Under Three Roofs

The house that kept going
Above: Guest house with second floor loft. Rustic (wood-finish ceramic floors and exposed beams) meets modern (white walls, clerestory windows and iron stair rail) in the guest house.

When realtor Terrence Davis first got a call about selling a friend’s property, he had no designs on making it his own. But as the friend walked him through the prospective listing, which includes a Victorian shotgun, an early 20th century commercial space that once served as the original location of Hansen’s Sno-bliz, and a tiny mother-in-law efficiency hidden from the street, a new plan began to develop.  

“We walked through the front door and the property kept going and going,” said Terrence. “Doing this every day as a realtor specializing in renovation and design and new construction, I knew what this property could be with a little attention.”

The previous owner, a New Orleans native and former professor of urban planning at Columbia University, began renovating the empty commercial space years earlier while his parents lived in the shotgun, but eventually had to put the plans aside. In Terrence, he saw someone who would be intentional about respecting the past while updating the structures for today.

“Terrence found some old articles about how the commercial space had been a pharmacy, a bike shop, a grocery,” said Katie. “That’s what appealed to me. It had potential. It was so unique.”

The couple closed in January of 2019, renovated the main house first and moved in, along with their eight-year old daughter, in March. They cleared away the overgrown garden  and awnings that obscured the front of the 1907 house, preserved its original wood floors, transoms, doors, windows and fireplaces, gutted the kitchen and bath, added new hardware, enclosed a small side porch in order to use the square footage for a laundry and clothes closets, and painted and decorated. 

Next, came the mother-in-law quarters behind the main house. The couple refreshed it with new surfaces in the kitchen and bath and with comfortable furnishings for guests. The final stage was the next-door building that had been vacant for years. They followed the same open floorplan that the previous owner had framed with a few tweaks and the addition of a full bath to go with its second, loft-style bedroom upstairs. 

“We wanted to do it right, so we took our time,” said Katie, who spent many hours picking out tiles and other finishes with her husband. 

Both love the creativity of the design process. They also share a mutual love for real estate that began when they were living in Europe. Terrence, who was then playing professional basketball, became interested in real estate as an investment opportunity. But what started as a thoughtfully considered business decision soon became a full-blown passion. Together, the Davises, who find inspiration in the Old World architecture of Europe and New Orleans, have renovated eight properties in the Uptown area. What set this one apart was its age and history. 

“This is the oldest we’ve ever done,” said Terrence. “We loved the challenge of the histor

y with the modern, the old with the new.” 

Like the shotgun, the guest cottage is a mix of both. Exposed beams across its airy vaulted ceiling and picture windows across its facade suggest its rustic commercial origins and passersby regularly inquire about it. 

Since the Davises are seasoned renovators, they had a clear idea of what they wanted the refurbished property to look like. After selecting the finishes themselves, they hired local designer Peyton Bainbridge to complete their vision with furniture and appointments. The fully realized project lives much larger than its predecessor. While the main house incorporates only 1,305 square feet, it’s enhanced by the guest house’s 1,350 square feet of open living and the mother-in-law quarters’ 280 square-foot linear arrangement. Front and back porches and a hidden courtyard expand the overall footprint with places to enjoy the outdoors.  

“When I first went in, I thought the main house might have been small for us,” said Terrence. “Then I saw that the guest house in back was great for guests and the original snowball stand as spillover space for us. Its design is open the way modern living is today.”

“We entertain a lot, we like hosting parties and people,” said Katie, adding another reason why the unusual trifecta of dwellings works so well. 

The Davis’s daughter Kennedy sums it up this way, “I like our new house because it feels like home.”