When Nashville designer Chad James was asked to decorate a shotgun house for a dear friend in New Orleans, saying yes was easy. Though the project came with its own unique challenges, it allowed two people to combine households and begin a life together and, most of all, it fit Chad’s motto: work’s got to be fun!
Over drinks one afternoon when Chad’s friend was in Nashville, they talked about this quirky shotgun house that he and his partner recently bought. It was small — only 1200 square feet — and was a typical New Orleans shotgun configuration, a few narrow rooms opening one behind the other, all in a row. While the couple was thrilled to be setting up their first house together, they weren’t quite sure how to make it function to fit the tempo of their lives. In the span of an hour, though, Chad quickly sketched out an idea for a transformation on the back of a cocktail napkin and set to work helping his friend bring the vision to life.
Here’s the designer, Chad James, sitting on the front steps of his friend’s New Orleans shotgun house.
When the homeowners bought the house, the layout was odd-seeming to them: the prior owners had set up the front room as the bedroom, which opened into a living room next, followed by a dining room. The kitchen and bath were at the rear of the house, which made sense, but the bedroom first concept didn’t work. Chad flipped the living spaces so that the living room was the first entry point beyond the door.
At Chad’s suggestion, the couple took full advantage of the opportunity to get rid of old furniture and begin to build a collection that spoke to both of their personalities. They truly started with a blank slate, and Chad coached them through smart purchases that made the most of their minimal space.
As you’ll see in the photos that follow, a warm neutral wash of color on the walls provides continuity that allows the space to feel larger, where dark colors, or using several different colors would have made the space feel smaller and less harmonious. The dark hardwood floors are a singular contrast against the wall color.
Wide turquoise shutters flanking the entry of the home offer a warm, inviting welcome to guests stopping by.
These next few shots are of the living room. Though small, this space is well appointed with ample seating for the couple and and their friends. Repeating the neutral color scheme on the seating keeps the space feeling roomy. The chandelier, which came from Restoration Hardware, is a modern take on an classic shape.
Here’s the living room from another angle. (Note: The wall color throughout the house is Whiskers by Porter Paint.)
This seating area in one corner of the living room is a perfect spot to enjoy a light supper and makes working from home on occasion easy to manage.
French doors in the living room lead directly to the bedroom. Sheer white panels hung behind the French doors offer privacy, but also allow light to filter into the windowless bedroom, preventing it from feeling too closed off.
The bedroom should be a retreat from the rest of the world, and Chad made sure this space allowed for relaxation and rest. This space is also a great example of how Chad approaches blending personalities when working on a home. As with many couples, opposites attract. Chad listened to both homeowners, making sure to incorporate elements that were important to each. The neutral walls speak to the palette preference of one, while the bold, geometric bolster on the bed makes the other half of the duo happy. Notice the portière — the white curtain hanging next to the bed. This helps create the illusion of a hallway that leads you back to the dressing parlor behind the bedroom.
A closeup of the bolster pillow, whose pattern and color visually anchor the room.
This is the dressing parlor. Chad encouraged the couple to use this third room in the house as an expanded closet of sorts. Notice the metal cabinets on either side of the mantel. These provide neat, compact storage for clothing. The painting over the mantel is the first piece of artwork the couple acquired and is a favorite possession.
Chad’s friend travels frequently for work, not to mention, neither of the two homeowners likes to cook, so a dining room was not a good use of space. This layout allows for easy packing and unpacking and doesn’t make anyone feel cramped, the way a small closet could. In particular, Chad suggested adding a table to this space as an easy resting spot for a suitcase pre or post trip.
Here’s a shot of the other side of the dressing parlor. This highlights another aspect of Chad’s design aesthetic: finding creative ways to use and arrange curiosities to give them new life. On the mantel here, along with the plants and antelope horns, are a pair of architectural calipers that make for an artful display.
Another view of the mantel in the dressing parlor, with another look at the portier in the background.
The end result is a seamless space that lives the way it was intended.
Thank you, Chad, and to your team at the Chad James Group group for sharing this wonderful project with us! Learn more about this fabulous design team and their gorgeous projects here: chadjam.es/group.
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