From the Quarter to the Garden District

Ruth and Michael Burke begin a new chapter in a new home.

Homeowners Michael and Ruth Burke

CHERYL GERBER

Michael Burke’s ties to New Orleans run deep, so it’s easy to understand why he and his wife, Ruth, have owned a condo and an 1840 Creole cottage in the French Quarter, and now live in a historic Garden District home that they purchased in 2010. Designed by Henry Howard, the 19th-century architect who also designed Madewood and Nottoway plantations, the side-hall shotgun-style residence was built in the 1860s.

Michael’s great grandfather George P. Anderton, an architect and engineer in the sugar industry who worked in Cuba, the West Indies and South America, owned a sugar plantation below New Orleans in the mid-19th century. Michael is a designer and licensor of home furnishing collections, who has teamed with museums and historic preservation groups such as The Historic Natchez Foundation and New Orleans’ Preservation Resource Center, as well as creating the historic Royal Retreats Collection of great British manor houses, including Blenheim Palace and Woburn Abbey. “My grandmother Alice Anderton was born here and it seems we were destined to call New Orleans home at some point,” Michael says.  
   
 “We loved the chapter of our lives in the French Quarter, and it just seemed like a good time to try something different,” he says. “We were immediately drawn to the layout of our current home when we started looking at houses in the Garden District. It’s not a huge house, yet all of the rooms flow, there are lots of different spaces and for a final surprise the floor plan ends with a garden room that opens onto a beautiful private rear garden.”

Although the house was structurally sound, there were many things the couple wanted to do to bring the interior up to a higher standard. “We called in Michael Carbine, New Orleans’ premier restoration contractor and designer extraordinaire, to work with us and completely rework the house,” he says. “His restoration included a new kitchen and modernization of the bathrooms. He paid attention to everything, and on his first tour of the house he told us that some of our doorways needed to be taller. We agreed, and it made all the difference in the world in the way things look today. We both feel that Michael did an exciting restoration, and we loved every minute of working with a professional who is talented and detail-oriented.”

The Burkes credit their good friend Vicente Wolf, the well-known New York designer, photographer collector and author, with helping to shape their taste. “Vicente is always our inspiration and most of all, he’s a good friend,” Michael says. “Over the years he has designed two houses for us – an antebellum cotton plantation outside Natchez, and a wonderful house in Taos, New Mexico – and those collaborative efforts will never leave us.”

The interior design of the home was executed with a very personal touch by Ruth and Michael. Of particular interest is the collection of sketches by fashion designer Bill Blass that are displayed on either side of the walls as you enter the master bedroom. “I never get tired of seeing the beautiful sketches by Bill Blass,” Ruth says. She acquired the sketches while working with the award-winning designer.

Furnishings in the home are eclectic, and although there are recognizable treasures from their French Quarter homes, everything looks fresh in the new Garden District setting. “We have no aversion to moving,” Michael says. “Each new house is an exciting project, but there are special treasures we have collected over the years that will always go with us wherever we live.”

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