have been looking for you. Your home is absolutely amazing. I knew you were talented, but you are “genius “. Everything is perfect. I hope you are doing amazing transformations for other people. Let me hear from you sometime.
    Dianne Ragab