Designer Elizabeth Gibney throws in some New Orleans style and romance in colonial Old Town Alexandria.
When New Orleans native Elizabeth Gibney moved to Northern Virginia she wanted to honor her Louisiana roots. “I bought an Italianate Victorian townhouse in Old Town Alexandria,” says Elizabeth. “It was the closest thing to my vision for a New Orleans-style home.”
The townhouse had character, but not all of it good. The building had been uninhabited for twenty years, earning the title “haunted house” by the local kids. Elizabeth saw beyond that. What struck her was 10-foot ceilings, original millwork and wood floors.
“It had a lot of charm,” she says. “I lived in Uptown New Orleans. Crooked floors didn’t put me off. The house was definitely a long-term project but it challenged me in all the right ways. It had great potential and I believed that I could shape it over time.”
Here’s how to add a dash of New Orleans style to spice to your home:
•Bring garden elements inside like urns, statuary or a bistro table. Elizabeth’s cement birds came from an old building in Paris.
•Add touches of gold in ormolu and in gold-leaf/gold-painted wood, but keep the look distressed so it’s not too shiny.
•Embrace imperfections. “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect,” says Elizabeth. “New Orleans is tattered at edges. There’s nothing wrong with a frame with a chip or a chair with a nick.”
•Display antique silver.
•Have more painted furniture with French and Italian Continental roots and less English-style hardwood pieces.
•Decorate with architectural salvage, like the painted door panels in Elizabeth’s dining room (reflected in mirror).
•Combine rich fabrics—silks and velvets—with every day materials such as cottons and linens.
•Be whimsical, like the jester-inspired silk window treatments in the living room or the velvet animal print seat-covers in the dining room.
•Integrate family heirlooms and fine furnishings with flea market finds.
•Use mirrors and light fixtures with Old World character.
•Add modern touches. “Put in things that speak of modern times,” says Elizabeth. “Contemporary art blends well with old furniture.”
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By Charlotte Safavi
Photography by Robert Radifera