Bright Lights Big City

Bright Lights Big CityA firehouse in the Marigny
is aglow for the holiday season.

Once upon a time there was an old firehouse in the Marigny. The firemen had long since gone and the building, built in 1906, had fallen in disrepair. One day an industrious pair of friends came upon it and thought this faded beauty needed a makeover.

That was 2003, and that pair—William Sonner and Kent Ozborn—soon got to work on the firehouse’s transformation from neglected to beloved. Sonner, an architect, was in charge of the plans and renovation, which took one year. The first floor was turned into a guesthouse with five suites and a social room. The second floor was converted into private quarters for Kent, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen that opens up to a great room with a 14 foot ceiling. (Alas, they closed up the space where the firehouse pole went between the floors, though you can still see where it was in the wood floor.) “The firehouse is a great piece of New Orleans’ history,” says Sonner. “I’m glad we restored it into something livable.”

Bright Lights Big CityThe Christmas tree, which has 3,000 lights on it, is also adorned withornaments Kent Ozborn has collected throughout the years. The firetruck is a gift for his nephew.

When Christmas rolls around, Kent pulls out all the bells and whistles, so to speak, when he decorates. And with a couple of friends he tackles job. The Christmas tree is adorned with 3,000 white lights and ornaments he has collected through the years. “One of the people who helps decorate unwraps all the ornaments and lines them up in a row before they are placed on the tree. It’s very organized,” says Kent. Garland intertwined with white lights and red ribbon are placed over windows, and almost every corner of the house has some sort of Christmas-themed ornament or objets d’art accenting it. Kent is lucky enough to have his own source for quite a few of his decorations: he is the owner of Estella’s, a home furnishings store in Metairie.

Bright Lights Big CityA brass chandelier is decorated with greenery and ribbon.

All this flurry of activity usually happens around Thanksgiving because Kent likes to have a Christmas party the weekend after. (In fact, Kent hosts a number of small gatherings throughout the year.) He invites family and friends, who join him in kicking off the holiday season, which if you think about it, in New Orleans often extends to Mardi Gras. The firehouse, upstairs and down, is crowded with party guests, who sample traditional Southern fare—Kent is from Mississippi—as well as champagne and other libations.

The end of our tale? The firehouse, once forlorn, is now reborn —not only as a place to live, but as a place for celebrations.

Bright Lights Big CityA chest of drawers is accented with colorful Nutcrackers, trees and other adornments.

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Bright Lights Big City
A Christmas scarecrow, A “fireman”, Nutcracker and a more traditional Nutcracker stand to attention.

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Nativityfigures are highlighted by garland intertwined with little whitelights. The front of the firehouse. A fireman Santa Claus guards someChristmas cookies.

Bright Lights Big City
A marble-topped oak sideboard that was Kent Ozborn’s grandmothers isset with Nativity figures. A fresh fruit display on a dining table isnot only beautiful, but is something that party guests can nibble on.The painting is by Nell Mabry.

Bright Lights Big CityKent Ozborn

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