2 bikes and 3 floors with harbor views


Restoration: A couple find the roominess and architectural detail they sought in Butchers Hill.

Dream House

July 24, 2005|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For a long time, Tom Sabia and his wife, Lee Ann Sapp, bicycled up and down East Pratt Street in the hope of finding their dream home. Already residents of the Butchers Hill neighborhood, they knew just what they were looking for - a three-story house with a back facing the harbor.

Additionally, the house had to be an end-of-group for abundant natural light and steady cross breezes. Patience paid off for the two house hunters when, a few years back, they encountered a couple in a car shouting, "Hey, you wanna buy a house?"

"I knew this woman," remembered Sabia, a 41-year-old musician and professional corporate recruiter for Spherion Corp. Sabia had once worked with her professionally and had been to a party at her Pratt Street house.

Now that she and her husband wanted to sell, Sabia and his wife took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a house that fit all their criteria.

In November 2002, the couple paid $280,000 for the three-story, red brick, end-of-group in the 2100 block. Its 2,500 square feet of space included a full walkout basement - "rare for the area and [providing] tons of storage."

The couple has invested an additional $25,000, including molding for all of the second- and third-floor areas, paint for every room, and custom cast-iron railings for three balconies on the rear of each level.

The circa 1901 house boasts an imposing double-door entrance typical of the Victorian period. Eleven-foot ceilings make the interior of the 16-foot-wide house seem larger. A burgundy-painted hall with an oak staircase with carved spindles stretches along one side. Pocket doors open onto a front room, painted in soft sunflower yellow. While the room is unfinished, it is clear to see Sabia's vision for a formal parlor. A large, wooden period mantel rests against the east wall, ready to be fitted when the fireplace is opened up.

"This is my half-a-dream," Sabia joked about the downstairs, his current work in progress. Beyond the parlor is an open space reception area with full bathroom.

A guest room in the rear of the first level exudes Victorian country style. Painted a deeper shade of sunflower, its three back windows, 6 feet in height, are adorned in white sheers hung under floral tapestry draperies of rose, green and tan. This same fabric covers a wrought iron bed, with fancy scrollwork at its head and foot. A door leads to the first of three porches.

The home's second level is what Sabia refers to as "the hangout space where all the parties happen." In vivid contrast to the first floor, this area is completely open, with the kitchen in the front of the house.

"My wife calls it a European kitchen," Sabia said. Red and white ceramic tiles grace the floor of this 16-foot-square space.

Red cafe curtains hang on four 6-foot-high windows. White laminate cabinets hang above black tiled countertops and backsplash. Free-standing wood cabinets painted white store dishes and pantry items.

A cozy corner has a padded rocking chair that sits under a large pot rack suspended from the 10-foot ceiling. A farmhouse table in the center of the room is painted soft green, with a brass milk can filled with hyacinths sitting on its glass top.

The center and rear of the open level serves as living and dining rooms. Here, the walls are painted deep blue-gray to contrast with the buttery cream-colored 8-inch ceiling molding. Two Persian carpets rest on Georgia pine flooring. The dining area features a pickled-oak secretary, a family heirloom, its glass cabinet now used to store crystal. A dining table of the same pickled oak is surrounded by six high-back wicker chairs.

The living room in the back of the level has a brown leather pub suite. Three rear windows look out over neighborhood rooftops to the harbor while a back door opens onto an expansive covered porch.

The third floor has been painted a soft sea foam green. At the rear is a slate-floored sitting area. Double sliders open onto the third covered porch, where bright potted plants and flowers enhance the New Orleans feel of wrought iron furniture and railing.

Sapp chose tapestry fabrics in predominant shades of green for the master bedroom suite. A full bathroom features a claw-foot tub, while the front room serves as space for exercise equipment.

At street level, Tom Sabia casts an impartial eye to the work ahead of him. He estimates spending an additional $100,000 to put in more crown molding, replace the front windows with period ones, strip the second-story staircase, add built-in shelving in the parlor and open the second- and third-floor fireplaces.

The expense will be worth it, he says. He and his wife love the neighborhood. "We go to all the meetings."

They enjoy entertaining on the balconies, and revel in the incredible amounts of light in their house and the soft harbor breezes.

As for the additional work, Sabia commented, "We're still going."

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