When my husband and I moved to New Orleans from NYC three and a half years ago, we knew exactly what kind of New Orleans home we wanted to buy. However, it was the height of the housing boom and finding a historic home within our price range was damn near impossible. We considered giving up the dream of owning a home and possibly just buying a condo, until we found an "undesirable" house just sitting on the market in a great location. Maybe no one was touching it because it was a raised ranch style home from the 1950s with low ceilings or because the layout was not great. Who knows? But when we saw it, we saw opportunity. With a little creativity and the "know how", we could increase the value of this ugly duckling and create something that we could live in and love!
Challenges we were faced with:
1. Lack of Space
The existing home is 1100 square feet + 300 square foot garage; 2 bedroom/ 1 bathroom/ with an awkward-shaped bonus room that we used as an office. We needed a little more square footage for an additional bedroom and bathroom. We knew we could steal square footage from the garage space and build out a utility room. The existing washer and dryer just sit on the garage slab right now. Did I mention there was only ONE bathroom- ahhhh!
2. Inefficient Layout
The kitchen was small and in the back of the house, separate and far from living and dining rooms which were in the front of the house; the long, narrow back bonus room made for a nice office but now that we have an office outside our home, we needed to capture that space back for our every day use.
3. Marketability & Curb Appeal
This house wasn't built like it's neighboring Victorian era homes with 12'-0" ceilings. The ceilings were quite low at 8'2" making the house less marketable than others in the same neighborhood. It also had an unsightly prominent garage door making the curb appeal well, less than appealing.
Our design approach:
We saw an opportunity to create a large entertaining zone in the back half of the house. We plan to remove the walls and ceiling joists in the large entertaining room (comprised of kitchen+living+dining). It makes for a functional and attractive living room with access to the backyard. We knew we needed to vault the ceilings, since such a large room with a low ceiling would feel oppressive and cave-like. We will support the rafters with rafter bracing or collar ties. The low pitch roof was a good candidate for vaulting as the proportions still feel cozy and residential. In this scheme, we can take advantage of the sunlight penetrating into the long narrow house and access views of the lush green backyard.
The existing front porch will be built-out and transformed into a master en-suite. By removing the front door entrance, the new entrance will be on the side of the house, which is not uncommon in the denser neighborhoods of New Orleans, where homes are built out to the street. We will gain another bedroom which is great as it increases the value of the home. The garage remains but is smaller now, but still able to accommodate our SUV. I really like having a garage because it makes for secure spot in a neighborhood where many people park on the street for music festivals and events on the bayou.
Lastly our design approach for interior materials and finishes aims to pay reference to the time in which the home was built: the 1950s and the beginnings of modernism, with less ornamental trim work, more wood grain paneling and minimalist styling.
We are the process of exploring the exterior fenestration and architectural elements. Being in a historic neighborhood, we do have some rules and regulations about what we can do to the exterior. Once we get those approvals, we'll post the exterior views. Check back in with us in the New Year!