Jen Picard and Kris Ford weren’t looking to buy a house right away when they contacted real estate agent Ariana Tipper.
Instead, the couple, who had been renting in Bywater, were planning ahead for six to 12 months down the road when they thought the time might be right.
But when Tipper took them to Holy Cross to show them a few examples of houses in their price range, they fell in love with a house that the Preservation Resource Center had purchased from the Road Home Program and then renovated.
Now, Picard and Ford call a charming Craftsman bungalow in Holy Cross home and have moved in just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“When we first saw this place, they were still working on getting it all finished,” said Picard, a Mandeville native who works in the film industry. “But you could just tell how great it was going to be.”
“I actually fell for a bigger house a few blocks away, but it was at the top end of our price range, so Jen had to convince me about this one,” said Ford, who works at the African-American Resource Center at the main library on Loyola Avenue. “Now I’m really happy with it.”
Built in about 1940, the 1,200-square-foot house features signature architectural details including exposed rafter tails, faux timbering in the gable, and a Craftsman door.
Its large lot has plenty of room for off-street parking, plus a huge rear yard and vintage metal garage.
“Right now, the garage is for storage, but later on we want to make it into a darkroom for Jen and a sewing room for me,” said Ford, who plans to sew all of the curtains for the house.
Both Ford and Picard like to cook, and now they have the perfect place to turn out meals and Picard’s specialty, baked goods. Cheesecake, pumpkin bread and homemade king cakes are just a few of the delicacies that Picard made for Ford when they were first getting to know one another.
“That was how Jen wooed me — with baked goods,” Ford laughed.
The kitchen in the couple’s home extends across the rear of the house and features creamy off-white cabinets set off by dark granite countertops. A built-in pantry makes for ample storage of cooking ingredients. A door opens from the kitchen to the rear yard, now a field of grass.
But Picard and Ford don’t intend for it to stay empty for long. They have already selected the trees they want to plant: a fig, a satsuma and a Meyer lemon. And they’ve decided that a swale in the middle of the space will make the perfect location for a fire pit.
The Holy Cross neighborhood, situated along the river in the Lower Ninth Ward, attracted the couple for several reasons.
“My father grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, and now my mother lives eight blocks away,” Ford said. “Jen and I thought a lot about where we wanted to live, and we didn’t want to be part of the issue of people being displaced. We like this neighborhood for what it is, not what someone wants to make it into.”
For Picard, the neighborliness of the area has major appeal.
“I like being able to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’ to my neighbors and getting to know their names,” Picard said. “It’s quiet down here, and people are friendly. When you rent, you are always at the mercy of a landlord who might decide to do something else with the property. We were paying $1,100 a month for something we would never have a claim on, and now the house note is $930 a month and it’s going toward something.”
Having lived together for three-plus years, Picard and Ford have amassed a portfolio of treasured possessions that now enliven the rooms of their new home.
A collection of vintage cameras on a mantel speaks to Picard’s interest in film and photography; an oak card-catalogue cabinet to Ford’s goal of earning a master’s degree in library science.
In the entry, a dramatic painting of the interior of a deteriorated house sits atop a console of salvaged wood — a score from a Green Project auction — and the two pieces mix well with mid-century modern pieces such as the dinette set in the adjacent dining room.
For now, the second bedroom has been transformed into a comfortable TV room, furnished with a pillowed sofa and animal hide rug. A French bulldog named Otis and two cats, Loki and Richard Parker, keep Ford and Picard company.
Come Thanksgiving Day, Picard and Ford plan to host friends and family at their new home and to entertain them in style. But Ford admits to feeling a little self-conscious hosting the holiday dinner.
“Food really matters in my family, and if you take a bad dish to a family dinner, people will talk about it for years,” Ford joked. “The next time there is a family event, you’ll be asked to bring paper plates instead of food.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follower her on Twitter @rstephaniebruno.