Buddha of the Bend

There is definitely a “wow” factor in the Jesuit Bend home of Denise and Brent Buford, located across the river from New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish. “I didn’t want our home to be like any other,” says Brent, owner of New Orleans Iron Works Inc., a company that specializes in structural steel fabrication and erection. “I wanted something unique, one-of-a kind, and I knew Claire Tully would be just the right interior designer for the project.”

Enter the talented New Orleans interior designer who has made her mark designing everything from hotels to fine homes. “I immediately connected with Denise and Brent,” Tully says. “They gave me the freedom to create something truly different, and the rest is history.”

Step inside the Bufords’ home, and it will only take you a nanosecond to discover it is as dramatic as the set of a multimillion-dollar movie. Once through the front doors, your eyes are sure to wander to the 40-inch antique statue of Buddha. It was the first item Tully recommended when the trio ventured out to a high-end auction right after she came aboard the project. Today the Tara Buddha has a place of honor overlooking the large, open main area of the home that encompasses the vestibule, great room and dining area.

“The Buddha wasn’t what I expected for a first purchase,” says Brent, who was very excited about the project from the beginning. “I just trusted Claire and said to myself: ‘Buckle up. This is going to be an interesting ride.’”

With the tone set for excitement, Tully boldly moved forward to create the fusion of styles representing many countries. Her unique take on international design comes from many places: Kyoto (the Japanese city known for its shrines and temples), Venice (with her selection of Randy Verdin of Walls of Italy to create the Venetian plaster in a palette of rich jewel tones throughout the entire house) and Morocco (from the colors Brent wanted
in the lounge to some of Judy Merrell’s special paint finishes).

“The project quickly took on a life of its own, ever-evolving until all three of us were satisfied,” Tully says. “All finishes were custom-ordered, and we attended many auctions acquiring pieces I knew were important to achieve
the final look.”

In the end, what had been an ordinary large ranch-style home that was built in 1988
was completely transformed, incorporating the double-car garage as a theater and lounge with a large bar and a separate bathroom. “The lounge and theater were delegated as my rooms,” Brent says proudly.

“I give Claire credit for the inspiration of the Moroccan-flavored lounge that definitely pleases me, but I was the daring person who selected the purple-silver color for the Venetian plastered walls and approved
of the plan for the bar and its professional bar equipment.”

The sunken great room is pure drama with its red leather couches and the new face of white sugar-cubed marble and black river rock on the fireplace. The black porcelain floors throughout the house were a bold design decision and a unifying source for the entire house. One man Denise insists should receive special credit is Hubert Vahrenhorst. “I must salute Hubert, our on-site project manager and Old World craftsman,” she says earnestly. “He is the best, and we could not have done the project without him.”

In a separate wing of the house, you will find the elegant master bedroom.

“The custom-painted tortoise shell entry doors to the master bedroom make me
feel like I am entering into another realm,” Denise says. “I also like the four-poster mirrored bed that has a églomisé finish.” Just a few steps away, the colorful bedroom of Olivia, the couple’s 5-year-old
daughter, is a young child’s dream world.

“We enjoy living in Jesuit Bend,” Brent says. “It’s … just 20 miles from the French Quarter and 2 miles from our business. We both enjoy the 20-acre setting for our home that includes a 3-acre pond stocked with bass, bluegill
and perch and our spacious horse stables.”

“I like the 600-plus satsuma and navel orange trees in our citrus grove and our bee farm, which produces plenty of honey for gifts to our friends,” Denise adds. “It isn’t unusual to find Brent fishing in the pond many afternoons, and Olivia and I enjoy strolling through the citrus grove, especially when it is in bloom. This is a wonderful place to live, and the exciting interior design is just the icing on our cake for us.”

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