This mid-century modern house once stood in the beautiful neighborhood of Metairie (New Orleans, LA). It was built in 1950 by Johnny M. Gabriel, an architect from Lake Charles, LA. The ranch style house with its low slung roof and different sized limestones on the exterior was one of the first houses built on Woodvine Avenue. The entire house was furnished with original pieces from the Chicago Merchandise Mart by contemporary furniture designers such as Herman Miller and Charles & Ray Eames. The floor plan, materials used, and furnishings were all quite modern for the time.
Using the exterior limestone on the inside was a way of bringing the outside in, originally one of the priniciples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture. You can see on the right how there are three sizes used which makes for interesting patterns. A variety of natural materials were used in the construction of the home. The slate which was used in the front hall, living room and dining room was brought to the house from North Carolina. I love the original front door with the windows centered on the mullions.
The house had a very contemporary floor plan for the time. The public spaces- the Living Room, the Dining Room and the front hall all were in the center of the house. The private spaces included a wing with the bedrooms to one side and the kitchen, a playroom and back entrance to the carport were on the other side. The ability to go from the kitchen to the bedrooms without having to go through the public space was somewhat of a new concept. The frosted glass wall and connecting partition to the left also allowed for greater privacy in the Living Room. Only some of the original furniture is here. The house was featured in a local magazine on August 27, 1950 and the article says “Mrs. Davis and her decorator chose an ebony coffee table and ebony Eames chairs with a plush red sofa for accent.” Sounds extremely hip, note the Noguchi coffee table which is a classic today.
The original table, chairs and sideboard. My mother-in-law is the left portrait.
The division between the LR and DR also had a fireplace. Mr. and Mrs. Davis wanted a division of space, an open feeling and a fireplace. The architect solved it by centering the house around the fireplace, also a concept that stems from Frank Lloyd Wright.
Originally the play room, this room had cork flooring as did one of the girls bedrooms. A sustainable and durable material, cork is used today and considered to be eco-friendly. Gabriel was ahead of his time.
Cork flooring and built-ins in one of the girls bedrooms.
One of very few houses in NOLA to have an O’Keefe and Merritt gas stove. When the hurricanes would hit and the electricity was out everyone wanted to come over to boil water. The stove is currently at one of the sister’s houses in FL. It is a vintage treasure.
The frosted glass was also used in the kitchen as an interior window. Behind the window was the playroom. By sliding the center bottom window pane mom could see the girls in the playroom and send snacks through.
All of the other furniture was custom designed by the architect to fit each room. Built-ins like these were an incredibly modern feature. LKD was my husband’s grandmother. I do not have a picture of the master bedroom but one of the most forward technologies of the house was that all of the lighting for the house could be controlled from the master bedroom. There was a cabinet built around the headboard so that one could turn on any light in the house before getting out of bed.
An on/off switch for heat in the bathroom. I love the art nouveau inspired grill work.
The open floor plan, full width open doors and a greater connection between the house and nature signaled a trend of houses incorporating more modern elements. The house had a great screened in back porch with sliding doors. The lightweight awning type aluminum framed windows allowed for maximum ventilation throughout the house.
The pool was added to the house a few years later. It was great to swim in the pool and then go play cards and have some lunch on the back porch.
After being sold, the house was torn down to our sadness in 2004. Thankfully though when Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005 the house and all it’s family treasures were spared. I was fortunate to be able to visit the house many times and love the wonderful woman who called that house her home for five decades.