At home in Black Pearl
Maximum workspace is provided in the kitchen with the U-shaped island doubling as food prep space and dining.
Photographed by Cheryl Gerber
Located in a somewhat triangle-shaped neighborhood between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River, and Broadway Street and South Carrollton Avenue, there’s a charming neighborhood sometimes referred to as Black Pearl. Among the residents are Sandra “Sandy” Baptie, an architect who moved to New Orleans in 2011 with her architect husband Lawrence Linder. “The one thing we do know is that we moved into the friendliest and most social group of people we have ever lived amongst.” Lawrence says. “We definitely like the neighborhood where we have the ability to walk or bike to almost everything we need on an everyday basis, including Audubon Park and the levee, as well as Maple Street shopping.”
Step inside the Baptie-Linder home and you’ll immediately marvel at its uniqueness. Surrounded by classic historic shotgun houses, the house had no historic features to rein the couple in when they began a major remodeling project. “It was an average 1940s duplex on a key lot begging for a new life,” Lawrence says. “Rental income and a large yard were important to us, and while we didn’t want to live at grade level ourselves, the downstairs rental made sense. We felt the upper floor had unlimited potential. We thought we could create a loft house, but one that sang a kind of Southern tune.”
“In the end, we feel like we are in a Caribbean environment, with white walls, white-washed wood and abundant natural light,” Sandy adds. “The day lighting we created is our best design feature, one of my husband’s first ideas about how to renovate the house.”
Sandy and Lawrence moved to New Orleans from upstate New York where the winters are naturally dark. “We wanted a winter house that was as bright as possible, and it works even better than we imagined; without it we would be much grumpier,” Lawrence says with a smile. The couple still spends the summers in upstate New York, while Zoe, their 26-year-old daughter remains in their New Orleans home and works at her job as a program coordinator with the Jacobs/CSRS, a program management company that is overseeing the rebuilding of the New Orleans public schools.
Why a contemporary home? “We have lived in a number of older houses (1840, 1867) where rooms were discreet spaces and we craved the change to an open loft style space,” Sandy says. “The decision to create a kitchen open to the living and dining rooms, with no entry hall was deliberate. We feel dedicated dining rooms and hallways can be wasted space. We like the flexibility to rearrange the furniture and function of the open plan over time.”
“We are confirmed Modernists,” says Lawrence who received his degree in architecture from Penn State and also studied at The Architectural Association, in London. He began his career in New Haven as a designer for renowned architect Charles Moore (designer of the fountain at the local Piazza d’Italia), eventually having his own practice in Boston and then moving to Albany to work for Envision Architects. Lawrence is a true building/architect since the New Orleans house is his sixth self-designed home. Sandy, who has also had an illustrious career as an architect, graduated from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, met and married Lawrence while working in Boston and also worked for Envision Architects in Albany where she became a Principal in the firm.
“We want to design in the present century,” Lawrence emphasis. “Maybe sometime in the future, preservationists will want to save our early twenty-first century work for future generations,” and Sandy adds, “We are also contextualists, drawing inspiration from and responding to the specific site, the neighborhood and the natural environment.”
For more information about energy and green features of the Baptie-Linder house visit MyNewOrleans.com.