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 ktaylorgist@timespicayune.com.


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