La Maison: Passion Project

Iberia Parish designer brings the outside in to create a modern masterpiece
Breaux’s furniture collection is the result of more than 20 years of vintage shopping, “long before that was cool.” He calls the current arrangement a perpetual work in progress — he says he is constantly buying and trading pieces out. He shakes his head as he recounts some of the bargains he’s scored, which he calls “criminal.” Among his treasures: a set of Florence Knoll chairs he bought for $5 each from Tulane University and a Neil Nehrbass sofa, given away for nothing.

Designer Joel Breaux spent almost a decade conceptualizing and building his one-of-a-kind residence, which doubles as a physical metaphor of his design philosophy.

“Most people think of architecture as protecting you from the world,” says Breaux. “I see it as trying to connect you to the world.”

Built eight feet off the ground next to a sugarcane field in Iberia Parish, the structure’s corrugated-metal facade could easily be mistaken for a boat shed.

That’s not an accident.

Breaux says he chose the metal for its raw beauty, but also because he noticed it as a ubiquitous material being used in structures throughout rural Acadiana.  

“That corrugated metal was the starting point in my mind,” says Breaux. “They create a module and a system.”

The home’s interior plays off this ethos and juxtaposes ample natural light with concrete block walls. But the real treasure lies within Breaux’s keenly curated collections — everything from midcentury modern furniture he scored on Craigslist to rare Russel Wright ceramic dinnerware.

“The stuff I have is like a museum collection,” says Breaux. “The rooms are actually almost like galleries. You can change the vibe in the room by switching out things from storage.”

His walls pay homage to local artists, his mother (a painter for more than 35 years), photographer Leo Touchet, as well as designs by his business partner BJ Krivanek, with whom he produces text-based public art installations across the United States. Evidence of Breaux’s passion for music is peppered throughout the 1,200-square-foot space, most notably an enviable stockpile of vinyl records. Breaux, a native of Loreauville, says it took moving to California for him to learn to play the accordion and fiddle. Despite despite his long run as an accomplished Cajun musician however, he insists it’s only a hobby.

Breaux says design is his vocation and his home serves a testament to his beliefs. Most importantly, it showcases his intentional use of raw materials and building methods.

“Everything I make, I try to make so that it’s brutally honest in its construction,” says Breaux. “And not just honest, but somehow poetic, and it becomes part of the language and it’s communicative.”

We’re all ears.


DETAILS
Project Designer: Joel Breaux
Interiors & Construction Management: Lisa Bourque
Fabrication & Construction: BRODesign
Fabrication Assistants: Karl Breaux, Ben Davis
Construction Assistant: Miguel Lasala
Engineering Consultants: Brian Patin, Ray Desormeaux

 A floor-to-ceiling picture window in the home’s living space frames an adjacent sugarcane field. Breaux says when the sugarcane is at its full height, it’s at the level of his bamboo floor. “There’s a continuity, it’s like you’re just on it,” he says. Although the home occupies a modest 1,200 square feet, Breaux’s design accomplishes a wide-open feel by thinking creatively: “The ceiling doesn’t meet the wall. You don’t have a rigid definition of what the space is, so it stops you from forming that picture in your mind of the size of the space.”

 

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