Home: Up the Winding Staircase

This River Ridge home has visual surprises

Architect Michael Bell, AIA, designed the River Ridge mansion to fit the specifications requested by the Macalusos. The contractor was Stephen Fleishman (of Titan Construction).

Craig Macaluso

Jan and Charles “Charlie” Macaluso’s grand 7,400-square-foot plantation-style home in River Ridge was once the site of a farm. Where there used to be the concrete backyard slab of a former chicken coup, there’s now a large swimming pool with adjoining Jacuzzi. “We have always lived in River Ridge,” says Jan, a CPA. “We love the area and when we decided to build a new house, we searched our neighborhood for the ideal large lot that would accommodate our dream home.” Fortunately, they found the ideal lot and tore down the existing old two-story house.

The couple discovered their contractor Stephen Fleishman (of Titan Construction) when they visited a nearby house under construction. “We talked to a subcontractor working there and he spoke very highly of Stephen. When we met with him we instantly liked him. He treated our house as if he were building it for himself. He was a real perfectionist.”

It was Fleishman who recommended New Orleans architect Michael Bell, AIA, to work on the project. “I had lots of ideas from searching the Internet for house plans and exterior views,” Jan says. “We selected what we liked from various pictures, including the window shapes and styles, the front door, the front columns and the exact look of the front of the house. Michael did a great job giving us everything we both love.”

Enter the imposing mansion flanked by four 20-foot-tall columns with Corinthian-style caps, and you’ll be surprised at the modern open floor plan that greets you. There’s a dramatic winding stairway, but it doesn’t lead to the expected long upstairs hallway that opens into several rooms. Instead there’s a balcony, with the same handsome custom ironwork that graces the stairway, overlooking the massive great room with 22-foot-high ceilings.

Once you’re on the balcony you’ll discover an exciting bit of whimsy with the unique trompe l’oeil painting on the wall of a grand piano sitting inside an imaginary room that overlooks the great room from another pretend balcony.

“I always wanted a grand piano, but it wasn’t practical to purchase one since none of us play,” Jan says with a smile. “Artist Nick Burrell came up with the perfect idea of painting a grand piano in a balcony scene. It has turned out to be a great conversation piece.”

Both Jan and Charlie agree that the great room is their favorite space in their house. “We love every inch of the room,” she says. “We especially like the wall of windows in the great room that overlooks the pool and back garden,” says Charlie, an account manager for an air conditioning distribution company. “Even though it’s furnished in a traditional style, we feel it’s very cozy,” adds Jan. The couple praised their team of interior designers from Interior Motives, lead by Betty Eastin. “We worked together for 18 months,” Jan says. “Betty was great to work with because she quickly learned what we liked and helped us put it all together step by step.”

Today the Macalusos share their home with their son Nicholas, who graduated from Tulane University in May with a master’s degree in accounting. Christopher, their older son, and his wife, Jaime, visit often to enjoy the swimming pool and Charlie’s backyard cookouts.

 “Building this house was a joy,” Jan says.

Charlie adds, “And to us it’s a warm and comfortable home to enjoy for the rest of our lives.”
 

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