All in good taste: Stabilers find a fresh start in a home filled with local flavor
They say the kitchen is the heart of a home, but for restaurateur Wayne Stabiler and his wife Luci, two hearts are better than one.
The couple carved out a custom cooking space in the backyard of their Bocage neighborhood house that doesn’t just rival their indoor kitchen—it kicks the culinary process up a notch with an array of appliances ready to be fired up for whatever cuisine guests might be craving.
There’s a pizza oven perfect for cozy evenings with the grandchildren. A wood-fired Argentinian grill complete with motorized rotisserie. A flat-top grill that can handle everything from steaks to pancakes. Even a professional-grade meat slicer.
“Wayne wanted to be able to cook anything imaginable out there,” explains Luci. “He did lots of research to choose all of the components.”
This passion for sharing a memorable meal has been a part of Wayne’s life for as long as Luci has known him. “Wayne has loved to cook since I met him at Broadmoor High School,” Luci says. “In fact, he cooked the meal for us and four of our friends on the night of our high-school prom!”
Fast-forward a few decades, and Wayne and Luci are entertaining more than ever. The two had spent 10 years living on 12 acres in the Mallard Lakes neighborhood when they felt a call to be closer to the heart of the city. “We loved our time there, but we were ready to be more convenient to everything,” says Luci.
The couple was “keeping an eye on Bocage” for about a year before this house became available. They jumped at the chance to make it their own in the spring of 2017, lured by its classic design by Al Jones and its proximity to two of the restaurants Wayne’s company had founded. Palermo Ristorante and the then-under-construction Stab’s Prime Steak & Seafood were both located on Jefferson Highway not far from the neighborhood’s entrance.
“The opportunity to buy the house was a complete surprise,” Luci says. But they immediately jumped into action to customize it to their tastes. On the very day they moved in, painters began giving the exterior an updated look, and Luci quickly turned to designer Anne McCanless for help with the spacious interior.
“When we moved from Mallard Lakes, I knew I wanted to start with a clean palette,” says Luci. “I had spent all my adult life with warm colors and dark woods, so I wanted to lighten up the décor. I wanted something more peaceful and calming.”
Luci jokes that she and Wayne spent the first four months in the house with “nothing but a bed and a sofa and a kitchen table” as she and Anne hunted for the right furnishings. They opted to draw inspiration for the new cool ambiance from the Stabilers’ second home, a Grand Isle camp dubbed “Wayne’s World.” “It’s Wayne’s happy place,” Luci says. “He loves being by the water and the laid-back vibe of the small fishing village.”
Over the next year, the couple and their design and construction team—which also included contracting firm Bernhard Normand—reworked the residence inside and out. “They loved the architectural bones of the house and the great floor plan, but it felt too formal for the way they live,” Anne says. “They wanted their guests to be able to come in and kick their feet up. They wanted a more casual environment for entertaining.”
The master bath was the focal point of a major makeover that saw its shower reconfigured and its dark marble surfaces replaced by pale materials that fit the coastal vibe. The indoor kitchen was lightened up with new quartzite countertops and a mother-of-pearl backsplash, along with a new rock crystal-accented chandelier above the island, and observant visitors immediately notice Wayne’s collection of homemade spice blends tucked into open shelving beside the range hood.
What once was a study across the entry hall from the dining room became a functional bar with designer touches including open-frame geometric stools from Anne’s store, Texture, and new custom cabinetry accented by hammered hardware. But the bar space is as playful as it is pretty, with rows of colorful helmets from college football teams displayed on high shelves and a custom neon “Stabiler’s Tavern” sign on the opposite wall.
Anne and Luci took trips across the South to scour for the right elements to include in each room. They made a point of including antique furnishings amidst all of their new design details—but not just any antiques. They wanted pieces that would tell a tale of their past while relating to this family’s future. At Fireside Antiques, where they sourced several antiques, they found one special showpiece that is now a focal point in the living room: a circa-1800 oak dough bin called a pétrin that was first used in the kitchen of a monastery in France. “Traditionally, flour and yeast were stored, mixed and proofed to grow into dough for making bread,” explains Fireside’s Laura Roland of the bin, which now stands against a wall below a painting by Arnaudville artist George Marks. “Its enormous size suggests the large number of people that were fed at the monastery as well as the needy or homeless. The top made the perfect work surface.”
The pétrin was an ideal conversation piece for Luci and Wayne’s home, especially considering that in addition to his restaurants Wayne is heavily involved in feeding large groups of people around the country after natural disasters.
“When we found this, Wayne’s face lit up because he has such a love of helping others through food,” says Anne. “Every antique in here has a story like that. They all mean something to them.”
Beyond the boundaries of the house, the couple took on another of their biggest projects: the transformation of a small freestanding outdoor kitchen into a three-section space equipped for hosting any size get-together. “All of this was done while we were living in the house,” says Luci. “It was a stressful time to say the least! During that time, we made a lot of trips to Wayne’s World to get out of the way of the workers.”
The completed outdoor kitchen and dining space, located just beyond a formal garden and pool in the backyard, are frequently in use. Parties range from pizza nights with their three children and five grandchildren to holiday happenings with out-of-town relatives. “Wayne and I love to entertain, and we prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends and family,” Luci says. “Our entertaining is always casual and relaxed.”
Their penchant for parties will go beyond the backyard next month as The Stabiler Foundation, which Wayne and Luci created as a way to give back to the community that has supported them over the years, will host its 2nd annual “Sizzlin’ for SEALS” Steak Cookoff and Soiree on November 2 at Live Oak Arabians. “We’re passionate about causes such as the military, children’s issues, and various community needs,” explains Luci. “All of the proceeds from this event will go directly to the Navy SEAL Foundation. We have a dear friend who is a retired Navy SEAL, and we’ve seen firsthand the sacrifices these men and their families make.”
Between planning for their foundation event and dishing out vast quantities of food in the midst of hurricane season, the Stabilers view their home as a coastal-inspired retreat in the heart of town, a peaceful place where they can escape the busyness of daily life. Luci says she loves the serene feel of the master suite most, with its calming colors and spa-like atmosphere. For Wayne, though, the highlight of this home is the outdoor kitchen, with the grill hot and good friends gathered around.
“If Wayne has time off, he loves to cook for our family and friends,” Luci says. “It is truly his passion. How amazing is that to make a career out of what you love to do?”
Take a walking tour through this home with Anne McCanless:
For a closer look at this home, click on the photos in the gallery below: