A Well-edited Home
And closets, drawers and cabinets keep it that way
The odd thing about the Uptown house Bruce Wallis purchased as a bachelor was that it was so very un-Uptown! One enters the house from an intimate garden with a fountain pool or walks up a flight of hidden stairs to a second-floor entrance. The terra cotta stucco house, situated on a corner lot, seems more at home in the French Quarter, and that may have been its initial appeal.
Today, though structurally the same, it is a prime example of how a house morphs into a home when a man becomes a husband and tastes meld to create a world both stylish and practical.
“When Bruce first bought this house, the walls were painted in bold colors,” says Virginia Miller, his wife of 10 years. “They weren’t Bruce and they weren’t me.” So out went the bolds, in came the creams.
Today, most of the color at the Miller-Wallis home comes from the fabrics, floors, ceilings, art and a careful use of texture to create tonal interest. “We both believe our home should be a sanctuary. We have busy jobs. (He is an independent oil and gas man; she is a principal in Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald.) So we really wanted a place that would reflect a sense of calm when we got home.”
On the second-floor porch, three perfectly symmetrical French doors can open to a living room with a distinct European flair. The floor is painted in a pale checkerboard pattern. A French settee and two chairs, the first furniture the couple bought after they married, are covered in a cream and tan Lee Joffa fabric. On Virginia’s grandmother’s Florentine coffee table sits a large blue-and-white vase — a beloved wedding present — from Orient Expressed.
Other seating is a yin-yang combination of a handsome antique French daybed covered in Venetian blue velvet, with pillows in varying shapes covered in silks and velvets, and side chairs slip-covered in summer sky-blue silk.
In a corner stands a writing table — a gift from Mrs. Wallis to the couple made sweeter by the chair that sits in front of it. This chair was an engagement gift to her from Bruce’s father.
Between the living room and bedroom, complete with rolling ladder, is the bathroom of most people’s dreams. It is so large one can’t help but wonder if a spare room was used to create it. It has everything: size, height and light. What you see are tiles, monogrammed towels, glass blocks and lots of mirrors; what you don’t see is the storage provided by drawers, shelves and shelves on top of shelves!
You also don’t see clutter. Not in the bathroom, living room or anywhere. Nada. Zip. Not in this house. Rooms are filled with hidden storage; furniture often does double duty.
In the living room, the bar is inside an antique armoire. In a sitting room downstairs, a bank of doors, mimicking a wall, hides a home office, a media center, a library and all those papers and files that everyone seems to have. At the Miller-Wallis home they are just out of sight.
In the kitchen, cookbooks have their own bookcase, cabinets hold various sets of china, drawers hide toasters, blenders, etc. The only visible cookware hangs from a rack above an island, which is also a wine rack.
The sitting room, dining room and kitchen, all reached via spiral staircase or garden entrance, are located on the ground level. The floors are dark, stained poured concrete; the ceilings are covered with luminous silvered papers to give a sense of greater height and to bring in more light.
In the dining room, that effect is heightened by the use of beeswax tapers in a crystal chandelier — originally made for candles, later wired, then returned to its original condition. It hangs majestically over an antique French table and chairs purchased from New Orleans Auction. The chairs have been slip-covered in a Fortuny motif Kravet silk, which is also found in insets of the linen Roman shades on the windows.
An antique trumeau has been placed above a small table the couple found together; the candlesticks and the Early American etched bowl are heirlooms from Virginia’s family.
Waiting to be hung is “May,” a painting by CC Willis. It will join the growing Miller-Wallis art collection, which reflects the couple’s love for places as diverse as the Adirondacks and South America, and subjects as contrary as protest and love.
Every piece in the house seems to have its own story, each as uncharacteristic as the architecture of this wonderful Uptown home (yes, that is a didgeridoo in the corner, thank you).
When you have many friends in the world of design, you travel extensively and have family heirlooms, it could be easy to go overboard in the “decorating department.” But Bruce and Virginia have managed to keep their treasures treasured, and their home clutter-free while still setting a warm and inviting mood.
It helps to have a bit of discipline and a lot of closet space … neither of which is in short supply here.