It doesn't get any grander than living in a spacious formal home on St. Charles Avenue in the heart of Uptown New Orleans. But for Emily and Stirling Morrison and their nine-year-old triplets, the house is wonderfully relaxed and anything but staid. "Nothing is off limits or too precious," Emily explains. "The formal layout means each space has its own function and charm, and we live and play hard in every single room." The house was built in 1970 in the French Second Empire style, and indeed the fine bones come with all the lavish elements one might expect — ornate carved oak paneled walls, embellished mantels, and opulent Baccarat chandeliers and sconces. But with kids cartwheeling and riding hoverboards through the house, the vibe is fresh and energetic. The Morrisons, embracing traditionalism with their own modern twist, are honoring bygone generations while building the next.
Emily's style is naturally classic and steeped in tradition. "I love family treasures with history and stories to tell, and I decorate slowly and thoughtfully. We buy things we truly love at local galleries or when we are traveling. I repurpose and refresh as much as possible, and I'm constantly rediscovering things in my own house which brings wonderful memories back to the surface." With a deep affinity for inherited furniture and a talent for choosing accessories and art inspired by wanderlust, she has created a timeless décor that is warmly familiar. It's old-fashioned, personal, a tad boho, and definitely luxe. And there's no better place to cultivate this aesthetic than here in New Orleans. We have the best antique dealers and unique stores, including Emily's own venture, Elysian by Em. Her stylishly curated shop on Magazine Street features a multi-cultural assortment of artisan-crafted products from around the globe. Think Turkish pillows, one-of-a-kind caftans and slides, and exquisite jewelry from Istanbul. At home, Emily feathers her own nest in much the same way. She uses colorful ingredients — rugs, lampshades, and textiles — right along with chinoiserie porcelains and sterling vases passed down from both sides of the family to put her own spin on traditional design.
In the entrance hall, flanked by a bespoke library and elegant living room, inlaid oak parquet floors are a distinctive covering for the entire first floor. The walls, including the refined molding and millwork, are coated in Benjamin Moore Carrington Beige. A stunning 18th century trumeau from New Orleans Auction Galleries and a Swedish table from Tara Shaw anchors the space. A favorite pair of armchairs refurbished in a large-scale floral print — Sugarbush in Pink Peony by Vervain — delivers a burst of color. Various objects — a ceramic vase from a trip to Vietnam, a metal turned leaf from Mexico, and a stone sculpture found on Magazine Street— are casually arranged on the table. On the opposite wall, a contemporary work by artist Auguste Garufi holds court with an antique settee while a modern table from CB2 sits below some serious Baccarat bling. Throughout the house, placed here and there, are beautiful wooden tea boxes which Stirling has collected since first receiving one as a birthday gift from his mother when he was 14.
The library, where Stirling reads the morning paper and the kids do their homework, features handsome boiserie walls and a distinctive fireplace surround in the style of noted British architect, Robert Adam. Emily loaded the bookcases with antique china given to her by her mother and a portrait of Stirling's great Aunt Kate serving as a sergeant in the Marines during WWII takes center stage above the mantel. Found furnishings were reupholstered— Scalamandré and Vervain fabrics on a pair of bergères and Colefax and Fowler on a giltwood bench. The custom touches — a zesty pleated lampshade, a Turkish rug, and accent pillows — add color and texture and are all from Emily's shop.
I could hang out in her living room all day. Light pours in from the side gardens through windows intentionally left bare and the sophisticated wall color, Gray Wisp by Benjamin Moore, is one of those alluring paints that changes hue throughout the day. The room has an opulent marble Louis XV mantel with ornamental bronze ormolu, but things never get too serious. A whimsical candelabra as a fire screen that Stirling purchased at New Orleans Auction Galleries, a pair of buttery yellow Angelo Donghia skirted chairs handed down from her mother, and a sprinkling of contemporary cocktail tables are all part of the mix. The sofa that the triplets routinely climb on, perched to watch the streetcar, is in its original velvet from the 1970s. It's slated to get a makeover soon, probably another yummy velvet, but in the meantime, Emily piles it with silk velvet pillows which are a mainstay at her shop. "Luxurious handwoven textiles can stand the test of time," she explains. "The imperfections of handmade goods make them beautifully unique, and they're meant to withstand dirt and stains. I mix and match them endlessly."
The children's bedrooms have that look that's classic nana and pop. The fifty-plus-year-old matching floral wallpaper and curtains in Stirling's are original to the house and pretty cane beds dressed in well placed monograms were a gift from her grandmother, Pat Morrison. Rhett, who is named after Emily's father, has vintage aircraft along with art that started in his dad's childhood bedroom. And Logan, named after another family member, has an antique four-poster bed gifted to her by Emily's mom. Often asked about life with triplets, Emily shares, "It was difficult in the beginning, but I view it as a luxury now. It's like having a built-in play group. They entertain themselves easily."
With a beautifully designed landscape, the family lives outdoors as much as possible in April through October. "It's a no TV household during the week. We like to have a glass of wine on the side patio while the kids run around and the swimming pool is 14 feet deep, so it sees some serious diving competitions." Another side yard right off of the kitchen acts as a dining room almost nightly. "Stirling is an excellent cook and I love to set casual tables mixing interesting textiles and colorful glassware." She uses traditional hand embroidered Suzanis as table covers, ikat dinner napkins, and hand painted ceramics from her shop. The needlework is exquisite, the colors so rich, and I love the carefree vibe that comes from tossing handmade things together in effortless ways. "I adore the craftsmanship of Suzanis," says Emily. "I layer them over rugs, drape them over chairs and cherish them as the works of art that they are." With summer here and the kids out of school, the Morrisons are spending as much time as possible enjoying life on the Avenue with family and friends.
This article appeared in the May 2021 Issue of Adore Magazine.