Renovation Report: Common House opens in former Louisiana Children’s Museum

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Project description:  A combination of build-out of an interior shell space in the existing structure and new construction.

Address: 420 Julia St.

Owner: Common House

Architect: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

Contractor:  RNGD

Interior Designer: Joshua Joseph Interiors

Square Footage: 17,000 sq. ft.

Start date: October 2023

Completion date:  May 2024

 

The former Louisiana Children’s Museum has been renovated into the newest Common House location.

Many of the iconic features of the museum have been preserved. The blue doors will still greet visitors at the entrance on Julia Street, and the classic wood beams are still in place.

“The blue doors basically establish our whole color palette. There’s a lot of blue throughout this project,” said Josh Charles of Joshua Joseph Interiors in an interview. Charles is the design lead for new Common House properties and was responsible for designing the interior of the New Orleans location.

Common House calls itself a modern social club, with locations in Chattanooga, Tenn., Charlottesville, Va. and Richmond, Va.

The New Orleans location will include three large event spaces, a commercial kitchen, a large dining room, a private dining room and a co-workspace.

The design of Common House was heavily influenced by its past as the Louisiana Children’s Museum, and as a result has a colorful and playful feel. Charles accomplished this whimsical look by mixing and matching colors and tiles for a less traditional approach than they usually use with other Common House locations.

Charles helped give the space a unique feel by sourcing many of the pieces locally, including events tables from Good Wood NOLA. Artwork was also incorporated into the space, including pieces by local artists like Tyrell Shaw, Bmike and a mural in the vestibule by a high school student and artist from the YAYA Arts Center.

Charles said it was important to preserve the history of the building, while also adapting it to fit the needs of Common House. Charles said the biggest challenge of this project was “trying to really put up a fight for this building and make sure it didn’t lose what it once was.”

According to Common House’s website the original warehouse at the corner of Constance and Julia streets was destroyed in fire on May 20, 1884. The current building was constructed in 1887 and used as a sugary refinery and a cotton warehouse. The building is in the Warehouse Historic District and the Upper Central Business District National Register District and is one of the last remaining commercial buildings of its style in the city.

The general contractor for the project was RNGD. Russell Stafford, project manager, described the project in an interview as “a build out of an interior shell space. Part of it was an existing structure that was here as part of the old Children’s Museum and part of it was new construction.”

Russell said that dealing with the existing conditions was the biggest challenge. They had to add walls within the “existing wood structure that has been racked and turned and banged around and moved and any manner of things over the course of 200 years.”

Because of historical designations for the building, the façade had to remain unchanged on Constance and Julia streets, including keeping the iconic blue shutter doors from the entrance of the Children’s Museum.

Brittany Martin, senior project manager, said the team “tuckpointed the exterior brick, corrected the roofline, we restored the historic shutters, redid the storefront.”

The mezzanine from the former Children’s Museum was removed, allowing them to repurpose those beams in other parts of the building.

“I think a lot of charm is in the existing wood columns. They’re all different shapes, they’re racked all differently, that means rotated differently, they are set at different elevations. So, each one had to be considered independently of the other one,” said Martin.

When adding reinforcements to some of the columns they added faux bolts and other elements to help blend the new with the old.

Click here for information about Common House membership and event spaces.

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