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This Mold House redux: Desperately seeking new house on old budget

NolaVie editor Renee Peck wrote This Mold House for The Times-Picayune for four years after Hurricane Katrina. She is reposting a number of her favorite columns in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the storm. This article originally was published in The Times-Picayune InsideOut section on Jan. 12, 2008.

When people ask about my decorating style, I reply that it’s eclectic.

Eclectic means mismatched. It’s designer lingo for furnishings that don’t go together. If you do eclectic well — French antiques on the Oriental carpet and Andy Warhol on the wall — it looks stunning. If you do eclectic too eclectically . . . well, you’ve seen those houses.

In my case, eclectic reflects personal history and pocketbook as much as taste. It encompasses the evacuation furniture bought for the apartment in Houston — IKEA brown leather couch, Storehouse round mahogany table, Bombay Company reproduction side tables. It includes my grandmother’s antique breakfront, restored from the legs down after the flood, and Stewart’s grandfather’s antique pool table, ditto. And the six metal chairs around the breakfast table, $50 each at an outlet on the West Bank.

But the main reason for our eclectic decor stems from the fact that there are two of us choosing the furniture, and we prefer wildly divergent styles. I like butter-soft leather edged in chrome, dhurrie rugs and sushi. He’s a wing chair, cherry floor, ribeye kind of guy.

Blending our choices sometimes takes a furniture shrink, otherwise known as an interior designer. There are a thousand of them descending on New Orleans in March for the national American Society of Interior Designers convention. I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, we continue battling over the environment.

“That painting looks awful there.”

“No it doesn’t. It picks up the natural light from the window.”

“That just washes out the colors.”

Stewart can spend an hour deciding on which of three dark maroon ties best complements his charcoal suit (one of three). I painted our laundry room tangerine and put a 9-foot striped totem pole in our foyer.

On the plus side, we have managed to avoid one common decorating mistake: following soon-to-be-outdated design trends. This is less about individuality and more about ignorance.

“Nice shag carpet,” I told a homeowner back when I first started covering home and garden.

“It’s a flokati,” he replied, underwhelmed by my design expertise.

Since then, I have increased my design IQ, and can now spot an Eames chair at a hundred paces. Our post-storm rebuild prompted Stewart, too, to absorb myriad design tidbits. Personally, I think he’s less interested in decor than he is in controlling how we spend the insurance money.

Whatever the reason, he can rattle off a list of all the colors in our interior and exterior palettes and tell you that the round glass coffee table complements the curved back on the sofa. (Though I suspect he lifted that from our design shrink.)

At any rate, both of us are too stubborn in our idiosyncratic tastes to sample the latest decorating flavor of the month.

We don’t indulge in an annual “blue-and-brown is the new black” upholstery recovering. We haven’t papered the bathroom walls with metallics. Our world decor look is strictly accidental. Although I did succumb to one of those natural-weave seagrass mats, which flooded the home furnishing market last year, for the floor in front of the TV.

Still, when all the news releases on new design trends hit my desk, as they do about this time every year, I start thinking about upgrading my eclectic decor to something a little more today.

Over the holidays, Megan adopted a puppy born to a Katrina stray and rescued from the Lower 9th Ward, a lovable Lab mix named Lucy who is currently teething.

The other night, I nudged the seagrass mat toward her.

“I’m thinking we need a new rug for this room,” I told Stewart nonchalantly. “What do you think about a flokati?”


The New Year’s crop of news releases touting hot design trends for 2008 has hit our office. If you want to stay current with the rest of the world, here’s what they’re saying, courtesy of the American Home Furnishings Alliance and Color Marketing Group. Both have tracked design trends for decades.

  • Licensed to thrill. The upsurge in name collections continues, with furniture makers licensing celeb designers to create one-of-a-kind lines. Oscar nominee Bob Mackie’s new signature collection for Drew Furniture includes a 60-inch round table in primavera veneer with a feather motif — very Hollywood. B. Smith has a line inspired by the places she has visited as a model and restaurateur, while Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Diana, has launched a royal line. But, of course.
  • Green is the new beige. Not the color; the movement. Environmental correctness is hitting home, with furniture made from wood grown in sustainable forests, chemical-free fabrics, organic materials and the like. Companies are touting everything from formaldehyde-free glue (who knew?), frames made of recycled steel and soy-based foam cushions to tables made from teak root material from trees once burned in south Asia.
  • Blue is the new black. Designers are predicting a new predilection for blue — both the “trust me” hue of political candidates’ ties and a sky blue in line with the environmental movement. And high-tech design will lean toward an almost black-blue.
  • Custom for a crowd. Individualization has jumped from monogrammed towels to furniture. Sofas from Hickory Chair can be ordered in custom lengths, while Century Furniture offers a mix-and-match table: You pick a type (round, square, rectangular), then a top and a base.
  • Downsizing. As boomers age, they want smaller and less, but still upscale. Rowe has a Mini-Mod collection of small-scale furniture, and Vanguard’s Luxe Liaison line is designed to be diminutive but refined, with silk, mohair and metallics.
  • Metallics still shine. Last year’s rediscovery of metallics in everything from wallpaper to tabletops will continue, but with warmer tones. Swap out the polished chrome for burnished copper.
  • World décor. The move toward global looks continues to proliferate, with ethnic accents from China, India and Latin America. Think global economy in colors, too, such as Moroccan red, sunny yellows and turquoise.


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