Sarah Martzolf moves a mile a minute. Describing herself as an overachiever "who could never stop with the extracurriculars," she keeps busy as a real estate agent, a renovator of historic homes, the star of a reality show pilot, among other things. But her Uptown home, which she shares with her husband and dog, shows a laid-back side of her.
A New Orleans native, a big part of Martzolf’s business is finding and renovating smaller historic homes, with a goal of improving neighborhoods and creating spaces with high resell value.
"I really want to do good things for the home and the neighborhood. Not in a way of kicking out the homeowners who live there and want to be there, but making nice, sustainable homes to resell," she says.
Her businesses recently landed her the DIY Network show Small House, Big Easy, which documents her renovating an Uptown home. The pilot premiered February 20 (and airs again April 6), and the network will pick up the rest of the series depending on ratings.
For Martzolf’s own home, it’s a compromise effort between she and her husband, David Jackson. Her husband bought the house before they were married; as someone who’s in the business of finding and fixing up homes, how’d he do?
"I think he did a really good job," Martzolf says, smiling. "But he always says ‘I just had a good eye to pick it out, but Sarah finished it.'"
A former corner store (there’s a photo of the old store hanging on the walls), the house had some issues when Jackson found it—open wires, a yellow paint job, wood stained with shoe polish—but Martzolf say the home had a great layout (except for an upstairs bathroom, positioned so that you could see the toilet from the foot of the stairs), high ceilings, and a big living room.
"Getting a great room in a historic house like this is almost impossible," she says.
The two met when they were "stubbornly single," and the merging of lives also meant the merging of hard-set styles. As a result, the home is an eclectic mix of the two of them, but that took a lot of struggle. Martzolf has advice for couples building a home together: prioritize projects, make sure both parties are being heard in design discussions, focus on what you both like and dislike, and most of all, be sensitive to each other.
The couple ultimately decided to start with a neutral foundation and build from there. They opted for white walls, but added pops of blues and greens through throw pillows, lamps, and other accessories. Everything fits here, from chic touches like an acrylic coffee table and chair, cowhide rugs, and funky side tables, to some of Jackson’s contributions: a blue lava lamp, guitars on the wall, and his 610 Stomper of the Year award.
Both are artists in their spare time; Martzolf is a painter, Jackson a photographer, and their works cover the walls. In both her work and in her home, Sarah is big on putting money towards what will give the home value: splurge on a luxurious master bathroom and kitchen, and save with DIY art and inexpensive accessories, for example.
Besides the big living room (it can fit two sofas!), what Martzolf loves most about the house is its layout: it’s open, but it's not the kitchen-in-the-living-room layout that’s popular now.
"You walk into the foyer, and you have the den that flows into the kitchen, but I can also have people over and be like ‘get the hell out of the kitchen, go sit in the living room,’" she says.
The couple is a fan of casual gatherings ("My husband is in medical sales and wears scrubs for a living, so if it requires more than jeans he’s not interested," Martzolf says): backyard barbecues, football parties, fun dinners. Martzolf’s attitude toward dinner parties mirrors the casual elegance of her home: "I do make everything from scratch, but it’s easy stuff." Outside, there’s a porch where today, Dave is playing the guitar and Bear the dog sidles right next to him.
"I think [the house] is tailored enough, but sometimes the pillows are everywhere and it’s OK. Sometimes the dog is in my husband’s lap, and that’s OK," Martzolf says. "It’s all stuff we like but nothing that can get ruined."