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Space Adventures

How to build a modern shotgun home into a narrow lot

The colorful tiny house in Marigny is all new construction on a 15-foot lot. The house replaced the original 1830-era building that collapsed.

Cheryl Gerber Photographs

It began life as a historic (circa 1830) 700-square-foot, bargeboard, single-shotgun house in Faubourg Marigny and ended up as a glamorous, all new, state-of-the-art home that tells the story of how to best utilize a tiny 15-foot-wide lot in today’s timeframe. She didn’t plan to tear down the charming small house on Royal Street that she purchased in February 2006, explains Carmen Nance Sanders, an artist who divides her time between New Orleans and Solomons Island, an idyllic waterfront fishing village on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where she owns a gallery bearing her name. “Then I began what I thought would be minor renovations and the house completely collapsed because the contractor didn’t know what he was doing.”

Sadly, the $50,000 Sanders had paid her contractor disappeared with him to Texas. “I was devastated. Lawsuits followed, but I wasn’t to be outdone by my misfortune, so I decided to rebuild a new and better shotgun house. It was my good luck to find James Cripps, the perfect architect, who came up with an amazing plan that gave me everything I wanted and much more.”

“I jumped at the chance to do Carmen’s project because the lot and house were so small,” Cripps says. “It’s only 15 feet wide on the street side, but it tapers to 14 feet at the rear.” Cripps’ final design was a 12-foot-wide house that is 11 feet (wide) in the rear. It is still the classic room-behind-room shotgun style, but the new house is 1,200-square-feet.

Cripps brought in contractor Douglas Matthews (Concordia Group, LLC), who was enthusiastic about the project and felt it would be a perfect showcase for his talented crew of workers. Matthews strolls around the house like a proud papa pointing out the major highlights of the construction. “This is a solid house with a lot of style,” he says. “The open stairway is magnificent and all of the millwork is of the highest quality.”

The trio of Sanders, Cripps and Matthews made up a triumphant building team that went about the project with a passion to create a perfect house. “The strict constraints of the width were best served with an open floor plan for the living room and kitchen with the rear of the first level configured for the dining room and sitting room/guest room that shares the same space, which isn’t a problem since sitting or sleeping is provided by a daybed,” Cripps says.

“The back of the first floor plan works perfectly for guests,” Sanders adds. “There’s a pocket door that divides the rear space, allowing for total privacy with a full bathroom neatly tucked in just beyond the door that also has a pocket door.”

The camelback second floor has a loft bedroom that overlooks the entire front of the downstairs, taking full advantage of the openness of the house and making it more inviting. A luxurious master bathroom with a large, glass-enclosed shower, Jacuzzi tub, vanity with a single sink and even a full-size washer and a dryer, completes the second floor plan. Dramatic stained concrete floors and the contemporary stairway are highlights of the home, as is the suspended lighting Sanders selected for the downstairs.

“My home is definitely a successful interpretation of a classic New Orleans shotgun,” Sanders says. “Perfect replicas of the original windows, interior and exterior doors, shutters and trim were milled under the watchful eye of my wonderful contractor. The charming juxtaposition is that we have interesting high-tech elements side-by-side with historic features that make this an unique modern home.”

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