House Beautiful: Glamorous, Vibrant and Fun

A peek inside the home Interior Designer Sara Ruffin Costello’s striking and Stylish Home

Location: New Orlean’s Garden District

The sculpture stand holding the bust “was the first thing I bought in my life that cost something. It’s so impractical, and yet it’s been one of the great surprising moments in every room I’ve ever had.”

Sara kept the massive ornate mirror that came with the house and hung artwork—including spin art by designer Miles Redd and an old family portrait—floor to ceiling to help fill the incredibly high walls.

A balance of curvy and straight lines and a restrained palette unify a mix of modern pieces, Early American hand-me-downs from Sara’s parents, and two stern wing chairs.

“It’s about geometry — how the curve of one piece will interact with the line of another. 
I mostly prefer straight edges to curvy ones, and that goes for any style and any century. 
But I have a touch of the French littered about just to keep it soft.”
— Sara Ruffin Costello

Sara tried numerous rugs atop the jute flooring before settling on the pony skins, which offer an interesting shape. The family cat, Sparkly Darkly Doo, sits atop a vintage Robsjohn-Gibbings chair bought “back when you could find these things for a song.”

Stacked along the wall behind the couch, books are within reach and make a strong personal statement. “I love when you’re at someone’s house and you wind up poking though their bookshelves and seeing the stuff they’re reading.”


A kitchen island by Bulthaup provides tons of counter space and storage. “I can’t even tell you how miraculous it is.”

A neat grid of family photos (still in progress) hangs over the kitchen table, a “vintage ’90s” piece by fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester where the family eats all its meals. The plates are by Mottahedeh.

The butler’s pantry houses the liquor, neatly corralled. “I can’t say enough about trays. I want to open a store that sells nothing but trays. Look how much better these bottles look on a tray. If they were just sitting on the counter they would look so awkward.”

“I wouldn’t be embarrassed if someone walked into any of the rooms—they all clean up easily, and if something gets a little wear and tear, it winds up expressing a more interesting narrative.”
— Sara Ruffin Costello

The original dining room is now “ping-pong central” unless it’s party time, when the table gets rolled away to make room for dancing or rented tables for sit-down dinners.

Illustrating her casual way with traditional pieces, Sara stores the ping-pong paddles in an ice bucket alongside an antique silver candlestick.

For the dining room Sara “gave a nod to New Orleans” with a pair of weathered antique French chairs, which she purposely did not reupholster. The curtain fabric is from Oscar de la Renta.

An Early American huntboard offers a simple handsomeness plus storage space for cards and poker chips. A traditionalist might have filled the space beneath it with an urn; Sara chose books.

The library is made cozy by the layers of worn rugs and velvet upholstery, and memorable by the addition of an over-the-top lamp (formerly covered in Mardi Gras beads) that Sara found at a secondhand store.

Maximalist in their sweep (“it’s super Game of Thrones, isn’t it?” says Sara) but minimalist in form (they feature no swags or trims) the beige linen canopy curtains in the master attach to the ceiling. “If everything is low, you feel like you’re lost in space.”

In the bedroom seating area, the gleaming white Eames chair and Noguchi lamp echo the bed’s pale geometry and modern feel. A Fornasetti table adds a bit of color.

Sara converted this former bedroom into a master bath, painted the walls a creamy mascarpone white, and covered the walls with family portraits and art. “Kitchens and bathrooms are great places to display things that are more personal.”

In a bedroom antechamber, a table by Thomas O’Brien displays a vintage knife holder (now used to store letters) and, adding a little levity, a vintage bust decked out in a hat and pearls. “I just have a thing for busts. When you’re lonely it’s like having some friends in the house.”

While eldest son Harrison was off at boarding school, Sara turned his room into a guest room. Roberta Roller Rabbit fabric that had previously served as kitchen curtains in New York now hang from the canopy. The colorful throw was found in a thrift store.

Ruffin’s room is cozy, soothing, and designed to grow with him. “The thing about kids’ rooms, babies’ rooms in particular, is you blink your eye and they’re too old for that stuff. Here, if you take away the teddy bear and the airplanes you’ve got another guest room.”

Hand-me-down console tables are topped by more hand-me-downs, accented by bouquets of magnolia branches and Meyer lemons clipped from trees in the backyard.
“I love something that looks a little used—nothing too new or shiny, please. 
I like things that make you want to know their secrets if they could talk.”
— Sara Ruffin Costello



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