To help Octavia Books, a beloved local bookstore, and Scrambled, a neighborhood cafe better serve their community, NANO renovated and rehabilitated the 100-year-old structure they share. Building on the bookstore’s established design language, we expanded both businesses with a dynamic and flexible design that provides more space for holding public events, displaying books, and enjoying a cup of coffee or meal with friends.
The client initially requested separate expansions for each business, but we quickly realized the potential in uniting them. Octavia Books and Scrambled share many customers, and it felt natural for them to share space as well. Our solution is inspired by Octavia’s bold original design, which remains almost entirely intact.
From its recessed entry to the layout of its bookshelves, the store used angles to define cozy, inviting spaces. We refined and formalized that intuitive design language to continue those angles throughout the building’s entire lower floor. As a result, the expansion feels like a natural progression of the bookstore space – distinctive but clearly connected to the original.
- Terri Dreyer
- Kristine Kobila
- Kelsey Chappuis
In addition to adding new shelving and displays, we created a variety of informal seating and expanded the area for children’s books–a specialty of Octavia’s and a rapidly growing market. Near the center of the store, a small stage gives the store much-needed space to host readings, signings, and the many events that have made Octavia Books an anchor in the literary community of New Orleans.
Wherever possible, the original masonry walls and wood ceiling remain exposed. We carefully designed all interventions to be built–and removed, if necessary–without damaging the original structure. A new acoustic wood ceiling, suspended from the original joists, highlights the circulation through the space. Inspired by traditional bookbinding techniques, its vertical wood fins stitch together the old spaces and new, folding to articulate special areas or points of interest.
The below diagram shows our process with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In our first approach, we strived to add symmetry and natural light to the primary façade, however the modification of openings was not authorized by SHPO. In our second approach, we maintained the original fenestration pattern and were approved to add openings under the original transom windows.
Octavia’s signature shade of blue is used as an accent color throughout, complementing the rich, warm tone of the wood ceiling and bookcases, which are framed by custom millwork and integrated lighting.
Separately–and now together–Octavia Books and Scrambled create a sense of community in uptown New Orleans. The dynamic and joyful expansion celebrates the power of place and the sense of fulfillment we gain through reading, eating, and connecting with one another.