In an Uptown cottage near Audubon Park, interior designer Melissa Rufty created a gem of a pied-à-terre for out-of-town clients planning to spend more time in the city since becoming recent empty nesters. She previously worked with the couple on their permanent residence, so she had their trust — the best way for a designer to execute a total creative vision. The result is a beautiful home away from home that exudes a sultry and sophisticated New Orleans vibe that's all about place not space. Much like the Big Easy, the décor is welcoming, relaxed, dramatic, and soulful. Using a rich color palette of ochre, terracotta, and ocean blues and greens, with nods to New Orleans through layers of gracious antiques and accessories, Melissa designed a seamless environment that oozes elegance and style.
The front foyer serves as an introduction of what's to come and a great example of Melissa's talent for mixing antiques with modern touches and old world patterns with contemporary prints. And color? She loves it. She's fearless about choosing hues that are not exactly one thing or another, allowing her to extend the color story as she adds depth, texture, and attitude throughout the decoration. Les Muses et Le Lion, a classic French wallpaper from Pierre Frey, and a Turkish rug in similar shades establish old world character while a taupe antelope print stair runner and paint-stained oak floors keep things lively and fresh. The pair of red eel skin upholstered chairs from Malachite Home, the shop she owns with business partner Adrienne Casbarian, have super fun personalities. Burnished reds and warm taupes are used throughout the home, along with a confident mix of design elements that achieve an "acquired" look that's timeless and chic.
In the living room, against a clean and crisp linen white backdrop, a carefully edited array of furnishings, fabrics, and art deliver punches of color as well as loads of New Orleans patina and charm. The windows are dressed with sumptuous yards of Groves Bros. hand printed and colored fabric in a pattern faithful to the Venetian Renaissance period. The unusual color combination — a Melissa Rufty signature — and stunning craftsmanship bring a lovely gravitas to the room that's filled with furniture and accessories primarily purchased on Magazine Street. "We always source locally as much as possible," says Melissa. "It's so important, especially now. This project was a great opportunity to really support local artisans and dealers." A pair of black lacquered chinoiserie tables from Uptowner Antiques, an 18th century French carved and painted mirror from Petricia Thompson Antiques, and two mid-19th century "en grisaille" oil paintings from Balzac Antiques are just some of the highly decorative treasures Melissa found for this design plan.
I love how she energizes the space by surrounding a Saarinen-style dining table with 19th century Louis the XVI chairs covered in deep ocean blue-green velvet and hanging a fiery contemporary collage by artist Demond Matsuo next to gilt-framed oil landscapes. She deftly mixes a round Art Deco side table with lamps made from architectural fragments with modern touches like the lucite drinks table and a rose-hued large scale photograph by Kerri McCaffety. Everything plays so nicely together. The room glows with depth of color and texture provided by antique textiles, old Turkish rugs, and aged gold leaf bits here and there. Melissa found lively scenic painted chairs on Chairish and placed them under floral tole sconces as a stylish wink back to the strong ochre and reds we first met in the front entrance.
This family loves to entertain and hang out together while cooking and having cocktails, so Melissa renovated the rear of the house with this in mind. Width was added to the case opening from the living room to the family room for a more natural flow, both visually and in real time. Though the kitchen and sitting room are technically one open area, they each have their own well-defined identities designed for high performance. In the family room, Melissa added architectural oomph by designing bookcases and an alcove in which to nestle a gorgeous Ananbo panoramic wallpaper and a custom velvet sofa in the most beautiful deep verdigris green. Dreamy and imaginative, the new space evokes far away places that are calming and playful. The lighthearted collection of furniture, in a mix of periods and styles, continues the relaxed message. Green painted antique chairs, a new Jonathan Charles coffee table with a vintage vibe, a round Italian tole table that's more blue tinged than green, and the black Asian garden stool from Malachite are just a few examples. Well-loved accessories — pillows, books and objets d'art — create beautiful layers of ruddy reds, old gold, caramel, and bittersweet.
"The husband is a fantastic cook," Melissa explains. "We did a very traditional kitchen in their primary residence, so we opted here for a sleek, uncluttered design that is still very warm and inviting." Inspired by modern European cabinetry, she chose frameless acrylic gloss cabinets in a mushroom shade that highlight the splendid grey and taupe veining in the Calacatta Crema marble counters and backsplashes. The waterfall island, in the same yummy marble, a custom hood fabricated in the acrylic cabinet material, and unlacquered antique brass hardware all accentuate the kitchen's super clean lines and easy warmth.
The guest bedroom is downstairs and includes the powder room, so Melissa wanted it to have the appropriate visual impact and presence. She repurposed gorgeous antique cypress double doors so guests could enter from the living room, and painted the room in Farrow & Ball's Book Room Red, giving off a center hall cottage feel that invites drama. Crisp black and white directoire stripes, banded with red trim, dress everything up in a definitively French way, and an antique Suzani blanket from B. Viz Design is a spirited exotic flourish.
Upstairs, Melissa reworked the floorplan to include a master bedroom complete with a sitting room and bathroom "en suite", as well as an office that can also double as an additional guest room. Bookcases were added to the bedroom to achieve height and architectural interest, and the entire space is enveloped in Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray. It's so serene and soothing. The client prefers to work from a chair rather than a desk, so for the office, Melissa designed a custom built-in nook for guest overflow that still allows space for a modern leather Eames chair. I love the cozy library feel of this room — a cocoon of "hard to pin down color" mixed with a moody dark oil painting and a striking botanical print from Brunschwig and Fils.
New Orleans will always be about history and romance. By using as many local craftspeople as possible, shopping in our unrivaled antique shops, and celebrating the artistry that's so unique to our city, Melissa captured its essence with great panache. In this comfortable and charming setting, I know this family will create years of wonderful memories in the Big Easy.
This article appeared in June 2020 Issue of Adore Magazine.