After spending more than a year searching every corner of New Orleans for the perfect property, New Jersey natives Nancy and Michael McSween celebrated Christmas Eve 1987 with the purchase of 1422 Harmony St. Nancy saw almost limitless possibility in the 1850s two-story, double-gallery Greek Revival-style home situated on a double lot in the Garden District. They appreciated that the original French windows in the back parlor remained, opening onto the back courtyard. Many homes with that feature have since been modified, removing the windows in favor of storage or an additional bathroom. She also admits that the idyllic street name, Harmony, helped seal the deal.
Nancy abides by two distinct rules of design: color is everything, and every home should have a piano. Based on her manifesto, it might be surprising to learn that she originally painted the walls French White. After collecting and hanging a number of art pieces throughout the home, including an entire room dedicated to the works of local artist Patty Ellstrot, Nancy allowed the paintings to inspire the final wall color, selecting a deep purple in the downstairs parlors. In homage to their new city, the McSweens carried a vivacious Mardi Gras-inspired color scheme throughout the first floor of the home, featuring deep purple in the double parlor, verdant green in the atrium and a golden faux finish in the kitchen, painted by local artist Stacy LaFleur. Each room is bold, yet monochromatic with little trim. Nancy prefers to let the artworks command the attention of each room.
The rear courtyard, accentuated with a large Japanese Pittosporum Bonsai, features a swimming pool and is a favorite spot for entertaining guests.
During the course of the past 30 years, interior designer Vesta Fort of Vesta Fort, Inc., and Robert Reardon of Nomad Construction have played key roles in bringing the historic home to its current glory. Nancy believes wholeheartedly in living in the space you intend to renovate prior to beginning construction. Familiarizing yourself with your surroundings and understanding your family’s routines and needs gives you the ability to crystalize your vision for the home before beginning the process.
To escape renovation fatigue after the decades-long restoration, the McSweens purchased an 1850s shotgun home only one block away and are living there while undertaking the final phase of renovation: a significant refurbishment to the upstairs bedrooms.
The McSweens are no stranger to historic renovation: They were named 2010 Preservation Award Winners by the Historic Florida Keys Foundation for their work on The Walden House, a cigar maker’s shotgun.
See this home and six other stunning Garden District homes at the PRC’s Holiday Home Tour on Dec. 9 & 10. Click here to purchase your tickets today!
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Photos by Sarah Essex Bradley