The empty nest isn’t always so empty for Michele and John Cancienne.
Their three children are grown, but four grandchildren are frequent visitors to the couple’s Jefferson Place home. And a large extended family means holiday dinners can easily draw 35 aunts, uncles and cousins.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Michele, picturing the gatherings that frequently fill this 1950s ranch-style house. “We love having everyone here. We just needed more space.”
The kitchen was the area that was causing most of Michele’s consternation. Positioned just off the front porch, the narrow space was dominated by a central island and a wall featuring a half-dozen pantry doors. Cypress cabinetry, low ceilings, and small windows kept the room feeling dark—despite the presence of a skylight over the island. Cooking for a crowd in these close quarters was less than ideal.
“Oh, it was bad,” Michele says. “The kitchen was so frustrating. It felt totally dysfunctional.”
After having lived here since 2006, the couple finally decided enough was enough. A few years ago, they began discussing the space’s possibilities with close friend Cindy Tiek and her daughter Bridget Tiek of interior design company Tiek & Co. It was time to either find a new house that functioned better for the couple’s family or to rework this one. The choice turned out to be easy.
“We liked the neighborhood so much,” Michele says. “We love the tall trees and the big yards. We didn’t want to move out, so we decided to renovate.”
Initially, the couple considered simply refreshing their interior space with new paint and lighter countertops. “But as we talked, I asked them if they planned on staying here and how they wanted the space to work for them,” Cindy says. “We realized there were a lot of things they weren’t happy about on the exterior, as well, including huge columns that were disproportionate to the house and weren’t spaced properly.”
On left: The foyer is Michele’s most formal space, with an antique chest that was once her grandmother’s now paired with accessories from Fireside Antiques.
On right: A painting by the couple’s niece Sarah Cancienne that was obtained through Ann Connelly Fine Art hangs above the chaise sectional sofa in the keeping room.
It became clear that significant structural changes would be needed, so the renovation team grew to include architect Hance Hughes of By Day and builder B & G Construction.
“The goal was to modernize the spaces and raise the ceiling heights,” says Hughes, who reworked the rooflines and increased the ceiling height in the kitchen from 8 to 11 feet. “They wanted more natural light and wanted to maximize the views and functionality of their front yard and porch.”
Inside the kitchen, the pantry wall was removed, creating an open space that links to the dining and living areas beyond. Even without the pantry, storage here has actually increased, thanks to taller cabinets that take advantage of the high ceilings. Storage is also smarter these days, with pantry items now in a corner cabinet tower and nooks hiding everything from condiments and small appliances to a cutting board to a ladder for accessing tall cabinets.
On left: Crafted by Timberline Millworks, this new built-in bookshelf and media center in the keeping room replaced an older version that extended too far into the room. The piece is painted in Farrow & Ball’s “Green Smoke.”
On right: “We needed a table that we could fit everyone around,” says Michele of this custom oval piece designed by Tiek & Co. and built by Doorman Designs.
New countertops of Antarctica honed quartzite provide plenty of space for Michele to prep for those massive family meals.
In the adjoining breakfast room, Cindy and Bridget designed an oval table, which was custom built by Doorman Designs of New Orleans using wood salvaged from a school flooded during Hurricane Katrina. This sunny nook is also home to the keeping area where the couple often hang out with their grandchildren, so more seating was added here in the form of a chaise sofa.
“I’m very traditional, but Cindy and Bridget pushed me a little,” Michele says. “I knew I needed to update everything, and we are such good friends that I could push back when I wasn’t comfortable about something. We worked together to get exactly what we wanted.”
This article was originally published as part of the April 2020 cover story of 225 Magazine.
Click here to see more articles from the 2020 Spaces & Places issue.