Eclectic Living in New Orleans’ University District
Casi, Camryn (front row), Octave J. “Todd” and Penny Francis.
Cheryl Gerber Photographs
In the design world, “eclectic” embraces individual elements from a variety of sources, systems or styles. “To me, eclectic style means that it knows no time period,” says Penny Francis, owner of Eclectic Home on Oak Street. “I believe the best interior design looks as though it has evolved over time.”
In the University District home Penny shares with Octave J. “Todd” Francis III, her investor and financier husband who’s the CEO of FFC Capital Markets, you’ll see a perfect example of eclectic style. “Here I have executed my fondness of furnishings from all periods,” she says. She admires traditional furnishings with modern finishes as presented in their living and dining rooms. The entire home showcases the best of both worlds, employing Penny’s love for modern and traditional, including Louis IV chairs, a Ligne Roset chaise and an Eames molded lounge chair.
Located on a broad, tree-lined boulevard surrounded by grand homes, the couple’s home is full of interesting spaces. “When we purchased the property in 1998, we made a conscious decision not to tear down walls,” Penny says. “We actually liked that we had lots of rooms, thus allowing for intimate spaces that fill all of our needs. For example, we each have home offices and instead of one eating area, we like having a more formal dining room and a separate informal, yet high-style, breakfast room. The one large space is our family room on the first level.”
Once you enter the Francis home there’s a unique feeling of being in a fashionable show house, especially with the introduction of a handsome all-neutral-colored sun porch-sitting room right inside the front door. While the adjoining living room isn’t large, it offers an interesting variety of furniture styles, and then just a step away, the dining room seems to have a formal presentation – until you check out the neoclassical painted chairs. “Yes, the three front rooms of the house are a perfect introduction to my eclectic style,” Penny says. “And did you notice the unusual bronze chandelier in the dining room that’s in direct contrast with the crystal chandelier hanging in the sitting room?”
The utilitarian kitchen even offers an important design statement with its oversized drum-shaped, hammered aluminum light fixture. “Sometimes it’s good to be daring,” Penny says. Regarding the modern chandelier in the breakfast room, she says, “Isn’t it fun?”
Also on the second level is Penny’s uncluttered office, where she places the couch and daybed at unconventional angles, defying the often-used “push everything to the wall” anthem seen in most homes.
The quiet back of the house has bedrooms for the couple’s daughters: Casi, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design who turns 25 this month and works with her mother as an interior designer, and Camryn, 12, a sixth-grade honor student at Ursuline Academy. Casi was given carte blanche to design her own bedroom and it’s easy to see she subscribes to her mother’s eclectic design sense.
Todd especially likes the large family room on the first floor of the home. “It’s my favorite space in the house,” he says, showing us how he slides an opaque screen back for access to his adjoining office.
Completing the show house quality of the residence is the master suite that opens onto a charming patio. “Our bedroom has a cocoon-like feeling that I love,” Penny says. “It’s where we retreat to at the end of a long day,” adds Todd.