The design duo behind New Orleans architecture and design firm Farouki Farouki have done it again.
This time, it’s from the ground up.
Sabri and Caroline Farouki, the architects of colorful local staples Justine, Maypop and Saffron, found an empty lot in the Lower Garden District and knew it would be their sanctuary.
“It was always our dream to build,” said interior designer Caroline, a Lafayette native. “We looked for a long time, and we looked at historic homes, but realized it wasn’t what we wanted to do. We wanted to create the space ourselves.”
The couple first met while studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Post-grad, Caroline attended Savannah College of Art and Design and Sabri studied at Columbia University. In 2010, the couple married at Latrobe’s in the French Quarter, but the design duo returned to New York City, where they lived for half a decade.
It wasn’t until they had their first child, Remy, now 6, that they wanted a change. The Faroukis moved to New Orleans to be close to Caroline’s family in Lafayette. They also knew New Orleans would allow them an opportunity to create their own design firm and their ideal home.
“We had a new baby and we were starting a company. We started renting over by Tulane, with hopes of eventually building or buying. It took a few years,” said Sabri, whose work includes designing at global architecture firms Bjarke Ingels Group and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
In the meantime, the couple launched their firm, Farouki Farouki, and built up a sleek local portfolio. They also had a second baby, Maz, now three.
Then, fortuitously, the family of four a discovered a hidden gem. Just steps from Magazine Street, the Faroukis found an intriguing plot of land.
“It looked like an overgrown driveway in between old homes in the Lower Garden District,” said Caroline, who formerly worked at New York City studios AvroKO and Pompei A.D.
The space presented an interesting design challenge: it’s 18.5 feet wide and 140 feet long. The Faroukis started with the plans, understanding that the unique size would dictate the design of their future dream house.
One distinctive design decision was to place the bedrooms on the first floor and the living room, dining room, and kitchen on the second. “We knew the second floor would be full of natural light and views, and knew downstairs would feel a little closed in. Our first apartment was on the second floor and had windows on all sides. It felt like we were in a tree house. We wanted to do same thing here,” the Lafayette native explained.
In between the historic homes of the Lower Garden District sprouted a modern jewel box splashed in a deep greyish hue of Benjamin Moore’s Narragansett Green. The family of four moved into the new digs in October 2020.
Inside, a light and airy vibe permeates the home. The kitchen, anchored with a marble island, is bright, inviting, and modern. “Off the kitchen is a roof deck. We’ll do drinks and casual family dinners out there,” said Caroline. The roof deck has an L-shaped sofa and coffee table, perfect for cocktails at sunset. “It became our outdoor hangout with friends during the pandemic.”
Another interesting touch was putting the front door on the side of the house. “We didn’t want a long hallway running along the interior of the house because we knew that would take up a lot of space,” explained Sabri. The Faroukis placed a locally fabricated steel gate at the front of the home which leads to the entrance on the side. When guests enter, they’re greeted with a statement, custom made, geometric staircase. Local vendor Vision Wood provided the white oak steps and guardrail.
The couple opted for local team Inhab Millworks to handle home construction, as well as custom millwork in every room, using Northern white oak.
“In the kids’ bedroom, each kid has their own bed canopy that looks like a house, with plenty of book and toy storage below, all by Inhab,” Sabri said.
“We opted for a high-low mix,” Caroline added. “For instance, in the powder room we chose materials that were inexpensive. But we combined that with custom shelves and a custom mirror. Everything fades into the background and the focus becomes a nice wooden frame.”
The home follows a minimalist aesthetic. “Sabri and I don’t like a lot of stuff, so we wanted to be very purposeful with all of the millwork. At the end of the living room, we have custom bookshelves, lined with plants and books. We don’t have a lot of art,” Caroline said. The one piece of art meant to be a focal point in the house is the print by local screen printing studio, Four Finger Press. Over the bed in the master, the piece reads: “Le Bon Temps.”
Another quirky thing about the Farouki residence is, because of the home’s narrow shape, it posed a conundrum for the structural engineer, Batture. Typically, an engineer would use shear walls for stability, but that’s not what the couple wanted.
“We wanted to avoid shear walls upstairs, because we wanted the space to be wide open,” Sabri said. “The alternative was to do a steel structure. It’s double duty: it provides structural stability and divides the space with a unique and natural material. We could have hidden the steel columns and beams in drywall, but we chose to expose them.” The steel frame lends the home an industrial, loft-like feel, atypical of New Orleans residential architecture.
Because the Faroukis have been at this game for a long time, there weren’t many surprises when building their new home.
“On the second floor, facing away from the street, there was a lovely surprise,” Sabri said. “We discovered there are beautiful trees in our neighbor’s backyard. All you see are gorgeous viburnum, oak, and palm. Now we’re living in our very own treehouse.”