Mimi Read: How did you find this tucked-away gem? I’ve lived in New Orleans my whole life, and I’ve never noticed it.
Smith: I took a detour one day on this road to avoid a traffic jam and spotted it for sale, on a lot so overgrown, you couldn’t see any of the yard at all. It’s a 1950s traditional ranch house in a part of town that feels like it’s in the country.
You transformed a little rancher into an elegant, sexy villa with an old soul.
Honestly, it was just paint and lighting. The house was dark. It needed a fluff! I gutted the kitchen but left the floors and even the Sheetrock intact. The one structural change involved moving a wall in the dining room three feet back so I could get a decent-sized dining table in there.
Your living room is formal yet relaxed. How did you pull that off?
For formality, I lacquered the ceiling, walls, and original shelves in a beautiful warm white. My ceilings are only eight feet high, but the reflection bounces the light and makes the space seem much larger. To relax the mood, I chose lightweight chairs that can be easily moved. I had a party the other night, and all of the pieces got shifted around — the settee in the living room showed up at the dining room table. I like where it landed!
Your garden room has such an airy, nostalgic vibe.
It was once an outdoor space and was later glassed in with old aluminum sliding doors. I stretched sisal over the red clay-tile floors, painted the door frames, and added paneling above the blinds to make the space a little fancy. The old-fashioned feeling comes from the floral chintz slipcover on the sofa, which reminds me of my grandmother’s house in Madison, Mississippi, where I grew up. Every room in her house was covered in florals of some kind. I do like the feminine sofa next to the boxier, more masculine one.
And there are other homages to your grandmother in this house as well.
So many! She died four years ago. In the guest bedroom, the red secretary was hers. It’s not fine furniture, but it means something to me — it was her prized possession. That equestrian wallpaper is something she would have adored, too. It’s called Gallop Club, and it also reminds me of a bedding collection I loved in the early 1990s. Growing up, I considered Ralph Lauren the greatest designer ever.
The master bathroom has a vintage look. Is it original?
Yes. The 1950s white tile with black trim was just so charming. I kept it because, actually, I don’t know what I could have put in there that I would have liked better. I did paint the walls and ceiling black, which makes it more modern. The mirror above the sink came from a sprawling antiques emporium — I imagine it went with a really awful five-piece bedroom set, and somehow it escaped and became kind of cool.
The secret life of furniture! And that glam photo above the towel bar?
The Sid Avery portrait of Rock Hudson on the phone might be my favorite piece of art. I’m obsessed with old-Hollywood stuff. He’s wrapped in a towel, just out of the shower. What can I say? It makes me want to bring back the landline.
See more photos of this gorgeous home:
This story originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Natipernavigare.