In discussing this new “downsized” house I discovered that, given every chance, they fled Montgomery and headed west to New Orleans. Everyone has a city, town or spot where they at once feel a sense of environmental belonging. Something in the atmosphere harkens – the buildings, the aromas, the sounds – ephemeral sirens that inexplicably cause you to crash your well-helmed boat into its awaiting rocks. The Big Easy was my clients’ place and they craved everything about it.
I love getting to know clients; I particularly enjoy mining passions. We began discussing Creole architecture. Mind you, we’d never done a house of this style before nor are there many examples of it in this area. That didn’t stop us, however, because together we recognized what a new home for them should look like. It should look like where they were drawn.
A trip to nearby New Orleans provided inspiration. The collected snapshots (shown above) were but a few of the Creole delicacies my eyes digested. The side-loaded Creole row house proved to be an excellent prototype for a downsized home. Basically one room deep, these efficient houses give the street a polite, but brief, introduction all the while holding their more generous offerings for a side courtyard. A perfect setup for a couple weary of maintaing a large property. Heritage established, the next hurdle was to provide something found rampant in New Orleans – a beautiful patina of decrepitude. An inexpensive brick, slathered with a thin coat of inherently colored mortar administered instant age. Most stucco buildings in New Orleans are brick structures underneath and this invented treatment created the illusion of a time-worn plaster coating. Next came the studied trim work – pencil thin columns, decorative brackets, crude plank shutters and the odd random Federal detailing completed the composition. A louvered potting shed backed into the courtyard corner bore a quiet witness to it all. In the end, all was complete. We created a bit of New Orleans 5 hours east of the Crescent City.
About a year ago I ran into these clients and asked them if they were still visiting their beloved New Orleans. Surprisingly, the told me they hadn’t been in a while. Living in and enjoying their new house, they said they hadn’t felt the need to go as often.
A broad grin stretched across my face. We’d succeeded in bringing home, home.
Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley
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