Hall of Famer’s former Old Metairie house revamped for family

Mel Ott wouldn’t recognize his old home were he to visit today. The New York Giants Hall of Fame player built the house on Farnham Place in Old Metairie about 1939, and eventually lived in it for nearly 20 years. But now it has a whole new look, thanks to Wendy and Dane Ciolino.

“Dane might say we didn’t do all that much to the house, but we knocked the front off,” said Wendy. “It was a big decision, but we made it in a day.”

By “the front,” Wendy means the two monumental columns and overhang that once formed the façade. The beefy columns stretched from ground to the roofline, dominating the front of the house.

When the Ciolinos realized that sight lines from the second floor were blocked by the tops of the columns and that windows were shaded by the overhang, they asked Mark Maher to demolish both. A day later, they were gone, and it was time for the Ciolinos to tell their architect what they had done.

“We worked with Michael Bell, and he didn’t know about it until after it was done,” said Wendy. “But he was in on every other architectural decision.”

The dramatic face-lift included building a shaded front porch, giving the house the human scale it had lacked. Nevertheless, Wendy said that the change was controversial.

“Some neighbors were concerned at first, but I think they like the results,” she said.

Like? It would be hard not to love what the Ciolinos have done, as guests will discover Saturday, April 5, when the couple opens their home for the Junior League Kitchen Tour. Both the exterior and interior have been transformed into a gracious family home that comfortably accommodates today’s lifestyles.

Outside, austere red brick walls were painted a glowing cream color, creating a softer contrast with the greenery surrounding it. Windows now punctuate what had been garage doors before the Ciolinos converted the space into a roomy den for their three children. And a one-time lawn on the side of the house has developed into an elegant parterre with a masonry wall, iron gates and a sugar kettle fountain bubbling in the middle.

Changes inside are just as spectacular. Gone are the wall-to-wall carpeting, the patterned wall paper and the dark stained kitchen cabinets. The Ciolinos removed two walls downstairs to open up the flow of the dining room, living room and kitchen spaces. Walls and ceilings were painted white and the floor stained a dark color, all in consultation with interior designer Melissa Rufty.

“We worked with her on furnishings and decisions we had to make,” said Wendy. “There were very few things I chose that she said ‘no’ to.”

The resulting interior is light-filled and casually elegant, relying on items like Julie Neill chandeliers, a lime green velvet sofa, an heirloom dinner table and peacock blue window treatments for variety and balance.

In the kitchen, white subway tile on the walls, “Blizzard” Caesarstone on countertops and white cabinets configured by John Lagarde and Patricia Neal of Classic Cupboards combine to create a cool, clean look.

“I didn’t want wall cabinets cluttering things up, so I just have shelves with things on them that we use every day,” said Wendy. “The other things — like china and platters — are stored in two closets. The crocodile-patterned floor tile from Peggy Stafford (of Stafford Tile) is one of my favorite elements.”

Down the hallway from the main living area is the garage-turned-den for the express use of the couple’s two sons and daughter, ages 15 to 22.

“We could have Sheetrocked the walls and ceiling, but I liked the rough brick and exposed rafters better,” said Dane. “We ran metal conduit on the walls for the electrical supply, and I like the industrial look of it.” Comfy sofas, a work table, a large-screen TV and an adjacent bath provide everything the Ciolino offspring need for a self-contained entertainment area.

The rear yard is as enticing as the interior and front exterior. The couple built a welcoming fireplace, seating area and dining pergola directly off the living room, accessed by glass doors. A fire pit in a far corner of the yard, a pool that connects directly to the kids’ den and a hammock in the shade complete the long list of outdoor amenities.

Both of the Ciolinos have demanding careers: He was a law professor at Loyola, and she was an attorney at the Louisiana Supreme Court. But somehow they find time to indulge their passion for “do-it-yourself” projects.

“We do all of the landscaping ourselves, including the design and installation of the side garden,” said Wendy. “We like doing it, and we haven’t run out of energy — yet.”