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Middle Ground

Transforming a double shotgun into a high-functioning live-and-work space

The living room is defined by the area rug and two high-back custom-made armchairs; a pair of oversize French chandeliers hang, one in the living room, and one in the library. All furnishings from Eclectic Home.

Sara Essex Bradley

In New Orleans a classic shotgun house is often the much-maligned double shotgun: one house split down the middle into two residences. Most renovations call for turning a double into a single. Designer Penny Francis was asked to keep a double shotgun house intact for a client, making one side for living, and the other side the professional office for the homeowner — the New Orleans version of living above the store.

The main problem was figuring out how to create plentiful stylish storage on the residential side of the house. Serious editing of the homeowner’s possessions was the first thing on the list. Special family pieces remained, as well as a beloved art collection. New pieces were designed for function and flexibility without sacrificing beauty.

When the house was purchased the original heart pine floors were painted black. They were immediately stripped and refinished with a warm walnut stain. Millwork and built-in cabinetry was painted bright white against soft gray walls. The same color runs throughout the entire house. Art and accessories enliven the neutral palette. Sleek, simple and natural bamboo shades are hung on every window in lieu of drapery that would take up physical and visual space. Plantation shutters are also used on the windows at the front of the house and in the master bedroom for the same reason.


 Art and accessories are used to enliven the neutral palette used throughout the house. Painting over antique commode by Jere Allen, lacquered box, lamp and French style chair from Eclectic Home.

Custom storage was created down the long hallway. Distressed antique mirrors were installed on the doors. The original heart pine floors were refinished with a warm walnut stain. Facing page: Kitchen and furniture on a perpendicular grid to break up the linear footprint of the shoutgun house. Settee, trestle dining table and French cane back chairs from Eclectic Home. Painting by Jere Allen.


Essentially, the house is one long space that needed to provide four functions: a library for the homeowner’s collection of books; a living room; a dining area and kitchen; and a bedroom. There are also two bathrooms. To tie the four functions together, Francis designed a hallway of custom made storage that features the exterior of the doors fitted with distressed antiqued mirrors.

When possible, Francis arranged furnishings on a perpendicular grid to break up the lengthy footprint of the house. The galley-style kitchen has a huge amount of storage, including an island that butts up against the dining area. Instead of doing a built-in banquette, a French-style settee with a back the same height as the island was nestled in front of it, on one side of the dining table. This allows for the settee, the dining chairs and the table to be reconfigured for various styles of entertaining, whether it’s a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party.

High ceilings are the trade-off in a shotgun house, expanding the feeling and sight lines of the space and affording an opportunity to use oversized chandeliers. Two are used, one in the library at the front of the house and another in the living room. The library is at the front of the house, and clever furniture placement also creates the feeling of an entry “hall.” Custom bookcases were built into the entire common wall that has an original fireplace. The wall separates the house down the middle. An antique mirror is used over the mantle reflecting the chandelier and the window on the opposite wall. A large antique desk is placed at an angle in front of the bookcases. There is also room for an additional comfortable chair and side table, creating a reading nook.


 An antique desk is placed at an angle in front of the windows in the library at the front of the house. 

The master bedroom with an iron bed and an antique table stacked with books.

The large exterior deck at the back of the house affords extra space for entertaining.


The library segues into the living room, joined by the color of the walls and defined by a neutral-colored area rug. A curved, custom button-tufted linen sofa breaks up the linear feeling of the space, and two custom armchairs are on swivels. Their tall backs reinforce the defining aspects of the space. Two small tables are placed in front of the sofa instead of a large coffee table. The trestle dining table is very much a part of the living room, and is placed at the same angle, and in front of the kitchen island. The flow of kitchen cabinetry spills into the long hallway, all made cohesive by using the same millwork.

The master bedroom is at the back of the house. French doors open to a very large deck spanning the double width of the house, creating a large space for entertaining and an outdoor sitting room. A small guesthouse is at the back of the property, a perfect second bedroom with a bathroom and kitchenette.
Both designer and client appreciate the results of making a half of a house into a wholly functional home with a very short commute to work.

 

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