Maybe it’s the use of Galvalume corrugated metal as sheathing on the front, back and sides of the Annunciation Street house or the application of Azek nondegradable decking material in a panel on the facade. Or maybe it is the fact that there are just two windows on the front of it. But when the dowdiest house on the block morphed into a striking contemporary version of its former self, neighbors took notice.
“There are some who love it and others who seem to hate it,” said Miriam Salas, the home’s owner and studio director for Campo Architects. “I worked on the design for it for a couple of years, and Mike (Ballard) drafted the plans for the project.”
Ballard is Salas’ partner and host of “The Lonely Ab” (Facebook.com/thelonelyab), a weekly live cooking show on Facebook borne out of the couple’s efforts to eat healthfully — but deliciously — as Ballard recovers from a stroke 11 months ago.
The show, staged at the island in the couple’s gleaming white kitchen, appears at noon on Sundays. It’s a use they did not see coming during the design phase of the project or during the six-month period that Asper Construction was on the job (July 2017 to January 2018).
It was the rarest of construction projects: It came in on time and under budget, Salas said.
The house had an unusual configuration when Salas bought it in 2006: Both the front wall and west-facing side wall of the first floor were recessed, so that the second floor was wider and longer than the first. This configuration created a front porch of sorts and a side gallery on the first floor that ran the length of the house along the driveway.
The renovation called for moving the front wall of the first floor forward to match that of the second, giving the front facade a forward-facing gable and replacing wood siding with Galvalume. Window placement was reconsidered to allow for privacy, especially on the first floor.
“One of the motivations behind the renovation was to create a private, accessible and comfortable suite for my mother, who visits from Venezuela and lives with us part of the year,” Salas said. “We also wanted a place that is low on exterior maintenance.”
The side gallery stayed. It now extends to the entry — which is on the side instead of the front — and is screened from the street by cleverly configured panels of Azek. Beyond the entry and about halfway back along the gallery is a raised planter (also sheathed in charcoal colored Azek) where Ballard grows herbs he uses on air — rosemary, mint, dill, oregano, purple basil and whatever is fresh at the time.
In addition to the suite on the first floor, the renovation yielded three bedrooms and two baths on the second floor, all connected by a common area.
Windows in the two upstairs bedrooms facing Annunciation Street offer views of Carnival crowds en route to parades that line up nearby.
Downstairs, one enters into a foyer, with Salas’ mom’s suite to the right and the couple’s living room to the left. Walls were removed to create a flow, but one or two also were added; one new wall encloses the previously open staircase and creates a place for bookshelves (made from Ikea cabinets without doors, installed both vertically and horizontally) and storage.
“We call our interior design style ‘West Elm meets Ikea’ with a few vintage pieces thrown into the mix, and the whole place is loaded with artwork,” Salas said. Black-and-white photographs and long, narrow paintings enliven the living room; paintings by New Orleans artist Kenneth Scott are placed in the stairwell.
But the heart of the house, the place where Salas and Ballard live, is at the rear, where a glorious tropical garden stuffed with plants is visible through the glass walls of the kitchen and dining spaces.
“The room was here, but its roofline was nearly flat, so we extended the back wall out just a little bit and gave it a new roof with a two-way pitch,” Salas said. “That’s what made it possible to vault the ceiling over the space and use tie rods to hold it together.”
The result is a visually stunning but highly functional space that relies for some of its drama on the view of the citrus trees, ginger and jasmine in the rear beds, all shaded by an oak tree. Ample decking and the transparency of the glass wall make for a seamless flow from inside to outside. At night, strings of white lights illuminate the garden with an otherworldly glow.
For all of the home’s sophistication and cerebral appeal, it’s nonetheless simply the home of two 40-something New Orleans residents who enjoy Carnival, the Saints, inviting friends over and the city’s cooking traditions.
“If you drop by on any given Sunday, you will smell something familiar cooking in the kitchen while we’re chanting ‘Who Dat’ in the living room,” Salas said.
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