Even in late April, when the sweet peas in most New Orleans gardens were already spent, Crickett Lapeyre's were still in full, fragrant bloom. "The secret is that I cut them every day," she said, snipping a bundle to bring inside her family's sunny cottage. "I like to say that I'm freeing them."
Gardening figures prominently in the charming post-Katrina renovation of the Lapeyres' Broadmoor house — home to Crickett, her husband Andrew, and their 11-year-old twin daughters Martha and Vivienne. At the height of spring, the white picket fence-edged front yard is a romantic, English-style hodgepodge of foxglove, cabbage, agapantha, plumbago, green roses, petunias, gardenias and daisies. When renovating, the Lapeyres took cues from the garden and the tone of the original 1930s architecture, reusing salvaged window moldings and recreating the house's original footprint. "Even before the storm, Crickett had a beautiful garden and a vision of what the house should be," says designer Grace Kaynor, who worked with the homeowners on the refurbishment. "She loved the blues and yellows of the garden, and we really wanted to bring the outside inside."
An affinity for gardens is just one passion that informs Lapeyre's personal style, however. She is drawn to numerous facets of the French and English cultures (her daughters attend Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orleans), quirky vintage wares, and delicate, antique lawn dresses from the turn of the 20th century. She inherited a trove of dresses from her maternal great-grandmother and has added to the collection by searching eBay auctions.
"They're the kinds of dresses that would have been worn by the Russian imperial princesses," Lapeyre says. Not surprisingly, A Room With A View, My Fair Lady and Gigi, which all capture the genteel essence of the belle epoque's airy dresses, lovely gardens and refined manners, are among Lapeyre's favorite films. A former gymnast who first visited Russia at age 13 to participate in an international competition, Lapeyre majored in Russian studies and language, citing an enduring affection for Russian history among her interests.
For every ounce of nostalgia that informs her aesthetic, there is an equal measure of contemporary relevance. With Kaynor's help, Lapeyre tempered her appreciation for antiques with sought-after elements from today's design vernacular — vintage Murano lamps, retro patterned wallpaper, a Lucite coffee table and artisan tile.
"Grace was good about using furniture that survived (Katrina) and (pieces) from my family," says Lapeyre, who considered comfort, color and proportion essential to the project. "But she also brought in modern things. And she tied everything together without being matchy. I don't like things to be matchy, even with clothes."
"I love to fit in treasured mementos with new finds," says Kaynor, a friend of Lapeyre's since their kindergarten years. "I also like to do a high-low mix. We have Murano lamps, but we also have tables from Wisteria."
While Lapeyre focused on restoring her garden, Kaynor paid attention to the particulars that finish a house, shopping for resources in New York, adding beaded trim to the Roman shades in the family room, finding vintage Italian pendant fixtures to highlight the kitchen island, and having custom rugs made.
When asked to highlight the pieces she loves most, Lapeyre's democratic selection of goods ranges from elegant crystal pieces inherited from her grandmother to a bottle of her daughters' sparkling fairy dust. In the dining room, ethereal butterfly wings fill an antique platter while a whimsical Ferris wheel tops a sideboard. On the front porch, colorful signs by local artist Simon Hardeveld, a friend and neighbor, make a cheerful display well-suited to a house that never takes itself too seriously.
Lapeyre's wardrobe, a combination of fine and lighthearted pieces, is similarly casual and comfortable. During warmer months, she turns to cool cotton dresses and tops layered over leggings or skinny jeans, an easy look that's at home in the cottage or the garden. At the moment, she likes to pair them with espadrilles from Jean Therapy or taupe flip-flops from J. Crew, two stores on a list of favorites that also includes Pied Nu, Gae-Tana's, Angelique and, aptly enough, The Garden Gate, a destination for flowers, garden accoutrements and clothing. Even Lapeyre's choice of fragrances — Jo Malone Orange Blossom and Nutmeg & Ginger for winter and Lime for summer — is related to her fascination with English gardens.
"Gardens visually please me, they smell good, and you can't mess up with color in a garden," Lapeyre says. "God knows what's best, obviously. I may see a color on a house and say 'Oh my, that violates the earth.' That never happens in a garden."