Paradise Found: A modern dwelling pulls inspiration from waterways near and far

A mirrored geometric tile backsplash over the range and a metallic polka-dot wallpaper behind the shelves are bright contrasts to the kitchen’s sleek black cabinetry. Floating clustered-bulb chandeliers (which Morain says she had made by “a guy” in New York) draw the eye upward. Photos by Laura Steffan

Amber Morain’s favorite color is black. Deep, moody shades of midnight black and slate are splashed across every corner of her house, from the kitchen cabinets to the wallpaper-swathed foyer. 

But there’s not a single space here that feels dark. 

In fact, Morain’s house is as bright and vibrant as the life she and her husband Jesse share with their three kids and two dogs. 

Morain and her family spent a few years living in their new-construction, open-concept abode in Central—a space she says is their forever home—before deciding how to decorate it. It gave them time to build routines and figure out what was important to them. 

Namely, entertaining. 

The Cooking Channel is a regular soundtrack in the kitchen, where Morain experiments with a different recipe each week. Some days, she whips up Chinese or homemade pizzas. Other nights, she takes her family on a culinary tour of Greece. The Morains are always inviting neighbors over for cookouts or breakfast burritos on the patio.

Reclaimed wood sourced in Zachary was used to craft the living room’s floating shelves, which are home to family photos and art, including a charcoal sketch of a tow boat Amber Morain’s late grandfather once worked on. When the search for the perfect coffee table proved elusive, Petit’s husband Jacob hand-built a cherry wood and brass-inlay table. A giant gold mirror—a birthday gift from Amber’s husband Jesse—reflects a peek of the foyer’s wallpaper pattern.

Water is front and center here, both indoors and outdoors. 

Every room in the back of the house overlooks a pond in the yard. The family’s 3-year-old bloodhound, Lola, dives into its waters every chance she gets. A sparkling blue infinity pool seems to spill right into the pond. It’s a backdrop that has played host to plenty of bridal and baby showers. 

These Louisiana waterways remind the Morains of their favorite place in the world: St. Croix, where they lived for almost three years. Artwork from the island is scattered around the house, and looking at a photograph of crashing waves transports Morain back to the beaches of the Caribbean. Her children were just babies and elementary schoolers back then, but she says she dragged them to the shoreline almost every day. It’s a place the family loved so much, they named their 6-year-old lab-Great Dane mix, Croix, after it. 

“That’s my happy place,” she says. “Living there was really a life-changing experience for us.”

Channeling the Morains’ happy place was the mission for Kristina Petit, whom they commissioned to tackle the interior design elements that would make their dream home feel complete. AP Dodson Home Builders brought them together—Morain is a Realtor for the company, and Petit designs interiors for it.

Petit launched her design studio, Kristina’s Collective Interiors, about two years ago, using her previous career in fashion as a natural transition to the world of interiors. “I think of houses like clothing collections. I tend to work around a print, statement piece or a rug—whatever it is the person falls in love with,” she says. “I’ve always loved the richness of colors and textures you find with clothing fabric, and now I get so excited about wallpaper in the same way. I appreciate how a velvet accent can bring richness to a space, or the way a linen can make a room feel more casual.”

When Petit walked through Morain’s house the first time, she was immediately struck by one thing. “It didn’t feel like her,” Petit recalls. “She’s so unafraid, and so bold. But I think she had beige couches. It felt staged to sell, where everything is neutral.” 

Petit says her goal is never to get rid of everything in a space. So in each room, she picked pieces to build the design around, just like she had in her fashion days. 

Shiplap panels in the entryway were painted the same shade of black as the kitchen cabinetry, keeping a consistent color palette throughout the house. A chandelier from Sunbelt Lighting, art sourced from Etsy, and a geometric mirror add modern touches to the wallpapered room.

In the high-ceilinged dining room, a gallery rail—a project designer Kristina Petit completed using acrylic rails, chains and S hooks—makes swapping art simple. A caned chair offers an antique-inspired accent and additional seating.

In the dining room, that was a set of chartreuse green velvet dining chairs. The chairs flanked a live-edge wooden table and a black and wood buffet. Building off the citrusy color palette, sunny yellow velvet curtains now frame the light-flooded windows. A large gilded mirror is the centerpiece of a gallery wall, reflecting more window light as well as the sputnik-style chandelier over the dining table. 

Instead of traditionally hung art, Petit built a gallery rail. Using acrylic art rods, gold chains and S hooks, she crafted an elegant, ever-changing art installation. The Morains can swap out drawings and photographs from places they’ve lived or traveled to. 

“If I put something in my house, I want it to mean something,” Morain says. Currently, the gallery is dotted with a world tour’s worth of memories from Austria, Costa Rica, New York and Napa Valley.

The foyer might just be home to the house’s boldest statement of all: a black-and-white patterned wallpaper showered in flower blossoms. “I remember when I showed her that wallpaper—I didn’t know if she was going to go for it,” Petit says. “But she instantly loved it.”

Shiplap panels in the entryway were painted the same shade of black as the kitchen cabinetry, keeping a consistent color palette throughout the house. A chandelier from Sunbelt Lighting, art sourced from Etsy, and a geometric mirror add modern touches to the wallpapered room.

A console table for storing keys and black-painted vertical shiplap studded with hooks keeps the entryway practical, while a geometric mirror and art pieces sourced from Etsy add personality. The room is a fitting first impression for a family who loves to entertain. 

In the living room, the color palette is calmer, making for a cozy conversation space that invites lingering. Instead of a bulky sectional, camel-colored leather recliners and a pair of sofas in a rich powder-blue velvet keep the room feeling airy and open. Baskets full of soft blankets can be tucked away under the built-in bench seating. 

The most meaningful piece of art in the home is perched on a shelf in this room: a black-and-white sketch of a tow boat. Morain’s grandfather was a tow boat pilot on the Mississippi River his whole life. After he died, Morain found some hand-drawn charcoal depictions of tow boats that he worked on. “It was so special to me,” Morain says, her voice full of emotion. 

Now one of the sketches is framed, sitting front and center in the living room. It overlooks the flurry of conversation, color and life that unfolds daily in the Morain’s corner of paradise.

And just like the Caribbean Sea surrounding St. Croix and the flowing waters of the mighty Mississippi River, life here comes in waves. 


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