When former New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead and his wife, Lauren, were looking for their dream house, they didn’t imagine it would be right down the block. However, that’s where they ended up, on the same Old Metairie street where they’d lived for six years, and they couldn’t be happier.
“New Orleans is home now,” said Thomas Morstead.
Lauren Morstead agrees. Even with the uncertainty of where the NFL star eventually may sign on to play, they plan to live and raise their family here.
Life since their marriage in 2013 has moved quickly, with several house moves and four children in quick succession. The couple are parents to Maxwell, 7, Beckett, 6, Maggie, 4, and little Rosalie, 2.
To meet the demands of a large family, they started hunting for new digs but quickly realized they loved their current area and neighbors.
“We really didn’t want to go anywhere else,” said Thomas Morstead.
So they decided to stay and squeeze into their tiny house until something popped up.
Fate presented itself when a house on a large lot down the street became available. Thomas Morstead knocked on the door, shared his love of the street with the owner, and a deal was made on the spot. The only hitch was that the outdated ranch would never suit the couple’s growing brood. They would have to build.
The result is a completely modern Tudor, incorporating the style’s stately façade hallmarks of a grand recessed entry, steep front-facing gables and multipaned windows.
A mahogany arched entryway leads into the heart of the house, an open space housing both a kitchen and living room. The view from the dining room’s wall of windows includes the outdoor kitchen, pool and formal gardens.
Their path to the new home has been a busy one. Until recently, Lauren Morstead has been home-schooling the three children off and on and juggling virtual classrooms due to COVID-19, all with a toddler underfoot.
Thomas Morstead was away for weeks at a time, playing last season with the Atlanta Falcons. All of the above, plus dealing with quarantines, flying back and forth, and making time for quality family life has created what appears to be a happy, organized chaos.
He has taken it all in pragmatic stride and has been enjoying his time off. That included taking his two young girls to England to visit his parents in London and his grandfather in rural Lincolnshire. Lauren Morstead stayed behind to manage the boys’ school while he was gone.
The Morsteads, in fact, weren’t much older than their boys when they first met. They both were raised in Houston, and their families ended up on vacation together.
“We met on a ski trip to Utah in 1998,” Thomas Morstead said with a laugh. “I was 12. She was 10.”
The couple can’t help finishing each other’s sentences, laughing over the other as they talk about their first meeting and eventual courtship. (One of them had buck teeth, but we won’t say which one.)
Eight years went by, and serendipity struck. They crossed paths in college, began dating and continued seeing each other after he moved to New Orleans in 2009. She was studying nursing in Texas and moved here in 2011.
“I also always say that it was the best year of my career,” Thomas Morstead said.
A fast-growing family
The young couple started out in the Warehouse District, followed by a townhouse on St. Charles Avenue. The next stop was a house in Old Metairie in the neighborhood they came to love.
That house, however, was missing the one item Lauren Morstead wanted more than any other: her own bathtub.
“When we moved in, he said he would build me a bathtub in the offseason,” she said. “But it never happened.”
As the years passed and the family grew, they tried to configure a plan to add the tub, but it didn’t work with the house or the lot. Plus, the children needed more room to play and grow.
It was time to build.
Starting from scratch
The couple knew that building was going to be a hands-on project, a collaboration, and that whom they worked with was of the utmost importance.
“We bought the property in 2019, and then we started interviewing people,” said Thomas Morstead. “I felt going into this project was like a short-term marriage, and our personalities had better jibe with our builder.”
They found that simpatico with Larry Schneider, of Schneider Construction. He’d just completed a renovation nearby and was recommended by a trusted neighbor. Thomas Morstead introduced himself to Schneider, who offered an impromptu home tour.
“I liked the feeling of his house,” Morstead said. “It was nice, warm and elegant, but it wasn’t like a museum. It wasn’t over the top … it just felt comfortable and homey.”
He went to get his wife, they walked back together, and a decision was made.
The couple also found their architect that same day — while sneaking a peek at Schneider’s plans, they learned that his house was designed by Lindsay Woolf, of Woolf Architecture & Interiors.
After a sit-down with both, they felt their team was in place.
Now that the house is finished, it’s important for Thomas Morstead to acknowledge what he calls the outstanding work of his design and building team. Besides Woolf and Schneider, there’s Ron Washington, the owner of Mushatt Development. He poured the Morsteads’ foundations, driveway and pool decking.
The pool, by Paradise Pools, was the big-ticket item on Thomas Morstead’s wish list. It’s long enough for swimming laps but also designed for child’s play.
The house is surrounded by several formal gardens designed by Daly Sublette Landscape Architects.
The finished product
“When Thomas saw the dining room plans, he said it was the Super Bowl of the house,” architect Woolf said with a laugh.
It’s wrapped with wall-to-wall windows, and French doors lead to a mirror-image outdoor dining table, outdoor kitchen and lawn.
Echoing the curve of the Tudor entryway design by Schneider is a bold wide arch designed by Woolf that delineates the living room and kitchen.
Custom inset-style cabinetry, burnished gold hardware, paneled appliances, a Cristallo quartzite island and Moroccan Zellige tiles complete the kitchen look. But what grabs the eye are the outsized gray Fett pendants and a custom plaster cooktop hood created by Schneider.
The kitchen faces the living room’s oak-stained, recessed shelving and fireplace with custom mantel.
Family-friendly features include a large pantry and a mudroom with cubbies for the children’s bookbags and sports equipment.
Each child’s cubby has hooks, a shoe drawer below and a shelf above with an outlet and USB for charging devices. While they can’t reach their shelves yet, the space was built to accommodate them as they grow. The mudroom leads into a playroom, which can double as a classroom.
The first floor also features a study for Thomas Morstead and a comfortable and elegant en suite guestroom that leads to the back porch. The bathroom features a walk-in shower thoughtfully designed to accommodate elderly grandparents. The room doubles as a changing area and powder room that can be accessed from the pool area.
Upstairs, the landing gives way to a dedicated reading room with a large window that faces west toward the setting sun. It’s here, on cozy seating heaped with children’s books, that the parents instill in their children a love of the written word and share quiet time before bed. The level also houses the family’s bedrooms. Above is a house-length, carpeted attic playroom.
“The girls have their own bedrooms and bathrooms,” said Lauren Morstead. “The boys have a connecting bathroom and their own rooms, but still share a room because they still prefer it that way.”
The master bedroom is still partly furnished and some of the walls are a bit bare as Lauren Morstead continues to choose personal pieces and decor at her own speed. She grabs the rare decorative piece at Jade on Metairie Road or off of Etsy when the mood strikes.
But an immediate magazine-layout look was never her endgame. That prize lies through an adjoining doorway, hidden behind a fitted alcove in the marble master bath: It’s a large soaking tub, one that she doesn’t have to share.