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A Shotgun Home that Celebrates Black History in New Orleans

by Sofia Tuovinen

A Shotgun Home that Celebrates Black History in New Orleans | Design*Sponge
It’s probably fair to say that buying a house without seeing it first is regularly considered a no-no in the world of real estate. But that’s exactly what KV Harper, Principal and Founder of Kex Design + Build, did when she bought her double shotgun house in New Orleans — what else can you do when you see a listing and just know it’s your home? “I don’t think I really chose the house. I very much feel like the house chose me,” KV describes the feeling of first stumbling on her home online. By looking at pictures alone, she knew that she had found a true New Orleans gem. She made an offer and soon enough, found herself immersed in designing and renovating the old house that she is now proud to call home.

KV runs one of the few women and people of color-owned design-build firms in New Orleans. When renovating her own shotgun house, KV wanted to respect its original features and make it a celebration of the city’s black history. The house and its style served as the main inspiration, leading to design choices that KV wouldn’t necessarily have made otherwise, like a brick floor in the kitchen. “I felt that the history of this house needed those floors — it’s not something I would normally do,” she explains. The renovation process also taught KV about being respectful of materials and choosing them wisely. Opting for reclaimed and smart-growth timber ensured a low carbon footprint but also brought a level of quality that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise.

It’s the nod to history that makes KV feel so in love with her shotgun home. Walking through the door, she immediately feels embraced by the house and the people who have called it home before her. “Especially when I come […] home in the late evening, I very much feel the people that have lived here in the past.” Besides the sense of deep roots and history, one KV’s favorite features in her home is the bar area that was originally supposed to be a bedroom. As someone who entertains a lot, having a bar at home is a dream come true. Now, most of KV’s parties start at the bar and end in the spacious living room, where guests gather around the piano for some late-night tunes. How her home flows and functions today is exactly how KV imagines it did 50 years ago as well — rooms filled with friends, music, and laughter. —Sofia

Photography by Beau Ciolino

Image above: A warm afternoon glow welcomes friends to gather around the large table in KV’s kitchen. Drinks are served at the bar, a quirky spot that KV dreamed up for her new home. 

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KV believes that the house should dictate the design — that’s why she chose brick floors for her kitchen, a look she doesn’t normally gravitate toward. The Whitney Historic Home served as the inspiration. 

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A dark navy color was selected for the kitchen cabinets — a perfect contrast to the rustic brick floor and cream-colored walls.

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A custom dining table made from reclaimed wood is the heart of the kitchen.

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KV always dreamed of having a bar at home, and now one stands where there was supposed to be a bedroom. “[It] makes for the perfect happy hour,” KV says.

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KV used plaster on one of the living room walls. For added depth, the back wall was painted in dark navy. Matching chandeliers add a touch of old-time glamour.

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One of KV’s most cherished memories from her home is when her mother came to visit for the first time. “She was incredibly proud of the work and immediately started posting pictures to Facebook!” KV shares.

 

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As principal and founder of Kex Design + Build, KV is focused on bringing New Orleans homes back to life. “We’re committed to preserving not [only] the history of the city, but also finding the balance [between] growth and affordable housing,” she explains. KV currently runs her business from both New Orleans and New York, and splits her time between the two cities. 

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KV’s living room boasts two restored fireplaces. Artwork representing Haitian revolutionaries adorns the plastered wall. “New Orleans and Haiti have a unique connection, which many are not aware of,” KV shares.

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The entryway reminds KV of her home’s history each time she walks through the door. “There are several nods to that history throughout the home,” she adds. 

I wanted to celebrate the history of Black New Orleans.

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The color palette from the living room continues to KV’s bedroom. Above the bed, a Kerry James Marshall print and Basquiat photo add interest. 

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The downstairs bathroom has an industrial feel, complete with concrete walls and reclaimed wood elements.

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KV chose a unique sink from Rejuvenation for her downstairs bathroom. The faucet was a lucky eBay find.

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KV’s guest bedroom is a subtle celebration of color. A rich teal was chosen for the walls, which highlights the main feature in the space — a bronze bed frame from CB2.

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KV wanted to respect the age of the home and brought in reclaimed pieces to highlight that wonderful sense of history. An example is the vintage door that leads from the guest bedroom to the bathroom.

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KV’s house is a “camelback” shotgun. “People from New Orleans will know exactly what that means,” KV hints. To us less in the know, a “camelback” is a second floor extension, commonly added to the back of New Orleans shotgun homes. The second-floor bathroom now features a marble sink and hexagon tiles laid in a geometric pattern. 

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“What I love most about my home is that is captures the spirit of New Orleans.”  — KV

SOURCE LIST

Kitchen
Bar – custom-made by Kex Design +Build
Kitchen table – custom-made by Kex + Design + Build
Bar Stools – Restaurant Furniture 4 Less (purchased in chrome and then spray painted gold)
Dining Chairs – Birch Lane
Cabinet Hardware – Myknobs.com (no longer available)
Kitchen lighting – Industrial Light Electric
Shelving –  custom-made by Kex Design + Build

Entryway
Bench – World Market (no longer available)
Piano- eBay
Fireplaces – Ricca’s

Living Room
Rug – Rugs USA (no longer available)
Coffee Table – Target (no longer available)
Sofa – Anthropologie (no longer available)
Yellow Chairs – eBay
Artwork – KV’s private collection
Chandeliers – Decor Price  (no longer available)

Downstairs Bathroom
Sink – Rejuvenation
Faucet – eBay
Tile – Overstock

Upstairs Bathroom
Marble sink – eBay
Counter –  custom-made Kex Design + Build
Tile – eBay
Faucet -eBay

Guest Bedroom
Bed – CB2
Art – KV’s private collection
Bedding – H&M home (no longer available)

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Comments

  • The reclaimed wood dining table really works well with the rustic, brickwork flooring. So much character and so many lovely touches throughout this home – I especially like the retro cinema / theater seats.

  • What a beautiful if austere home. I really like that brick floor, the plaster effects and the artwork in the guest bedroom.

  • This may be one of my favorite home tours- if not my absolute favorite- of all time. Wow. KV, your home is so striking while still managing to seem like a completely serene haven to come home to. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

  • I love this in every way. One of my favorite spaces ever featured on DS. Thank you for sharing!

  • Wow. I’m blown away by her style and her celebration of history and the home’s spirit. What a unique and lovely place. It must be magical getting to live there!

  • I like this home because it is unique. Care was taken to keep the history and not tear it down or paint everything white. This home has real personality. The dining table, wood and stone flooring, wall decorations, etc. serve to capture the nuances of New Orleans. Beautifully done.

  • I’ve been thinking about getting a similar bronze bed and now I know that I have to! Love this house.

  • I for one love that brick floor. Hoping I can someday manage one in my own house!!

  • Simplicity,elegance,and a huge nod to history.How lucky for New Orleans to have this talented woman in their midst.!

  • While the music of New Orleans is what drew me to her in the first place, it’s the architecture of the homes and the histories they tell that resonate with me and keep me here. A shotgun home can be very challenging to arrange in a way that feels livable by today’s standards. You’ve done a spectacular job of creating a space that feels personal and inviting, simultaneously anchored and buoyed by its history. Feels like a hug from an old friend.

  • Love this home! Any chance KV would be willing to share the color info for her navy and teal walls? Thanks again for sharing!

  • I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the page, but I’m so amazed and inspired! Both of those bathrooms are great, just great, and I love the deep colors paired with concrete and plaster throughout your space.

  • I’m a Haitian American living in New York, and intrigued by the connection between Haiti and New Orleans. Particularly since I’ve never been to New Orleans, though it’s been on my list of places to visit for some time now. This home looks amazing! Hope it is as lovely to live in day-to-day as it looks in photographs!

  • I have never commented on a ds home tour before but this is the best one i’ve seen! so beautiful and meaningful, everything is thought through … I love it! so tired of everyone painting walls white, adding pendleton blankets and white ceramics and calling it a day. so inspiring to see a person making a statement with her home!