Archive for June, 2009

Wood adds warmth to contemporary Slidell home

Wood adds warmth to contemporary Slidell home
Posted by Karen Taylor Gist, InsideOut editor The Times-Picayune June 06, 2009 5:00AM
Categories: cover story
Photos by Ellis Lucia / The Times-PicayuneThe Natals’ home is a study in textures: This living-area wall is composed of four types of exotic wood; glass tile and bamboo, left, are on the kitchen walls.

Contractor Mike Natal and his wife, Monique, knew they wanted an open, uncluttered look for their 4,100-square-foot home on the water’s edge in Slidell, but they didn’t want to let the contemporary style drift too far toward the coldly modern. The solution they found for keeping the feel warm and family-friendly was drawn right from Mother Nature’s bag of design tricks: the use of wood.

Starting from the exterior, the 10.5-foot-tall, Spanish-cedar double entry doors set the tone. Not only does the dark wood contrast dramatically with the light-colored stucco — a color play that’s repeated inside — but the grain of the wood, the rough finish of the walls and the multicolored tile roof create a rich layer of textural interest as well.

Inside, wood grain is used to soothe. Find a shiny modern surface — and there are plenty of them — and next to it you’ll find the organic addition of wood serving to temper any high-gloss chill.

A kitchen wall of tiny glass tiles in the colors of the ocean is interrupted by a pale bamboo backsplash; countertops of the same bamboo abut dark and shiny faux wood-grain cabinets accented with satin nickel pulls. Appliances are stainless steel, and the stainless vent above the cooktop has a clear-glass cover, but clear vases on the counters hold stalks of live bamboo that pull things back to the natural world.
In the kitchen, bamboo countertops and backsplash temper the shine from the glass-tile wall, shiny faux-wood cabinets and stainless-steel appliances.

Taking shape

Mike, a project manager with his father’s business, M. Natal Contractor Inc., found inspiration while building a home with a similar floor plan, also in his Lakeshore Estates subdivision, before he tackled his own house.

“I started researching what I like, ” he said. Besides the clean and open look, “I wanted to stay more neutral with the walls so that everything else would pop out.”

Thus the dark cabinets and bamboo countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, and the dark-wood furniture in the master bedroom, where the floors are light bamboo.


“We looked at magazines, Web sites, everywhere, ” Monique said. “He’s very visual. I trust him. I had a little hesitation on the modern; I knew I liked it, but it can go too far. We found a happy ground.”

Mike took the interior details one feature at a time.
Daughters Avery, 6, and Peyton, 4, play in the living area across from the kitchen, where a wall composed of four exotic woods dominates the design. Mike Natal laid out the individual boards of ipe, teak, American black walnut and Peruvian walnut on the floor in the pattern he wanted, then had a carpenter put them up in the same order. The fireplace, below the TV, burns biofuel.

His first big decision was adding a wall in the living area composed of four types of exotic wood: ipe, teak, American black walnut and Peruvian walnut.

“I saw in a magazine something similar, on a floor, ” he said. “It took weeks to find the right colors of these different species, ” he added.

“A carpenter constructed it, but I laid all the boards on the ground to get it the way I wanted it, and said, ‘Put it up just like this.’ ”

Display niches in a variety of shapes and sizes were built in.

“The wood wall was not cheap, ” Mike said. “The effort that went into it . . . if you count the hours I spent online and tracking down wood. I have new respect for decorators.”

Adding more wood

Next came the addition of beams to the living-area ceiling, which is 16 feet high.

The Glulam beams, an engineered wood product that Mike stained in a light Minwax Early American, are dropped 4 feet, so they line up with the lower ceilings in the rest of the house.

“They’re not structural; they’re strictly cosmetic. They just added the look of wood, ” he said.

The only brackets he found to fit them were black iron, so he turned to Gretna Plating & Polishing to have them refinished with nickel.

Soon afterward, a family trip to the New Orleans Home and Garden Show got him thinking about bamboo.

“I saw bamboo and said, ‘I’ve got to have that, ‘ ” Mike said.

The display, from New Orleans Bamboo, was mostly flooring, but when he learned that the wood was available in sheets, he decided to use it for countertops as well and designed the shape of the island himself.

“He had a hard time sealing them, ” Monique said. “He wanted all natural.”

The bamboo is sanded and finished with tung oil.

“If you wipe spills fast, it’s fine. If you let them sit, it tends to stain, ” she added.

“I can always sand it down and oil it again, ” Mike said.

From the bamboo to the exotic wood wall to the beams to the wooden blades on the sleek nickel-look fans throughout the house, “it all jelled, ” he said. “It all came together slowly.”
Monique and Mike Natal, with daughters Peyton and Avery, have built their dream home in Slidell’s Lakeshore Estates.

Family affair

Many decisions concerning the home, which the family has lived in for a year, were about more than just eye-catching design. With two small children, they had to be.

“Our other house had a dining table and china cabinets. . . . We don’t need it, ” Monique said.

The new dining area, just large enough to hold a small table, adjoins the kitchen and overlooks the water, an inlet off of Lake Pontchartrain.

The Natals also altered the floor plan to add a playroom between the bedrooms of daughters Avery, 6, and Peyton, 4.

Even the bar area contains the beverage fridge and ice maker the kids can use.

“The dog (Bling Bling, a miniature schnauzer) goes running if she sees us there, ” Mike said. “She’s there waiting for a piece of ice.”

Adults-only exceptions are the sleekly modern, low-back bar stools along the kitchen island. “The adults sit at the bar; kids eat in the dining area, ” where they aren’t in danger of tumbling off the seats, he said.

The couple found the stools online. “We both do accessories, ” Monique said.

“She picked all the light fixtures; she did a lot. We work well together, ” Mike added. “I went to her before making decisions.”

Living the dream
All four Natals fish off the boat dock, which has a tile roof that matches the house.

Add to the home’s design its idyllic setting, and it’s easy to see why the Natals love it: A near-constant breeze stirs the water into soft motion, and sets the palm, ornamental banana and elephant-ear leaves in the front yard swaying to the same rhythm; in the back, a mother duck and her 10 babies swim in the shallows of the lake.

“We can go fishing with the girls off the dock. They love it — if they’re catching fish, ” Monique said.

“In winter, speckled trout are right there. They’re catching them on Barbie poles; they’re fish men would be proud about, ” Mike added.

The Natals cook the fish inside or in the outdoor kitchen, which looks out on an L-shaped pool and a grassy play area, all securely gated from the dock to keep the area safe for the girls.

“Living on the water and being able to do what we want to — it’s our dream home, ” Mike said.


Glulam ceiling beams, eco-friendly Supa interior doors — Dash Lumber Co.

Bamboo plywood (4×8 sheets) — New Orleans Bamboo

Bamboo flooring and faux-wood Ultracraft kitchen cabinets in Gloss Brazilian Oak finish — Tymeless Flooring & Cabinets in Slidell.

Exotic woods for living-area wall — online
. . . . . . .

InsideOut Editor Karen Taylor Gist can be reached at 504.826.3467 or


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A new house goes up, and up and up, in time for storm season

A new house goes up, and up and up, in time for storm season

by By Stephanie Bruno Contributing writer, The Times-Picayune
Saturday May 30, 2009, 5:00 AM

30hgcoverPhotos by Rusty Costanza / The Times-Picayune The view from the deck shows why the Bourgs were eager to make their home in the Lake Catherine community. ‘I feel very comfortable that the house I built is as hurricane-resistant as you can imagine. The wind it can carry is 140 to 150 mph,’ Bob Bourg says.

High and dry: That’s exactly how Bob and Sherry Bourg expect to spend the 2009 storm season, now that their new hurricane-resistant home has been installed on the shores of Lake Catherine.

“Look at this,” said Bob Bourg, stretching his arms wide to take in the broad expanse of water and sky just outside his front door. “Why would I give this up?”

Although plenty of folks might scratch their heads about the decision to rebuild on the waterfront, it wasn’t a hard one for Bourg, a born and bred local who attended Jesuit High School. After buying a camp on Lake Catherine in 2002, he became enchanted with the area and became an ardent convert to fishing.

“When my parents bought the camp,” said Becky Bourg, the couple’s grown daughter, “at first it was meant for weekends and getaways. It wasn’t their primary residence at first; that was in Mid-City. But by the time the storm came, they were spending almost all their time out here. It had become their permanent home.”

The Bourgs’ camp was one of about 500 that lined the shores in the Lake Catherine community before Hurricane Katrina.

“After the storm, when I could get back in to check it out, there were no more than 20 buildings still standing, and only 16 or so of those were sound,” Bob Bourg said. “Our house was gone. All that was left was the foundation.”
Bob and Sherry Bourg are getting settled in their new Lake Catherine home just in time for the 2009 hurricane season. If a storm is coming, they won’t hesitate to evacuate, Bob Bourg says, ‘but the house would be there when I got back.’

On the back burner
Losing the camp wasn’t their biggest challenge. Their home on South Murat Street in Mid-City flooded too, leaving them without shelter. And as an executive at Destination Management and New Orleans Tours — he’s now general manager — Bourg and his colleagues were striving to keep the business afloat. Without a tourist base, the company stayed alive by providing transportation related to hurricane recovery.

“Those first six to nine months were so busy with the business and fixing up our place in Mid-City that we didn’t even have time to think about the camp,” Bourg said. “We were nomads for a while, first in Dallas, then we came home and bought a motor home which we parked in front of a friend’s house in River Ridge. We were able to return to living in our Mid-City house in ’06.”

But the lure of the water became too strong for Bourg to resist. An avid fisher, he missed his days out on his Lake Catherine pier, hauling in speckled trout and cooking up a feast for friends and family. It wasn’t long before he and his wife started talking about the possibility of rebuilding.

“Our friends were a little skeptical, even though they understood why we loved it so much there,” he said. “They’d say, ‘Make sure you can get insurance’ and ‘Make sure what you build can take another hurricane.’ We were trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together when I read a news article about someone locally who had built a Deltec home. I liked what I saw.”

Deltec, an Asheville, N.C., business, designs hurricane-resistant circular (technically, polygonal) homes and produces kits for assembly. The company trains contractors in various locales to ensure that kits are assembled according to company standards. Locals who follow “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” were introduced to the company when Ty Pennington and crew landed in town last spring and replaced the storm- and tornado-damaged home of a Westwego first responder and his extended family using a Deltec product.

“I wanted a place that I wouldn’t have to worry every time the weatherman starts talking tropical systems,” Bourg said. “Now I have it.”
The Bourgs go up 32 steps to enter the home, which is more than 25 feet above sea level.

Step by step
Although the construction is designed to withstand extreme winds, the Bourgs weren’t taking any chances with water. They installed their new home atop pilings — really tall pilings. To reach the deck that encircles the home, it is necessary to climb 32 steps.

“The deck level is 23 feet above grade, which makes it a little more than 25 feet above sea level,” Bourg said. “Out here we are required to be 16 feet above mean tide, but we wanted to be higher. One day I might have to install an elevator, but for now my knees do just fine.”

Construction began in October and is almost complete. With power, plumbing and even propane hooked up, Bourg was able to spend his first night in the new house last week and was eager to lead a tour.

The dining room, living room and kitchen are all contained in one large space that occupies about half of the home’s 2,000 square feet. Windows ring the walls so that views of the water and clouds surround the room. Kitchen cabinets are installed on the central wall, which separates the public space from the three bedrooms and three baths on the land side of the house. An extra-long granite counter serves as both a divider between the kitchen and living room and a gathering spot for cocktails or a casual meal.

“We love to cook and entertain,” Bourg said. “See this table? It extends to 127 inches. It can fit the whole family when we can get them all together at the same time. My son, Brandon, and his wife are both chefs — one at Emeril’s and one at NOLA — so you can bet we eat well.”

Outside on the deck, Bourg discussed plans for a screened porch that will become an outdoor dining area.

“See how the deck slopes down over there?” Bourg asked. “That’s so that if people are standing on the deck, it won’t block the view of the water from inside the house.”

As Bourg walked down the steps to ground level, he talked about the shaded area beneath the house.

“Right now, this is all sand,” he said. “But eventually, we plan to pave it and use it like a patio.”

Then he pointed upward to equipment resting atop a platform attached to the central structural support for the house.

“See that? Those are the condensers and hot water heater,” he said. “The water was 16 feet high here during the surge, I was told, so we put the platform 18 feet off the ground.”

Living with water
Bourg continued out to the pier that extends from the shore far into the water. About midway on the left is a slip for one of his two vintage Boston Whalers. At the end was a pavilion for fishing, complete with a roof and bath facilities.

“The pier was here before Hurricane Katrina, but the storm stripped all the floor boards off,” he said. “All that was left were the pilings.”

Bourg rebuilt the pier and the pilings higher than before, hoping that the new design would lower the risk of having to replace the flooring again.

“But then Gustav came along and ripped every board off the top and took out the railing,” he said. “Now it’s time to do it all again.”
But for Bourg and his family, the decision to return to Lake Catherine really wasn’t a difficult one.

“Once we figured out the right kind of construction and assembled the funds, there was really no question,” he said. “Look up and down the shore, and there are new houses going up like crazy.”
Another house is going up next to the Bourgs. ‘The pace of rebuilding has really accelerated recently,’ Bob Bourg says.

Bourg said, for a time, he would count how many property owners had rebuilt. Early on, the numbers weren’t encouraging. But lately, there has been so much activity that he has stopped counting.

“I think I stopped somewhere around 80,” he said. “Everyone is building high, and some neighbors are trying out alternative construction types.”

Bourg pointed to a home resembling a smooth white dome, rather like an igloo, atop tall pilings.

“The scuttlebutt is that a 30-foot wave can wash over that house, and it would survive without a scratch,” he said.

For now, the arc of the shoreline is dotted with new homes, separated by lots for sale. But Bourg doesn’t expect that to last.

“Maybe 80 or 100 houses doesn’t sound like a lot, when you consider there were hundreds more here before the storm,” he said. “But the pace of rebuilding has really accelerated recently. A week ago, there were nothing but pilings on my neighbor’s lot, and now his whole house is framed. I wouldn’t be surprised if a year from now, the number of houses doubles.”

Stephanie Bruno can be reached at

Here are some of the reasons that Bob and Sherry Bourg feel good about their home:

SHAPE: Because it’s round, wind blows around it instead of against it.

LOW-PITCHED ROOF: A gable or a steep roof pitch would create a surface for wind to blow against. Here, wind blows over, not against, the roof.

ROOF SUPPORT: The weight rests on the perimeter walls of the house, creating a load that helps stabilize the house

WINDOWS: They’re wind-resistant.

FRAMING: Roof and floor trusses radiate outward from the center of the house, like spokes of a wheel. When any part of the house experiences a wind load, the load is dispersed throughout the entire structure.

SHEATHING: After framing, the whole house is sheathed in 5/8-inch plywood.

HARDWARE: Strapping is manufactured of heavy-duty metal.

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