House Tour: Modern Railroad-Style Home in New Orleans

A skinny lot and the residence’s long, narrow layout provided creative challenges for the couple that transformed it into a home for their family.

January 24, 2022

At first blush, the Farouki residence in the historic Lower Garden District of New Orleans appears quite compact. The average pedestrian, in scanning the mere 18-foot-wide lot, might be surprised to know that a family of four comfortably lives inside. But this modern railroad-style home was designed by a husband-and-wife team who are architects and designers by trade, and they took on the challenge of maximizing the narrow-but-deep home to perfectly suit their family’s needs.

Sabri and Caroline Farouki, who co-own an architecture and interior design practice called Farouki Farouki, designed and renovated the 1,600-square-foot space in 2020, moving their family into the home in 2021.  

“[The lot] looked more like where you would park a boat or an RV—not a house,” Sabri said. “But that was what attracted us to it. We felt that, if we used our imagination and creativity, we could make it work.” 

Their vision for the space included a juxtaposition of beautiful materials and textures inside, a modern façade that paid tribute to the historic district in which it was located, and from room to room an impressive economy of space.  

The First Floor 

The main entrance is located along the side of the home, with an ornamental gate that faces the street, serving as a conduit to the front door. This was an important design choice from the start, and it allowed the homeowners to balance the flow of the interior spaces well.  

“The ornamental gate acts as the front door,” Sabri said. “To someone on the street, it gives you a sense of entry. Going through that gate, you then proceed halfway down the length of the house, where there’s a French door with a sidelight—that's the front door.” 

Situating a front door on the street-facing façade would’ve forced the couple to sacrifice bedroom space. Positioning the entry on the side of the home enabled a more spacious foyer. Upon entering, you’re met with warm white oak lining the grand stairway and forming a tidy built-in shoe rack.  

This first floor is where two bedrooms and all three bathrooms are located. To the left of the entry and facing the street is the main bedroom with an adjoining bathroom. To the right is a powder room and further down the hall is the kids’ shared bedroom and bathroom. The home is roughly 130 feet long.

The Second Floor 
The stairs’ natural white oak tones contrast in an interesting way with the black steel beam, driven up through the center of the home to provide structural support. Recommended by the home’s structural engineer, the steel was left exposed, as the Faroukis felt it offered a unique opportunity to demarcate spaces and provide a bit of industrial character.  

“One of the most fundamental moves was to put the living spaces upstairs,” Sabri said. “We knew we’d want to spend more of our time in the kitchen and living room with our two kids.”

Putting the family bedrooms upstairs, a more traditional option, would’ve misused the precious natural light available on the second floor. Sabri compares this second-floor space to being in a treehouse, with better views and better light.  

“Upstairs, there are windows on almost all sides,” Sabri said. This was intentional, as the family knew they’d be spending most of their time on the second floor. “We wanted to have as many windows as we could to open it up, and it feels really good. It doesn’t feel as skinny as it is, and that’s the feedback we get when people visit. The windows definitely play a big part of that.” 

At the top of the stairs, you find yourself in a small landing, with a light-filled living room area to your left and a sprawling kitchen to your right. Numerous windows amplify access to natural light and make the space feel larger than it really is.

In the kitchen, four interspaced casement windows illuminate the clean white hues and austere stone material comprising the kitchen island. The design choice to break up the space with clean, dark lines from window frames and steel structural support beams identifies spaces and guides the eye through the rooms. “Otherwise, it could feel like a shipping container,” Sabri said with a laugh. “A little too long and skinny, but having that steel breaks it up and says, ‘This is the kitchen. And this is the living room.’ There’s also some breathing room at the top of the stairs, where there’s a bench and some plants.” 

The kitchen is where the Farouki family spends most of its time, with the two boys sitting on the stools of the stone island while their parents cook. Light floods the space from casement windows, and off the dining room is a cozy rooftop terrace to enjoy fresh air and neighborhood views.  

With a little creativity and thoughtfully designed spaces, Sabri and Caroline Farouki transformed a narrow railroad-style building into a one-of-a-kind contemporary home that’s perfectly suited for their family.  

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