Glenda Ivy eschews trends. The home she shares with her husband, Chris Michals, serves as a backdrop for visual displays of their pursuits and life experiences, and valuable antiques keep time with the works of internationally celebrated artists as well as others’ castoffs. The result is timeless, personal and fascinating.

The couple bought the Greek Revival center hall cottage in the East Carrollton neighborhood in December 1999 from the descendants of John Cleary, a contractor who built the home as rental property in 1884. The house had been divided into three separate units — one to the left, another to the right, the third crafted from the former attic and accessible via a very steep staircase.

“It was rental property,” Ivy said. “In some places, it seemed to be held together with tape.”

Ivy November 4, 2022

A coral-hued front door catches the eye in front of the Greek Revival center hall cottage of Glendy Ivy and Chris Michal.

The couple attacked the renovation themselves, learning as they went. They gutted the house to the studs in some places and stripped doors and baseboards of over a century of tape, stickers and thumbtacks no one bothered to remove between tenants.

“It was a patch, on a patch, with a patch,” said Michals, an electrician with University Hospital. “It was like a monument to hardware stores and easy repairs. The original knob and tube wiring was attached to newer wire with friction tape to meet the blower motor under the house to accommodate air-conditioning. The plumbing was a series of copper pipes connected to galvanized pipes, connected to PVC.”

Ivy and Michals ultimately claimed the right-hand side of the house and the former attic apartment for themselves. The left-hand unit has been occupied by a close friend for 20 years. They left the original footprint intact save for enclosing a rear porch to create space for Ivy’s work as a floral and interior designer.

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Fresh flowers and a chaise lounge are central in the front room.

Where the front yard was once bare, a lush garden blooms with texture and color. A pair of black sculptural swings hang from opposite sides of the front porch, framing a door painted a welcoming shade of coral.

In the entry hall, Ivy peeled off layers of wallpaper to reveal plaster walls. The space is punctuated by an ornate gilded resin frame picked up at a garage sale and a large concrete urn Ivy encrusted with oyster shells for an Art in Bloom installation at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Another treasure she created for the NOMA event is a particular favorite of Ivy’s. Designed to complement the work of sculptor/woodworker Louise Nevelson, it was fashioned entirely of objects Ivy found in the attic — pieces of chairs, Victorian children’s furnishings and shoes, and the remnant of a stemmed ruby glass vase to hold sunflowers.

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A Balinese gong hangs under the mantel, below a large stylized rendering of Elvis by Memphis artist Ed Rainey.

Throughout the home, the insatiably creative Ivy has created multidimensional, layered vignettes to reflect the couple’s interests — trees, Asian influences, childhood memories, their relatives and ancestors, floral design, Elvis Presley. …

“I’m from Memphis,” Ivy said. “Of course, I love Elvis.”

Elvis turns up in several spots in the eclectic tableau. Atop the dining room mantel, a large stylized rendering is from Memphis artist Ed Rainey’s “American Hero” series. Upon close inspection, it also includes a bull in the style of Picasso, Popeye the Sailor and a skull. A Balinese gong hangs under the mantel.

Never-before-published photos of Presley landed in the stairwell, along with a display largely relating to floristry along with Ivy’s old pass for the Paris Metro. 

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Floral and interior designer Glenda Ivy’s office, a closed-in porch, is filled with windows overlooking the garden.

Opposite Elvis in the dining area is a very different treasure: a stately oak deacon’s chair from the historic Clayborn Temple in Memphis. It was at the temple on April 2, 1968, that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. met with striking sanitation workers who used it as their campaign headquarters. He was assassinated two days later.

Well-known artists’ works are on display throughout the home, among them local painter George Long, photographer West Freeman and painter-photographer George Dureau; Wayne Edge, of Memphis; New York photographer David Halliday; and Spanish artist Jose-Maria Cundin.

The living room, where silk draperies flow from ceiling to polished wood floors, has multiple uses and multiple points of interest.

A closet door was removed and the space fitted with shelving to create a recessed case to display books and objects d’art. “This is my reading nook,” Ivy said.

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The dining room is a collection of pieces that were gathered over the years. 

She also uses the space as she works to restore and enhance her great grandmothers’ extensive collection of handmade quilts.

The top of an adjacent Victorian tramp art chest is used as a makeshift coffee or cocktail table.

In another nod to Ivy’s floral background, an homage to trees sits nearby, with a sinuous dried Manzanita branch fashioned to a base to resemble bonsai. 

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Chris Michals’ father’s childhood WWI military figurines are accompanied by pictures of Glenda Ivy’s grandfather in his WWI military attire.  

One of the home’s more unusual pieces is located across the room, where a wall is dominated by a lighted theater prop in the likeness of a candelabra. It brightens Florentine chests and trays, neat stacks of art books, a massive antique walnut chest and a cane-backed settee Ivy rescued from a post-Katrina curbside pile then rebuilt and reupholstered.

“Glenda is a reclaimer of unwanted treasures,” Michals said.

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The couple carefully picked the cabinets to  get the most out of the tight kitchen space. 

On display in the kitchen are collections of pottery, serve ware, and glasses in various shades and patterns of green. Luminous glazed Mexican tiles form a backsplash and pale quartz counters top distressed grey-green cabinetry picked up on sale at Lowe’s. The oven is a vintage “Hold a Matic” range by O’Keefe + Merritt. Around the window with a view of a side garden, Ivy applied vinyl wallpaper in a black-and-white woodland scene.

A stairwell and the staircase are lit up by vintage bird cages repurposed into chandeliers.

“It’s eclectic,” Ivy said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s an old house.”


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