Holiday Home Tour: 1236 First Street

When Erin and Lawrence Hjersted purchased 1236 First St. in 2013, the couple fulfilled a longstanding promise to return to the city where they had met and begun their courtship over a decade before. Erin, who had lived in New Orleans as a child and attended law school at Loyola University, had long hoped to return to the city. Her husband was “won over” by the confederate jasmine in bloom during a one of their visits, and in 2013 they decided to sell their homes in Kentucky and Florida to move to New Orleans with their daughter, Lucy.

A stunning shade of blue accents this living space.

Their home, a spacious corner lot in the heart of the Garden District and just a short distance from Lucy’s school, was an easy choice for Erin and Lawrence. Built in 1852-53, the double-galleried Greek Revival house is among the oldest homes in the neighborhood. It includes five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, an office for Lawrence (with one in the works for Erin) and an expansive first-floor sunroom — one of the family’s favorite places to spend time. Among its many architectural features are windows and doors with Greek key detailing, Italian marble mantels and plaster moldings and cornices. Extensive gardens encircle the side and rear of the property, which also includes a renovated carriage house.

Built in 1852-53, the double-galleried Greek Revival house is among the oldest homes in the neighborhood.

The home’s decor is simple and classic — Erin confesses she wanted “nothing too fussy” for her family. Much of the furniture was selected to maximize the light and flow of the interior spaces and draw connections to the outside. Select pieces throughout the house speak to Erin’s fondness for Chinois as well as Lawrence’s Swedish heritage. Among its decorative highlights are two Baccarat crystal chandeliers, from the same era that the house was built, which can be seen in the front parlor and dining room.

At over 150 years old, the Hjersteds were not surprised to discover on moving in that their home required some updates, as well as a few customizations to fit their family’s needs.  Projects have included shoring and levelling, expanding and renovating the kitchen, and transforming the carriage house from a potting shed into fully functional guest quarters. A wrought iron fence was also installed to maintain privacy. New garden pathways and other adjustments helped improve the interior-exterior flow of the property, one of Erin’s favorite features.

We're impressed by this clever cookbook storage.
We’re impressed by this clever cookbook storage!

The Hjersted’s efforts built on those of previous owners Julia Reed and John Pearce, who completed the first major renovations to the property in almost half a century in 2004. Ms. Reed wrote about the couple’s experiences fixing up the home after Hurricane Katrina in her book, House on First Street. The home was also featured in Elle Decor, Southern Living, and other publications.

This gorgeous Greek Revival home is one of the oldest structures in the neighborhood.

Renovation was not always an easy process, Erin concedes. Still, she reflects positively on the experience, which allowed her to tailor the space to her family’s needs while also preserving and protecting a piece of New Orleans history. She encourages would-be renovators to exhibit patience and “make peace with dust” during construction. Dust, she says, “equals progress.” -Jocelyn Horner

Photos by Sara Essex Bradley

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