Visit this and six other charming New Orleans houses at PRC’s Shotgun House Tour presented by Entablature Design + Build and Entablature Realty on March 21 & 22.
3660 Laurel St. • Home of Morgan & Topher England
Morgan and Topher England hit the real estate jackpot, finding their Victorian double shotgun while it was still being renovated into a single-family residence.
“We had a general idea that we were going to want a home in New Orleans at some point, but we hadn’t started the house search at all,” Morgan said.
During a run through the neighborhood, a close family friend saw a construction crew working on the house, stopped in to take a look, and knew it would be perfect for the couple. He called Topher right away, who in turn surprised his wife.
While she was on a business trip, Topher called to let her know they’d made an offer on the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house. He assured her there was time to change their minds. But once Morgan returned to New Orleans and saw it in person, she knew it was home. “He was totally right. It’s exactly what we wanted,” she said.
While the couple loves “how efficiently the space is used,” Morgan said, the circa-1916 house’s charm starts with its exterior details.
Two Ionic columns support a cornice with decorative scalloped molding. The matching transoms above the façade’s two solid-pane windows feature blue-and-purple picket-fence-style stained glass. The same stained glass can be found in the windows of the hipped roof’s central dormer.
Inside, the renovated layout kept the shotgun’s center-dividing wall intact in the front two rooms. Original, although non-functioning, fireplaces with Victorian mantels were kept in the dining and family rooms, the guest bedroom, the kitchen and the nursery, giving the couple additional space to display artwork and collections.
One side is the dining room, which is separated from the kitchen by original pocket doors. On the other side, there’s a guest bedroom, Jack-and-Jill bathroom and the nursery for their son, Archer. The couple painted it in Clark + Kensington’s Palm Frond, a deep green color inspired by the fan palms seen during their frequent kayaking trips along Louisiana’s waterways. Morgan painted the animal portraits about Archer’s crib.
In the kitchen, the couple hung a handmade activity board with hardware pieces selected by the 18-month-old. Above it, a displayed collection of postcards from friends makes a colorful art piece.
The front rooms still have the original picture rail. In the dining room, it’s used to display a series of water images by photographer Gray Malin. Not only do the photos fill the room’s corner, but they also are significant to Morgan, reminding her of her mother’s home in Hawaii and her work as the major gift fundraiser for Tulane University’s ByWater Institute.
Past the kitchen, a short hallway — with access to the laundry room — opens to a light-filled family room, which also contains a half-bath. The couple took advantage of the vertical space afforded by its 12-foot ceilings, hanging their 14-and-a-half-foot-long, two-person kayak along the room’s longest wall. Other map and river-themed artwork in the room further reflects the couple’s love of water.
One wall of the master bedroom, which is adjacent to the family room, features one of Topher’s handmade wooden art pieces. Entitled River Shelf, it is made with layers of wood cut to form the curving shape of the Mississippi River. “He’s made dozens,” Morgan said, including commissions for river boat captains. Another hangs in the St. Charles Parish Courthouse.
Topher — who works for Levelset by day — also built some of the home’s furniture, including the dining table and wood-and-copper-pipe kitchen island. Neighbors who saw him working on the front porch — before he had work space in the backyard — soon started commissioning pieces.
The San Francisco Bay Area natives, who first came to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, now couldn’t imagine living in any other city. Or in any other neighborhood.
They also love calling their shotgun home. “It’s really great for a young family,” Morgan said. “You get some of those open-concept sightlines, because every room connects right to the other. But it’s still an old home, and you get all of that old charm.”
Photos by Liz Jurey