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In the 1960s, New Orleans architect Betty Moss was a trailblazer ahead of her time. Architecture was a male-dominated field, but as the social movements of the era started to chip away at gender discrimination in the workplace, more women began to enter the field. These pioneering women in architecture brought important contributions and designs to the modernist movement, often working twice as hard to gain recognition for their work.

When Moss designed the home on Topaz Street for the Maloney family in 1963, she blended the signature openness of mid-century modern design with comfortable, private spaces. The resulting floor plan evokes a patchwork quilt of separate, livable rooms stitched together to create a flowing plan.

“She was very clever,” said present-day homeowner Leslie Kramer. “You feel like you’re outside when you’re inside.”

A series of square rooms, each with its own hipped roof, is clustered around patios in the front and back of the house. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding-glass doors open each room to the patios or to the backyard, bringing ample light inside and providing a connection between indoor and outdoor areas. Natural finishes include hemlock doors, cypress paneling, slate floors and grasscloth walls. The materials bring warmth to the space and interplay with light from sliding glass doors, mirrored walls, clerestories and patio windows to strike a comfortable balance between light and dark.

Each room has vaulted pyramidal ceilings covered with individual hipped roofs, but the overall shape of the one-story home still embodies the horizontality associated with mid-century modern houses with stretches of flat roof that overhang beyond the exterior brick walls. A passive cooling system with ceiling vents was designed to cross-ventilate the home when doors and windows are opened.

The patios located in the front have privacy from louvered screens flush with the front facade, giving the house a unified appearance from the street. For additional privacy, the front facade uses thin clerestory windows above the brick walls to illuminate the interior.

When Leslie and Bill Kramer were searching for a new home in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina flooded their previous home in Lakeview, they turned their eyes to Lakeshore for higher ground and proximity to the horse stables that Leslie runs in City Park. When Bill drove by the unflooded house on Topaz Street with a “for-sale” sign in front, it checked all the couple’s boxes.

Leslie was not initially enamored with the home. The gardens were overgrown, and heavy curtains and decor darkened the interior. When she asked her friend Nancy Monroe, an architect, to walk through the house with her, Monroe helped her see the home’s potential and the beauty of its original design.

Since moving into the modernist home, the Kramers have kept most of its original details intact while making updates to ensure its long-term preservation. The flat roof would leak during heavy rains and damage ceilings, so the couple had to pitch the roof and add a durable liner to prevent water intrusion. Sliding glass doors were updated with insulated glass to improve energy efficiency. Carpeting in hallways and several bedrooms was replaced with hardwood floors that carefully blend in with the home’s other wood details.

Hemlock and cypress woodwork had remained unpainted throughout the years, but the Kramers had the wood cleaned to restore its original beauty. Other details — solid brass door hardware with a custom geometric pattern that Moss designed, and brass front doorknobs with inlaid stone detail — gleam today much as they did in 1963.

While updating 72 can lights throughout the house, the Kramers contacted the Flood Protection Authority to track down original plans and discovered that Betty Moss was the architect behind its unique design.

Of the home’s five bedrooms, one now serves as a playroom for grandchildren and another as Leslie’s office. A formal living room was turned into a home theater. The Kramers’ favorite room in the house is the main living room, which overlooks the pool and the backyard gardens they tend. “We’ll sit here and have coffee in the morning, and it’s a nice place to sit and visit,” said Leslie. “It’s got a lot of light, and you can see the flowers.”

The home’s kitchen was remodeled in the 1970s but sits in the same footprint as the original plans. The Kramers are planning a future renovation to update the kitchen, bring garden views into the room and improve the flow with other rooms in the house. A wider opening between the kitchen and dining room will be finished with sliding doors to match others in the home and seamlessly blend the old with the new.

“The movement of the house is comfortable, and even though it’s a big house, it doesn’t feel that big because there are nooks and crannies,” said Leslie. “And my grandkids love this house because they love to play hide and go seek.”

Dee Allen is PRC’s Communications Associate and Staff Writer for Preservation in Print.