Back in 2015, E. Lee and Jason Mead purchased what was then a hollowed-out shotgun home. The couple surmised that the property was missing the original back of the house where a termite-ridden lean-to had been tacked on and that it had been converted from single family to multifamily usage at some point because there was more than one meter.
Working with E. Lee’s uncle, architect Davis Jahncke, they remodeled the entire house, turning it into a two-story, gingerbread-laced residence surrounded by a picket fence and facing what had originally been the side street of the corner lot.
The Meads’ home is one of five that will be featured June 11-12 on the Preservation Resource Center’s Shotgun House Tour in the Audubon Riverside neighborhood. The tour also includes the historic Hales Cottage, one of the oldest buildings in Uptown New Orleans, with timbers that date to the 1700s. The cottage, which was recently renovated, is on the campus of Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Tour information can be found at prcno.org.
E. Lee Mead’s father had purchased the house several years earlier to renovate and sell, but the couple thought they could turn it into their family home. They had one child and another on the way. “It’s not a large lot, but it isn’t small either,” said E. Lee Mead, noting that the young family was eager to upgrade from the small condo that they occupied a block away.
The couple tore off the rear addition, closed in the front porch and created an expanded floor plan that includes a master suite, dining, kitchen, living area and back porch on the ground level with the two kids’ rooms, a Jack-and-Jill bath, a laundry room and play space on the new second floor.
“When we first moved in, once a month, someone would come by and would get upset with us for ‘tearing it down,’” said E. Lee Mead, noting that the quality and mismatched condition of the existing features like doors and hardware made it impossible to salvage much. “People have a lot of attachments to this house.”
These days, no one is objecting. The refreshed residence has historic character that is both charming and in keeping with its Uptown neighborhood. The Meads replicated the existing gingerbread trim and added a decorative crossbar, found hidden inside the ceiling during the renovation, to the peak of the new roofline.
They also found a reclaimed front door that looks like the original one but is sturdier, and chose classic finishes and details, such as Carrera marble counters, a leaded glass window that feels true to the period of the house and heart pine floors.
“We tried to make the materials and the design of the cabinets reflect the physical home itself,” E. Lee Mead said. “We wanted things to look aged and like they’ve been there a while.”
Once the house was renovated, E. Lee Mead, a decorative painter, worked on the decor, which includes family heirlooms mixed with auction finds, contemporary pieces and furniture and accessories that she customized with painted finishes.
After seven years in the house, E. Lee and Jason Mead, a financial adviser, and their children — Alice, 10, and Thomas, 7 — have had time and space to consider additional elements of design as well. Recent updates include a tree-filled mural that E. Lee Mead painted in the dining room and new landscaping by Roussel Outdoors in front and back, the latter being a place where the family spends a lot of time, thanks to their comfortable porch.
“I always go back to British decor,” she said of the mural inspired by the work of British designer Nicky Haslam, adding that while both she and her husband like traditional pieces, she likes to shake up things by incorporating items that are “a little less expected.”
Turquoise sconces and a new modern sofa with a performance fabric also have found their way into the design, which is fresh yet practical and livable for a family with young children.
“I’ve tried to make things come alive with paint and artwork and painted furniture,” she said, indicating that the house will continue to be a work in progress.
“I really enjoy the process of life and work,” she said. “What is in the middle mostly, and not the beginning and never an end.”
This story was reported by The Preservation Resource Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve New Orleans’ historic architecture, neighborhoods and cultural identity. For information, visit prcno.org.
SHOTGUN HOUSE TOUR
WHAT: The Preservation Resource Center tour includes four innovative shotgun home renovations, plus three bonus properties, that showcase the versatility of the city’s historic architecture.
WHEN: June 11-12, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Audubon Riverside neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans. Headquarters at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 600 Eleonore St.
TICKETS: Advance through June 10: $25 for PRC members, $30 for nonmembers at PRCNO.org. Day-of-tour tickets: $35
LAGNIAPPE: The latest book by Tulane Geographer Richard Campanella, “The Cottage on Tchoupitoulas: A Historical Geography of Uptown New Orleans,” will be unveiled. Published by the PRC, it explores the history of Hales Cottage, now part of Children’s Hospital. Signed copies will be on sale.