The first thing Brian Bockman will tell you about his house is that he doesn’t live there. The 1890s single shotgun cottage has a living room, a bedroom, bathrooms and a kitchen, but no one actually lives there. The space is home to architecture firm Bockman Forbes + Glasgow.
The front door opens into the living room and then into a hallway created by enclosing the side gallery. The hall begins with a fully furnished bedroom and ends with a full kitchen that extends the width of the house. The two rooms in between are where Brian Bockman, Jack Forbes and David Glasgow design residential and commercial properties that pop. What would be the second bedroom is a private office. Half of the would-be dining room is occupied by a large worktable in the middle with three desks built into the surrounding walls.
The green-shuttered shotgun is the last place you would expect to find a group that specializes in modern eclectic design. But the interior is full of “new-told” furnishings and objects. Bockman patented the word to describe the incorporation of new elements into older pieces. Lamps from his parents’ 1960s billiard room jumped decades forward after he replaced the shades. One lamp sits next to a red touch-tone telephone on the black-and-gold trunk nestled into the kitchen wall.
The house is their work in progress. Pieces are brought in, arranged and often sold to clients. Without permanent inhabitants, the house can be rearranged as easily as a Mr. Potato Head — mix and match. The table in the living room was a prototype for a store sales counter. The chairs were found, rechromed and reupholstered. The sofa, a permanent piece, had two previous lives before its current manifestation. When Bockman’s grandmother owned it, the sofa was green brocade. His mother had it done in orange velvet. Bockman reshaped it and reupholstered it in slate suede.
“The home is a showcase in a residential setting,” Bockman says. “It’s an experiment for me. It’s always changing.”
The mixture of work and home makes for a relaxed office. Stress is minimal when breaks can be taken under a palm tree and sending a memo means turning around. Although the three men work regular hours, they fix breakfast and lunch in the kitchen, keep up with gardening and spend time around the pool in the backyard. They meet with clients at the kitchen table — a white elliptical model designed by Danish inventor Piet Hein — and talk while cradling Swedish mugs of coffee or tea. Three bay windows look out to a spacious backyard perfect for after-hours parties.
Hurricane Katrina cleared much of the existing vegetation, including several giant queen palm trees. Bockman saw this as an opportunity to clear the area and bring much-needed sun into the previously too-shady pool area. New palms and gardenia shrubs have been planted. Bromeliads are scattered throughout, potted in driftwood that resembles animal mounts.
During Katrina, the utility building lost its tin roof, which was reused to border the property line. Deck space was built on the existing foundation of the building. Behind the pool, a stone path leads to a small wooden shelter where guests can relax in white molded fiberglass chairs and watch several silver balls float around the pool. The volleyball-size orbs used to hang in the group’s Magazine Street store window. When the store closed after the storm, the balls got thrown in the pool and have stayed.
“It’s hard to find pieces that go with the history of the house,” Bockman says. “If you can’t complement what’s there, go completely against it.”
Even in a constant state of transition, each room’s components work well with one another, even when seemingly oppositional, and fit within the color palette. Hand-blown glassware lines the shelf above the kitchen sink. Curvaceous, vibrant vases and drinking glasses offset the cabinetry — painted black below the counter and pale yellow above to open up the room.
Although fresh and modern, the kitchen also feels lived in, appreciated and loved. They might not sleep here or shower here, but people dwell here. The home matches the balance Bockman, Forbes and Glasgow have found pairing work with life.