A 1953 modern home by Curtis and Davis in New Orleans’s Lakeshore neighborhood proved too tempting to pass up for veteran renovators Maury Strong, a film producer with an A-list client roster, and Ron Caron, a public school teacher. But the couple soon discovered that the flood-damaged structure with multiple sloppy renovations was a bigger challenge than they had imagined. With the help of a team led by Wayne Troyer and Natan Diacon-Furtado of studioWTA and the original architectural plans, they created a modern oasis to last a lifetime.
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Maury Strong: I want fresh blood when it comes to houses. Ron and I have been together 16 years, and I’ve moved him to a couple of different countries and a bunch of different cities, and to a number of different homes in each city. We were living in New Orleans’s Garden District, and I’m looking, and I see this really cool midcentury house right out on the lakefront in Lakeshore. I call our friend Wayne Troyer, who ended up being our architect. We go to the open house and every architect in town is there. We were like, "Damn, this place needs a lot of work." By the time we left and went to brunch, they had four offers.
Ron Caron: Maury didn’t know at the time that it was six houses down from my childhood home. I had never been inside, but I had passed it on my bicycle many times.
Maury: His parents recall it being built.
Ron: My parents built a new home for maybe $20,000. They lived there for 50-odd years until Katrina came. This neighborhood had eight feet of water—the house we’re living in was inundated.
Maury: Somebody had bought the house the day before Katrina. They had to sell it, and somebody else bought it and did a pretty crappy job restoring it—a real patch-up job. We’d been through a couple of renovations together before, so we knew that we were planning to gut it and create a new foundation, new roof, new everything. We really weren’t scared to undertake the work. We knew exactly what we were going to do, and that was to bring Palm Springs to New Orleans.
Our friend Wayne started to draw up some amazing plans, keeping the original intent intact but making it more contemporary. The people we bought the house from had the original plans, so we were able to say, "If Curtis and Davis were alive today and they had the technology and materials that we have available, what decisions would they have made?"
"We got tired of moving. We thought, Let’s go home, but let’s bring the places that we love back to New Orleans.’ " Maury Strong, Resident
The previous owner hadn’t done that. They painted over all the brick. They used different materials outside and inside. So we stripped all the paint off the brick and we left it natural. And then we made sure that if you saw one material inside, it continued outside.
Ron: We knew that with the right touch it could be something magical, like maybe it had once been.
Maury: It took two years from "go" to "whoa." Was it more than we expected to bite off? Yes. There were plenty of tears. We wanted a cohesive feel throughout the house—almost like a paper doll, where you start with the undergarments. You’ve got this clean, open white shell with the limestone floor and the plaster walls and you’ve got the brick, and then we put the same cabinetry in the kitchen, the bar, the guest bathroom, and the master bathroom. It lets the furniture and the art be the accents throughout the house.
Ron: If you’re in the backyard at night, looking into the house that’s lit up behind the glass, you can’t believe that you live in this space. You can see each room, and it’s beautiful. Just beautiful.
Maury: For the first time in our lives, we feel like we don’t have to keep moving.