Naturally Refined Renovation
Curated with a Mix of Art and Artisan-Crafted Furniture, Tish Miller Has Created a Home That Embues a Modern, Yet Earthy Niche for Chrissy and Darrel Evans
by Maré Brennan
The homeowner’s edict to designer Tish Miller, “If someone else has it, I don’t want it.” Pushing the envelope and creating new ideas in home design were what was in store with this dream client for Miller who has carved a modern yet earthy niche that is easier felt than described. Evolving with each client, Tish manages to delight and surprise with a curated mix of art and artisan-crafted furnishings, lighting and textiles. For the Evans’ project, mutual admiration between designer and homeowners only grew stronger during the year-and-a-half-long project.
Says Darrell, “Since we made changes to the house, we never want to leave. This house is one big piece of art thanks to Tish. She comes up with the most amazing details.” In characteristic Tish fashion, she defers credit to the homeowner’s vision and the team of craftsmen and artisans who made the vision a reality. When executing the remodel homeowner Chrissy and designer Tish had envisioned, contractor Jason Ohler and his team had their work cut out for them. Venetian plaster? No problem. Feature walls sheathed in mega-tons of marble slabs? Yes. An open-hearth, 3-sided contemporary fireplace where a closet had been? Bring it on. A sculptural wall of stained white oak mosaic planks contrasted with sheets of striated basalt. Check and Check.
Tish warmed up the home with a dramatic interplay of colors and textures using the reclaimed woods, hammered metals and lush fabrics found throughout the home. At once organic and refined, a prerequisite for making the cut for the Evans’ home was first and foremost the materials must be dog and family friendly. The family’s fourth member, chocolate labrador Bella, loves it, too, as she can run and slide across the gorgeous, wide plank floors of reclaimed wood and curl up beside her owners on any sofa or chair with impunity. The wood floors from the Pompeii Collection and all tile selections throughout the home were sourced and installed by Michael Durham and his team at Custom Carpet and Flooring. Marble and granite selections were sourced and fabricated through Twin City Granite.
First impressions are everything. It is said you only have a few seconds before you form an opinion of what lies ahead, whether it’s a person or a home. The original incarnation of the Evans’ home was a stately Acadian that was lovingly designed by the homeowner in 1999. Explains Darrell, “When Chrissy’s mom became ill, Chrissy would go every day to be with her. During that time she drew this house to scale, working on it for over a year. We had an architect draw up her plans, built this home and moved in in 2002 when our son, Grant, was 2.” But as Chrissy and Darrell’s family grew older and their likes and needs evolved, they knew it was time for a change. Luckily, the perfect interior designer for their job had just helped Chrissy’s brother and sister-in-law create a modernist masterpiece to rave reviews. “Of course, Chrissy fell in love with Tish,” says Darrell. “And it was mutual,” interjects Tish. “It’s unreal how many times Chrissy and I were on the same page – at the same time!”
The front porch gives a nod to the past with its elegant proportions and restrained palette, but the vibe is tweaked with very modern Cor-Ten steel planters planted with split leaf philodendron (or hardy cast iron plants when wintry weather wreaks havoc) and oversized teak rocking chairs with grey webbing and a porch swing made of teak with leather strapping by Alexandria furniture maker Glen Armand. Behind the swing, Bermuda shutters made of reclaimed wood offer privacy and shade on warmer days. Painted “Anonymous Grey,” the louvered shutters and front door add a graphic punch to the porch and columns, which are painted “Shoji White.” Reclaimed wood covers the porch ceiling, adding a rustic, earthy material to the mix. Chrissy, who loves more modernist plantings, added equisetum, or horsetail, at the foot of porch stairs.
The foyer absolutely sets the tone for the entire home. But the real question is, “How can so much ‘WOW!’ be packed into one entry? Step through the sidelit front door and into a world that is at once fantasy and the most beautiful of realities. At right is a two-story wall of Roma Imperiale marble which took six men to painstakingly install. Says Tish, “This marble has so much personality. It is truly Mother Nature in all her glory.” Grazing lights are positioned at ceiling level to bathe the wall in a wash of light. Patinated brass flooring from Ann Sacks grounds the space with an additional element of luxuriousness, as if the silky, luminescence of walls treated with Venetian plaster wasn’t enough. The staircase, completely redesigned, features treads of cumara, or Brazillian teak, with wenge risers and is backlit with ambient light against the wall. Triple A Glass helped design and install the contemporary glass stair rails capped with white oak handrails and anchored with sleek metal hardware. At the first landing of the stairs, a commissioned canvas by Susan Roberts is joined by organic metal sculpture by Joe Walters.
Nowhere in the Evans’ home is the interaction of textural elements more evident than in the home’s living room. Even in winter, the room’s walls, painted Benjamin Moore’s “Cathedral Grey,” are bathed in light from the oversized panes of the French doors that lead to the outdoor living area. On either side of the French doors are a pair of Polly Spence canvases in muted neutrals. Just beyond the archway that leads from the foyer, Tish custom-designed an étagère of metal and reclaimed wood that holds objets d’art, leather bound books, family photos and found objects. A feature wall of striated, carved basalt panels is juxtaposed with an organically composed mosaic of white oak panels, which the contractor pieced together like an intricate puzzle. “Graham Smith helped us source all the beautiful woods that we used throughout the home,” says Tish, pointing out the large reclaimed beams used as a mantle above the fireplace as well as the white oak strips in the mosaic. In the fireplace, “Off The Loop,” a sculpture of interconnected loops of iron, is animated by fire throughout its structural composition. Lit or unlit, this significant piece of art by London artist Cathy Azria creates a relaxing focal point. Above the rugged mantle, an ethereal abstract oil and graphite on canvas by Steven Seinberg softens the space. A comfortable seating area is anchored by an unbleached Moroccan Berber Shag carpet from NOLA Rugs, which provides the perfect tactile foil for the gorgeous, natural sycamore cocktail table by New York-based artist André Joyau. Known for her resourcefulness, Tish discovered twin side tables made of petrified wood with resin in Chicago and concrete bowls from Houston. Above the sofa is a mixed media canvas by Bernard Mattox, known for putting cheeky “odds and ends” in his works. The room is illuminated by a pair of exceptional pendant light fixtures which hang on either side of the sofa and another which hangs above the Joyau table, all of which are by Chicago-based artist Lucy Slavinski, who works with salvaged scrap metal to create one-of-a-kind fixtures. Two pairs of swiveling club chairs, custom designed from Inside Indigo, provide favorite seating for the homeowners and their guests. A modern take on a classic wingback chair with an accompanying ottoman makes a statement in a persimmon velvet with nailhead trim and adds a pop of unexpected color.
Just beyond the living room is the heart of the Evans’ home, the restructured kitchen. Rustic reclaimed beams run the width of the expansive gathering place. Pendant lights of hammered silver and brass provide task lighting above the multi-level island, which is sheathed in corrugated tin with a hickory wood countertop. A farm sink in white bronze is nestled in the lower portion of the island which is topped with black and cream Negresco granite with a backsplash of crushed glass mosaic tiles. Stainless counter stools were recovered in cowhide. On the kitchen wall with the stainless oven, stacked quartz reaches to the ceiling, past the custom hood faux finished by Teresa Clark. Countertops of honed Light Emperador marble are contrasted with the darker stain of the cabinets. Tish and the homeowners commissioned a pendant light of recycled materials by Slavinski to fit between two glass front display cabinets. The backdrop for the light fixture is “Vicenza,” a Walker Zanger tile in an arabesque pattern. In one of those glass front cabinets with large bronze pulls from Rocky Mountain Hardware, an inconspicuous scrap of reclaimed wood has taken on a special meaning for the project. Just before the end of the remodel, Tish had all of the workmen and women sign their names as a reminder of each person’s contributions to this incredible project.
Through a cased opening near the kitchen’s wall painted Sherwin Williams’ “Peppery,” the understated but elegantly appointed dining room reveals itself slowly and deliberately. The “Drizzle” chandelier by Ochre with concentric circles of black crystal drops immediately pulls the eye upward to the metallic grass cloth ceiling, applied by wallpaper expert, Cyndi Green. A dark, nearly black, shade of grey, “Black Fox,” was applied to three walls, while the fourth wall of book-matched Titanium granite in a leather finish adds an element of surprise when touched. Hand-forged window hardware from Dallas holds voluminous panels of drapery edged with cayenne detailing sewn by master seamstress Suzannne Blackwelder. To accommodate large family and friend gatherings with up to 14 guests, Tish instructed the Austin artisans at Reworks to build a U-shaped table with steel legs and a live, sculptural edge wooden tabletop, reminiscent of a timeless Nakashima piece. Chairs backs are upholstered with a lush crocodile pattern, while seats are an easy to care for vinyl. On either side of the doorway are large, bold canvases by Sue Sartor and Cheryl Troxel.
Continuing the emphasis on texture, the master bedroom is a treat for all the senses. Structurally, Tish enlarged the room by eliminating a closet and replacing it with an open, three-sided fireplace, featuring “Loop de Loop,” another gas fireplace sculpture by Cathy Azria. Arkansas Stone was integral in designing such a complicated and contemporary fireplace. Says Tish, “This was a major undertaking, and I appreciate Chrissy and Darrell so much for sticking with it when the going got tough.” To hide an existing electrical panel, Tish found a large carved Indian wood panel that provided camouflage as well as an architectural element. A Tibetan wool and silk rug from NOLA Rugs offers softness under foot, while a custom Nathan Anthony bed upholstered in a salt and pepper cowhide is dressed in Bella Notte washable silk velvet quilted bedding and pillows as well as oversized pillows by Leitner in a grey woven fabric. A sculptural Julian Chichester charcoal vellum bedside table a Chichester “Felix” media cabinet offer extra storage and a place for the couple’s television. Above the armoire is a series of mixed media works by Dana Ruth Harvey. The bedroom gets fringe benefits from the dual rows of dark brass iron beads which gently drape from the chandelier’s oval frame offering soft, filtered light. Channeling mid-century icon George Nakashima, the organic console is from the Phillips Collection and balances a figurative sculpture, an abstract canvas by Stephen Seinberg and a pair of exotic, African gemsbok mounts. Luxe panels of hand-stamped vintage velvet cocoon the space in softness.
Just beyond the open fireplace feature wall lies the couple’s home office. Lamps from Louisiana Purchases and a Bernard Mattox work on canvas create a charming vignette atop a custom desk handcrafted of tigerwood with a live edge by Sandy Sartor and her Key Millwork team of craftspeople, who were responsible for the incredible cabinetry throughout the home. A mid-century modern chair found at Woodstock Furniture Revival was reupholstered in a soft grey wool. A contemporary sofa upholstered in two-toned lizard and ostrich wipeable fabric is surrounded by a commissioned doggie portrait, “Bella on Steel” by French Quarter artist Adrian Fulton and a mixed media canvas by James Beaman. A Mongolian lamb-covered stool adds glamorous punctuation to a palomino cowhide rug.
Totally immersing themselves in the renovation of their home, no stone was left unturned in creating a master bath that would stand the test of time with all the modern amenities you can imagine. Radiant floor heat is transferred through Sepulveda Rectangle Field tiles in a textured pattern by Ann Sacks. Inset motorized blinds, custom made by Jim Aulds at Smith Blind and Awning, provide privacy at the touch of a button. Chrissy and Tish designed a curving brick wall inset with a large polished fossil fragment just beyond the bathroom window to further enhance privacy. Darrell jokingly describes his wife’s beloved and stylish Japanese soaking tub from Diamond Spa as her “crawfish pot.” The stainless steel bath is elevated on a river rock platform and features a dramatic Kohler standing tub filler. A fringed, chainmail chandelier by Gabby from Inside Indigo adds a touch of femininity above the tub. Glass “High/Low” tiles in a grey and brown mix reflect light into the space. Inside the glass-doored oversized shower with built-in seating, a mix of shagreen-embossed tiles, river rocks and mosaic mother-of-pearl tiles create a serene retreat. Custom hand limed oak cabinetry achieves an eye-catching patina that is matched by stunning door pulls by French artist and sculptor, Xavier Lebee. Contractor Ohler’s team handcrafted a custom tub caddy for the soaking tub, in addition to the dual mirrors framed in brushed metal above the vanity which is topped with vein-cut silver travertine countertops. Tish points to a darling lucite and cowhide stool to demonstrate how ‘in sync’ she and Chrissy were during the redo, “We needed a little vanity stool, so we were both looking. We literally picked out the exact same stool out of all the stools in the world! Can you believe it?” Paintings by Doug Kennedy and Robin Hamaker complement the zen-like space.
The Evans’ son’s room was enlarged during the remodel, combining two rooms into one. An eighth-grader at St. Frederick, Grant is the subject of series of four commissioned portraits by Caroline Youngblood which are featured on his wall beneath a prized baseball bat. Grant’s headboard and side tables were created using wood from The Green Project, which recycles and reclaims wood from structures torn down after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Tish assembled pillows from Coco’s and Louisiana Purchases to accent the bedding. The room’s seating area is anchored by an Indian Ikat rug from NOLA Rugs. A custom lumbar pillow of woodgrain fabric finds a place on the hide-patterned microsuede Nathan Anthony Bumper Sofa. Says Tish, “A sure way to please guys is to include lots of soft, plush fabrics.” A glove-leather and steel drum chair and ottoman with storage paired with a cocktail table of reclaimed wood and steel kick up the cool factor. A masculine cowhide sling chair by Jan Barboglio offers extra seating to pull up when friends come over. Because generations of Evans’ men have bonded over their love of hunting, Darrell designed a piece of taxidermy art for his son’s room, using a stringer of ducks in dead duck mount and his grandfather’s shotgun. Once again, Sandy Sartor and Key Millworks designed, built and installed a unique closet solution using sliding barn doors with inset pulls to hide closet space and built-in cabinetry to house electronics efficiently. An alligator painting on wood and framed in steel is by South Louisiana artist Tami Curtis. The linen drum pendant is from Low Country Designs.
Grant’s bathroom is a study in rugged textures, with a stacked pebble wall, honed cement vessel sink, copper and earthy-hued tiles, Mystique granite with veins of coral on a sea of grey and brown and a collection of fixtures by Sonoma Forge that is at once industrial, vintage and orient-inspired. Canvas by Polly Spence.
An open antique door, acquired at Ricca’s Architectural in New Orleans, affords a glimpse down the hallway leading from the kitchen toward Grant’s bedroom and reveals three works on paper by Meredith Pardue, artfully framed by Lenece Laseter between plexiglass panels which are offset from the walls and a large diptych from Karen LaBorde’s “Taxi” series.
An intriguing painting by Hasmig Vartanian, which was acquired from Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans and a diptych by Robin Hamaker, can be found in the back hallway that leads to the staircase at the rear of the home. A bench seat, custom-made from reclaimed beams and fastened with steel straps, is positioned beneath a large window which overlooks the pool, back gardens and patio. Taking a page out of Tony Duquette’s playbook, antique doors from New Orleans and faux painted cabinetry with Lelee bespoke door pulls open to reveal the lustrous walls of the downstairs’ half bath, adorned with Blue Louise Marble and smokey antique glass. An existing vanity and large circular mirror were repurposed and clad in copper sheeting with two different patinas and covered with resin. Verdigris mosaic tiles encased in gilded glass creates an interesting vessel sink. A modern mercury glass fishscale pendant cluster enlivens the space.
The back stairway was redesigned with Bolivian rosewood treads and new banister. Sconces by Reworks and a contemporary work in mixed media by Linda Dautreuil are found at the stairs’ first landing. At the top of the stairs Tish created a vignette using a work on paper by Margaret Moses above a chest of drawers which holds a Brazilian beehive from Reworks.
In the upstairs guest suite, a mini kitchen keeps guests refreshed. Vein-cut travertine tops dark stained custom cabinetry. Art abounds throughout the space with photography by Leslie Addison, a large canvas by Bernard Mattox and French Quarter artist’s painting on wood beside the bed. The Baci bed’s low profile and sleek hide upholstery makes for a understated addition to this ultra-contemporary, multi-use space. The sectional sofa was reupholstered in a nubby textured neutral fabric and is piled high with pillows made from neutral patterned fabrics and Mongolian lamb. A feature wall is embellished cork tiles in a gunmetal metallic. The media console and coffee table are made from reclaimed steel and wood. Two ceiling pendants take green to a new level as they are constructed from reclaimed metal bed springs.
The upstairs guest bath layers on the organic luxury with metallic flooring tile, tortoise glass tile and river rock accents. A carved stone basin and interior shutters on Bermuda mounts add to the rustic feel.
A walk-in attic became repurposed during the remodel as the family’s music and workout room. The contractor created an “art installation,” which flows across the room’s walls and ceiling by using the leftover reclaimed wood, corrugated tin, and other materials that were beautiful, yet unused and destined for the landfill.
The Evans’ renovation could not be complete without bringing their unique aesthetic to the home’s outdoor living space. Originally designed in a more traditional manner, the pool and gardens were given a modern makeover by Chrissy and Tish with the help of Carey Anderson with Green Horizons. Explains Tish, “We added Cor-Ten planters against the brick wall along the pool and kept the plantings to palms, succulents and horsetail, using Chrissy’s favorite plant palette. We also wanted to bring elements of the interior design outside, repeating the mosaic stacked wood in teak on the new firepits which are set on Cor-Ten bases and edged in Old St. Louis brick.” The two firepits, which encourage outdoor activities during cooler weather, have custom covers with antler handles created by metal artisan Robert Lender. The pool’s fountain wall was refaced in charcoal slate tile. Billy and Chad Sanders were enlisted to resurface the newly-extended patio walls with a decorative concrete overlay. Teak club chairs, ottomans and chaise lounges from Restoration Hardware provide seating.
A new gate of reclaimed wood and steel with custom 360 Degree Hardware was added to the wall and leads to the new outdoor kitchen, which features a stacked stone island topped with a honed bronzite countertop and stainless steel appliances. Wood and steel swiveling counterstools from Arteriors create a gathering spot for friends and family, and swiveling, upholstered club chairs, new finds from The Patio Place, offer even more options for comfortable seating outside.
While the Evans literally lived through the experience, the result of their vision, patience and hard work is one to be remembered for a lifetime. Says Chrissy, “During the remodel, Tish went above and beyond to make us comfortable in every way she possibly could. Most people that live in/through this type of ordeal say they would never do it again, but we feel just the opposite! We had so much fun during the whole process. Tish started out as my decorator and ended up as a wonderful dear friend.