The Finishing Touch – A former Miss Louisiana’s crowning glory comes from designing the family home
Shirelle Chimenti jokes that she’s the ultimate source for tile, molding and pretty much anything that goes into finishing out a home. And there’s a reason for that. The petite homeowner with a mega-metabolism didn’t hire a designer to outfit her family’s 12,000 square-foot home in Carlton Woods.
She was the designing dynamo on this project.
“It was three years of researching on the computer, clipping things out of magazines, scouting out things on eBay, tracking down the right tile, molding, furniture, you name it,” says Shirelle, who was Miss Louisiana 1994 and third runner-up in the Miss USA pageant. “I wanted to put my stamp on this house. We wanted something a little different and I think it was well worth it!”
These days, Shirelle, husband Dr. Brian Chimenti and their son and daughter enjoy every inch of this home built by Michael Thurman Custom Homes. And Shirelle’s input is everywhere — from the large domed stained glass piece on the living room ceiling to the discreet fleur-de-lis she placed around the home as homage to Louisiana roots.
“My house is my castle,” she says with a smile. “I love crests and lions and castle-ly looking things. But if you’d ever told me I’d have a house like this years ago I wouldn’t have believed it. I come from a family of eight kids in a little town near New Orleans. I think God is saying that I should use this home and our blessings to help other people.”
With its spacious living spaces and rooms to meet every need, this dwelling has played host to charity events, birthday parties and all manner of gatherings. “It’s Castle Chimenti, Camp Chimenti, Casa Chimenti… you name it. It depends on the function we’re having!” she jokes. “I’m just very appreciative of what we have and I think we’re meant to share it.”
Visitors to the home are struck by its warmth.
Upon entry is a foyer with a sweeping staircase to the right, a grand piano tucked into a nook below. To the left, a step up into Brian’s study, a masculine space with a wall of bookcases and recycled leather floors. The desk, an eBay find, suits the room well. “I loved it!” says Shirelle who found a number of items for the home on eBay. “I save money when I can. I love the thrill of the hunt and getting a good deal.”
The formal living room is stunning in stand-out architectural features such as a stone fireplace and accompanying travertine wall that was designed by Shirelle and sculpted in China. “ I found a couple of designs online and combined them,” she explains. “An artist drew them to scale and the fabricators in China did everything from the pictures.”
Beautiful silk damask draperies flow to the ground in this space (draperies throughout the home by Woodlands Fabrics & Interiors, Jennifer Reeder). Slightly curved sofas in a soft aubergine/burgundy contrast nicely with neutral surroundings and rich wood pieces, including a grandfather clock and writing desk that once belonged to Brian’s grandmother.
“I love mixing modern pieces with antiques and Brian’s grandmother had some lovely things that I’m proud to have in our home,” Shirelle says. Indeed, this house has many substantial pieces, a variety of them purchased from Maitland Smith and Theodore Alexander.
Mixing modern with other styles is evident in the dining room as well where a striking contemporary blown-glass chandelier hovers over a dining table by M. Fatheree Interiors. Custom seating and a bench from Noel Furniture share space for an eclectic look. A brick ceiling adds interesting texture to this space.
This home brims with texture, including a mix of floor designs laid out amid a sweep of travertine. (Designs by Brigitte Crabtree of Brigitte’s Creative Designs and Flooring Specialist). For example, a stone mosaic medallion greets underfoot at the entrance to the master bedroom. Hardwoods carry through the rest of the master, contrasting with bedding and accessories in a vibrant gold. The headboard is particularly fetching, an iron piece that resembles a gate.
Most striking in this room is a huge medieval style iron chandelier that cleverly incorporates a ceiling fan. “It’s huge…it had to be held and anchored in five places,” Shirelle says. “But it is very structurally sound!” Look upward and a hardy wood beam configuration doubles as art, joining two custom stained glass pieces that usher in soft light.
The master bathroom is beautiful in soft neutrals. A Schonbek chandelier with Strass crystal (an eBay find) was the starting point for this room’s design. “I found a sink that mimics that same flowery, wispy design that’s in the chandelier,” she says.
An elegant crushed velvet chair (Haute House) wrapped in an embroidered shawl fabric adds a bit of color to this serene scene. The infinity-edge Kohler bathtub, also an eBay find, fills from a ceiling spout, not something seen every day. “I wanted it to feel like a fountain,” she says. Glass bead wallpaper, granite and glass tiles provide stunning surface surrounds.
Even the closets are stunning in this home. Shirelle’s is three stories tall connected by a spiral staircase. Windows on the top level shower the space in natural light. “I copied it from the Dior boutique in Paris,” she says.
Her refrigerator also went glam with a covering that resembles tufted leather. “It’s just a durable fabric that resembles leather, but how often do you see that? I think it just works with this kitchen!”
Two different granites, each with bold movement, make up the countertops, contrasting nicely with copper accents — a hammered copper sink, copper rangehood and another small sink that serves as a perfect depository for icing drinks when entertaining. This kitchen goes beyond the usual accessories with a slide-out chopping block and handy steamer at the ready.
The kitchen connects to den and breakfast room in the back of the house. Both look onto a cleverly designed wine room that Shirelle jokingly calls “the man fish tank” due to a large glass wall that sees through to this step-down space. “It’s sunken inside the wine room and when we have parties and the men congregate in there all you can see is their heads bobbing around because it’s lower!” she says, laughing.
Across from this space is a private guest suite that follows through to another hallway. Here you find a practical use of space — a room for the family dogs, a chocolate Labrador and a Shih Tzu. The space is outfitted with a shower built just for bathing the dogs plus sleeper cubbies and a pet door for easy access to the yard.
A second smaller catering kitchen also exists on ground level.
The staircase off the den leads to an upstairs gameroom with pool table, a stunning home theater patterned after the Hungarian Opera House, and the children’s rooms. Their daughter’s room is fit for a princess with a canopy bed and lovely bedding and draperies. Accessories defining the great outdoors adorn their son’s Colorado-themed room that has an accent wall with an aspen tree scene.
Just down the hall, a gameroom for the children was designed in a soft contemporary theme with sophisticated lighting and plank travertine floors. Petrified wood tables add to the modern look. “I didn’t want to do cutesy because I want them to use this space when they get older,” explains Shirelle.
Seems this high-tech automated SMART house with the latest in monitoring systems has it all.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes,” says Shirelle of their home. “It’s a wonderful home and I think we were meant to share it.”