THE "THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME" ADAGE particularly rings true when it comes to these unconventional residences in New Orleans. While the city is known for its colorful, historic architecture, these newer homes also display character, innovation and charm.
Each of these houses is environmentally friendly: One is made from an old grain silo that its owner found on Craigslist; one is crafted from shipping containers (and also reflects the industrial components along the nearby Mississippi River) and another is tiny and efficient, as its owner strives to reduce her carbon footprint.
By now, most people have heard of Marie Kondo and her decluttering methods. She has inspired many people to at least clean out their closets, but most probably haven’t drastically changed their lifestyles. We don’t know if this homeowner in the Lower 9th Ward subscribes to Kondo’s philosophies, but this home likely would make Kondo proud.
Just a few blocks from the Industrial Canal, this tiny house serves as the perfect minimalist space for a young homeowner who purchased it when she was a student two years ago. At just 580 square feet, there is virtually no room for messes or extraneous possessions; every part of the home must be used efficiently.
Selling agent Robert Van Meter says he’s not sure if the trend of tiny homes will take off in New Orleans.
“I got a lot of inquiries about it [when it was on the market],” he says. “Everyone thinks they want a tiny house, but then they complain about there not being enough space.”
Despite its size, the home — powered by solar panels — offers a few features that are important to New Orleanians, including a wraparound porch and an open kitchen. On the first floor, there’s a small storage closet and a bathroom. Upstairs, there’s a bedroom and a closet. Built through Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, the home was constructed in 2015. Since it’s so new, insuring the property is relatively inexpensive. The homeowner also enjoys low utility bills and property taxes.
WHEN NARROWING DOWN THE SEARCH FOR A HOUSE, local homebuyers face a few tough decisions. Which neighborhood best suits their lifestyles and pe…
“It’s extremely affordable” to live like this, Van Meter says. “[The homeowner] really wanted to reduce her carbon footprint.”
A repurposed vintage grain silo serves as the unconventional, charming guest house in the Gentilly backyard of Robin Brou Antin and her husband, Bob Antin. An architecture enthusiast who works as a nurse, Robin bought the silo from Craigslist in North Carolina for $700 and hired a group of contractors from South Carolina to deliver it to New Orleans, where she solidified blueprints with a licensed architect and dealt with City Hall for permits.
Reminiscent of a castle turret — albeit one on the bohemian side — the guest house has brought a lot of joy to the Antins, their neighbors, friends, grandchildren and other family members. Despite its original purpose, the structure is anything but industrial. The interior is bright and sunny thanks to generous windows and well-placed art and furnishings.
As the only residential structure in New Orleans made from a silo (so far), its arrival a few years ago sparked enthusiasm and curiosity from the Antins’ neighbors and friends. It took about a year to complete the project.
Much of the interior is filled with eclectic artwork and refurbished goods, many of which were donated by Robin’s friends. It also incorporates other repurposed materials of special significance, including a window from Robin’s childhood home that flooded following Hurricane Katrina. A desk chair that folds out from the wall is a seat from the former Krauss Department Store. The design and decor often pay homage to institutions and people of importance to Robin. Her mother and sister died on the same day a few years ago; a celestial stained-glass door was constructed in their honor that incorporates an original decoupage sun designed by her late sister. Robin says the piece also pays tribute to her alma mater, Cabrini High School. (The school’s mascot is a crescent moon.)
The spiral staircase to the right of the entrance leads to a bedroom, which overlooks another stained-glass window salvaged from the St. Frances Cabrini Church on Paris Avenue prior to its demolition.
In the kitchen area, Bob’s son James Antin installed wood features obtained through the Preservation Resource Center.
The silo house also incorporates cob, a natural building material made from subsoil, water and other organic materials. When it rains, Robin finds it soothing to listen to the water drumming on the metal roof. She looks forward to having more visitors this spring — the place is popular for friends to visit during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. In the meantime, she and Bob also enjoy spending quiet evenings there.
Foot-powered and hand-crank drills, bubble levels, a rivet gun, a hammer and anvil — these are the simple tools that craftsman Ross Lunz uses …
“This was a real team effort,” she says. “There’s a lot of symbolism in here, and a lot of meaning.”
“In building this house together, we were building a relationship,” says Kicker Kalozdi, who, with his wife, Anne, a biomedical engineer, facilitated construction of an industrial-style home in the Irish Channel using seven standard-sized shipping containers.
A designer and founder of DamnDog — a company that makes premium bags and specialty sewn products — Kicker loves to tackle projects that require innovation and creativity.
The couple met a few years ago and bonded over a shared passion for fitness. One day during training, Kicker mentioned that he wanted to build a home out of shipping containers. “[Anne] thought I was batshit insane,” he says.
No one in the city had ever done anything quite to this extent before, he says. But after he purchased the lot, “I asked her if she wanted to join me on this project, and as the procedure came along, we got really serious.” Though neither of them works in construction professionally, building the home together solidified their relationship as they navigated critical decisions together.
YOU DID IT! In what is perhaps the pinnacle of “adulting,” you put in an offer to buy a house and that offer was accepted. Now you’re under contract.
Affordability was important to the couple in this project.
“We had cheap sources of metal, so we figured it out one step at a time,” he says. The home incorporates industrial-style interior decor, but it’s also cozy, he says. Banisters are built out of custom-welded square tubing. Doors in the home are reclaimed from a farmhouse slated for demolition. The couple loves to travel internationally, and they collect one-of-a-kind art pieces that are prominently displayed in the house.
“We came up with a lot of ideas on the fly,” Kicker says.
The first floor has a large, open floor plan, where the couple frequently hosts cocktail hours — although Kicker prefers to call them “snacky hours” and requires his friends to show up with food. (A recent party was cereal-themed.) “It’s not a stereotypical layout,” he says. “The dining room, living room and kitchen is just sort of one big, flowing space.” The first floor also features a master bedroom and a guest room that doubles as a home gym for the fitness enthusiasts.
The second floor features Kicker’s home office and studio space that overlooks the first floor.
“It was my dream to have a lofted office space,” he says. “It’s a key feature of the house — we built everything around that.”
There’s another guest room on the second floor. The third floor is a hobby area, he says. “It has potential to become a master suite. We don’t have kids yet, but it could become a master bedroom.” The home also features two rooftop decks, three bathrooms and a courtyard.
The couple and their friends have dubbed it “The KAN house” — it’s a play on Kicker and Anne’s names, a nod to the “cans” from which it’s constructed and also a testament to their can-do personalities.
“We had to learn to build everything from scratch,” Kicker says. “Both of us are relatively intelligent human beings, and we have access to the internet. Plus, we’re both extremely determined, so when we combined that, we realized we could do this together.”