July 14, 2024


Comfortable residential structure

The camelback is new, but an Uptown couple holds on to the history embedded in their double | Home/Garden

The camelback is new, but an Uptown couple holds on to the history embedded in their double | Home/Garden

The camelback is new, but an Uptown couple holds on to the history embedded in their double | Home/Garden

No sooner had the Christmas lights come down at the Saik residence on Chestnut Street than the Carnival decor went up. But it isn’t the traditional decor of flags and banners — rather it’s a surprising element that Margaret and Walker Saik created themselves.

“You like our homemade Mardi Gras decorations, do you?” asked Walker Saik, referring to the oversized and brightly colored beads hanging in the branches of trees in front of the house. “They were a lot of fun to make.”

You can’t buy beads like these: The Saiks hand strung them from “ball pit” balls they bought on Amazon. Patiently, needle and fishing line in hand, they strung each bead, one after the other, to create strands almost 3 feet.

Saik Residence 10 January 25,2021

A double was transformed into a camelback when the Saiks decided to make more room for their family.  

Their decorations are standouts on the block. So is the handsome family home that the Saiks, parents of Ogden, 3, and Inger, who’s almost 2, have created out of what had been a shotgun double before becoming Walker Saiks’ bachelor pad.

“Margaret and I love this neighborhood, but when we started talking about marriage and starting a family, we had to consider the possibility of making a move, because the house would be too small,” Walker Saik said.

The couple applied their best analytical skills to the problem. Both have accounting backgrounds. He is a managing director at Ernst & Young, and she works in internal auditing at Entergy, so they were able to parse out their options financially as well as esthetically. Then they came up with a plan.

“We figured that if we were to add a camelback, we’d have what we needed,” Walker said.

Saik Residence 6 January 25,2021

Margaret and Walker Saik on the porch with their dog Abby.

The camelback made room for bedrooms for Ogden and Inger, and an open office for their parents, who mostly have been working from home since the pandemic began.

The best thing the addition achieved, however, was to expand the family room and kitchen inside and make room for a porch outside on both levels, up and down.

“We didn’t know how important the porches would be to our enjoyment of the house,” said Margaret Saik. “But we practically live out there in good weather.”

Originally, only the top porch was screened, but it was so pleasant on comfortable nights that the couple had the downstairs porch screened in, too, the better to enjoy the stringed lights and landscaping that Walker installed.

Saik Residence 27 January 25,2021

The couple says they got lucky when building the upstairs back porch, ending up with a great unobstructed view.  

“I dug these beds and put in the plants myself,” he said of the giant white bird of paradise, citrus trees and camellias that soften the fence line. Colorful painted-metal creatures sit on the fence; a friendly golden retriever named Abby keeps them company; and a curious brick monolith that he encountered while shoveling is on display.

“It was in the middle of a semicircle of bricks, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t part of an old cistern,” he said.

Maybe so, for the house bears all the signs of being somewhat older than its Craftsman facade would suggest. Ceilings of 11 feet would be unusual in the Craftsman era, and the house was missing the rafter’s tails evident on the Craftsman house next door.

Saik Residence 11 January 25,2021

The main entrance to the house features two mantels and fireplaces and formal dining room.  

Also a sign of age, barge board was discovered as the wall material in a portion of the house during the renovation, and beadboard was present in a couple of spots as well.

The couple was adamant about reusing everything feasible, so four-panel cypress doors were used on hinges or as barn doors, and beadboard was used as wainscoting in the downstairs powder room and in the dry bar area. After removing carpet, tile and other floor coverings, original heart pine floors were discovered (and supplemented with milled flooring made from roof rafters).

The Saiks’ affection for the historic also shines through in their section of furnishings: An immense dining table with carved legs, a bookcase in the family room (just deep enough for display but not so deep as to obstruct traffic flow), a long narrow table (a relic from Walker’s bachelor years) and a glittering antique chandelier that hangs over the dining table.

Saik Residence 14 January 25,2021

The master bedroom has double mantel and fireplaces similar to the front room.  

Other elements — a stained-glass transom in Tulane colors, a headboard made from a five-panel door — are further testament to the couple’s care for preserving the past in their thoroughly modern layout.

Margaret Saik says one architectural feature is her favorite — a Queen Anne-style cypress door that separates the dining room from the couple’s downstairs suite. Just as the couple can explain where every piece of furniture and came from (much was bought at Dopp’s) and every piece of artwork (several by Bruce Davenport, including one commissioned for Margaret Saik for Valentine’s Day one year), so the couple can recite where the individual pieces of colored glass in the door came from.

“It was in rough shape when we bought it, so we had it repaired and then realized we needed glass for each one of the little squares that surrounded the central pane of glass,” Margaret Saik said. “A couple of the squares came from Walker’s dad, but most came from Attenhofer in Metairie. We learned that one square came from an old Methodist church that had been demolished, another from Attenhofer’s (Stained Glass in Metairie). We love having those pieces of New Orleans history with us every day.”

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