Take a virtual tour of this home, and five other stunning New Orleans residences, at PRC’s 45th annual Holiday Home Tour presented by McEnery Residential on December 12 & 13.
It’s not unusual to find a New Orleans musician performing at the home of Alexa Pulitzer and Seth Levine, whether it’s trumpeter Ashlin Parker’s impromptu afternoon rendition of “What a Wonderful World” on the front steps or a back-porch concert by pianist David Torkanowsky and clarinetist Evan Christopher
Both passionate about New Orleans’ music and culture, Pulitzer and Levine created a haven for performances and parties when, in 2012, they bought and renovated a 160-year-old Eastlake center hall in Faubourg St. John.
Already residents of the neighborhood and long on the hunt for the right property, the couple first noticed the house on Google maps. “It had a Pac Man-shaped pool and (was) on an acre of land in the middle of the city,” said Pulitzer, a designer and artist known for her luxury stationery company, Alexa Pulitzer LLC. “The house is unassuming from the outside, and it feels very different on the inside than what is projected from the pink exterior.”
The exterior is filled with the decorative ornamentation indicative of its Eastlake style, including fish-scale shingles and scalloped eave trim, turned wood posts, spindle-band friezes and fan-like brackets. The original portion of the house dates to 1860, according to the couple. Around 1905, owners created a kitchen and camelback addition that first had an external staircase. Another previous owner, an architect, built a rear addition in the late 1980s.
Those additions resulted in a choppy layout. The same day Pulitzer and Levine signed the purchase papers on the house, they got to work creating a better floor plan, one that would give them spaces for entertaining and live music, as well as quiet areas where they could spend time with their daughter, Kagan, and son, Edge.
The house’s laundry list of changes began in the wide center hall. There, the couple enlarged openings into both the dining room and the salon (a living space with seating, musical instruments and an antique French baking table that Pulitzer turned into a bar).
“Because we live here and a lot of our dear friends are musicians, we really like to have live shows in the house. We wanted a room where we could have concerts,” said Pulitzer, who oversaw the renovation.
Photos by Liz Jurey
Doorways between the dining room and salon and to the kitchen were removed, as was the old narrow stairwell. The new stairway created more open space between the salon and kitchen, which was expanded to give the couple more room to cook with family and friends.
“We really wanted a home that we could entertain in,” said Pulitzer, who has been named multiple times to the list of the top 100 party hosts in the United States by The Salonniere, a website dedicated to the art of entertaining.
Pulitzer and Levine have hosted many concerts, intimate soirees, dinner parties, chef’s dinners, book signings and fundraisers in the salon, as well as in the central hall that can convert to a dining space for 24 people, and in the garden that becomes an extension of the living space. Many of the parties support the couple’s favorite nonprofit organizations and their creative friends, including musicians, authors, chefs and artists.
While COVID-19 has reduced the frequency of the couple’s shindigs, they’ve still managed to hold socially distanced concerts on their back galleries, which were rebuilt during the renovation.
They’ve also found creative ways to pass their time at home with their kids during the COVID pandemic by putting a ping-pong table in their dining room and moving the dining table to the center hall. They also enjoy hanging out in one of their favorite spaces: the family and theater room created in the former attic over the center hall.
There also are spaces for work. Pulitzer – who comes from a line of artists on her mother’s side – turned the front parlor into her creative, light-filled studio. In the room’s bay, there are shelves full of notepads, greeting cards and other paper products bearing Pulitzer’s whimsical and sophisticated designs.
She started her career with Wembley, the men’s accessories company founded by her paternal grandfather that at one time was the world’s largest necktie maker. With her own company, now in its 25th year, Pulitzer’s stationery is made in New Orleans and sold in more in than 1,000 retailers worldwide. She’s created proprietary collections for Bergdorf Goodman, Tory Burch and Anthropologie, as well as Private Label collections for the National World War II Museum, the Biltmore Estate, Mignon Faget, New Orleans Museum of Art and the U.S. Senate. Among her numerous philanthropic efforts were the creation of the logo for the New Orleans Tricentennial and invitations for Preservation Resource Center’s New York City fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina recovery.
While Pulitzer’s workspace is in the front of the house, she refers to the 1980s addition toward the back of the home as “Seth’s suite,” where Levine — a partner in the New Orleans law firm Jones Walker – can work from home in his vaulted-ceiling office. There, a gold rhinoceros head set against a bright blue wall commands attention.
A nearby bathroom is covered in Pulitzer’s “New Orleans Toile: Backstreets” wallpaper. As a celebration of New Orleans culture, she designed it in collaboration with Flavor Paper, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based wallpaper company that first started in New Orleans. “It’s all my favorite things about New Orleans, like Preservation Hall, the Indians, the cemeteries, Jackson Square, Zulu,” she said.
Photos by Liz Jurey
For Pulitzer, who uses recycled paper and soy-based ink for her stationery, it was instinctual to recycle and reuse the house’s original materials as part of the renovation. Wood from the attic became flooring for Levine’s office. Removed wooden door casements were repurposed in other parts of the house. Six-over-six pane windows were relocated from their original hall and bathroom spots to the kitchen. There, they provide additional light and give views of the garden and pool.
The renovation didn’t just take elements away. Triple crown molding was added to the 14-foot ceilings, and the couple worked with fifth-generation master plasterer Jeff Poree to create the custom plaster ceiling medallions.
Despite the extensive scope of work, the renovation took just six months thanks to Pulitzer’s meticulous attention to detail. Her savvy planning also saw the family completely moved into the nearly 4,000-square-foot house – with the furniture placed and artwork hung — in just 72 hours. (She lost eight pounds in the move.)
Most of the artwork is by Leonard Flettrich, Pulitzer’s maternal grandfather, who taught at Tulane University and whose artwork hangs in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art. In the master bedroom, there’s a series of black-and-white photographs by her grandmother, Terry Flettrich Rohe, a pioneering broadcast journalist, anchor and television host, known to a generation of New Orleanians as Mrs. Muffin, for her popular children’s television program. Involved in the city’s early preservation movement, Rohe wrote a book, The House in The Bend of Bourbon Street, about historic preservation in the French Quarter.
Pulitzer centered the home’s interior design around the art collection, even closing in a doorway in the center hall to make room for a large painting. Using her skills as a colorist and her “fondness for dark, warm colors,” she chose paint colors — a deep green in the salon, an earthy orange in the hall — in a unique way. “I created story boards for each room and drew inspiration from the common colors in the paintings that I would ultimately hang in each room,” she said.
Even with all the interior’s special touches, one of Pulitzer’s favorite spaces is the expansive tropical backyard. Ferns and palms fill the gardens, and the couple planted an orchard of bananas and citrus trees.
“This is my happy place. Just being able to be in that kitchen and to see the palms, it is invigorating and positive,” she said, adding, but “we really enjoy our home in its entirety.”
Photos by Liz Jurey
Dec. 12 & 13 • $40
Our Holiday Home Tour will be a virtual experience this year! Tour six stunning private New Orleans homes through a series of festive holiday video programs.