THE DEAD RABBIT
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 5,215 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design
When the owners of the Dead Rabbit, an upscale Irish restaurant and bar in New York City, decided to open a second location in New Orleans, they asked NANO to design their new home in a nineteenth-century structure at the heart of the French Quarter.
NANO guided the project through the city’s complex approvals process, restoring and renovating the three-story brick-and-timber townhouse with a design that celebrates both Ireland and New Orleans, bridging the bar’s established aesthetic with the city’s unique history and character.
NANO worked collaboratively with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) to find creative solutions for preserving the French Quarter’s historic fabric while meeting the client’s needs. Together, we untangled the building’s history of illegal alterations and nonconforming uses, and developed thoughtful strategies for converting the 200-year-old home into a modern restaurant and bar. Our sensitive and surprising interventions included carving out space for a second means of egress, installing ventilation for the commercial kitchen in an existing illegally built dormer, and transforming a questionable roof deck above an existing first-floor addition into a one-of-a-kind French Quarter courtyard.
To give the bar an authentic character, the design showcases the building’s history and architectural artifacts. In addition to restoring the brick facade and its original details, we reworked the idiosyncratic array of street-level openings to accommodate the new program, adding a second entrance for safety and convenience, and painted all trim red to match the Dead Rabbit’s brand. Inside, the original brick walls and original timber joist complement the Dead Rabbit’s signature beadboard and custom millwork. Integrated architectural details bridge the buildings’ past and present, like an original opening with fanlight transom repurposed as a serving window.
Each floor offers a unique dining experience. The first floor is a cozy pub with warm wood paneling and intimate nooks. On the second floor, open tables, along with balcony and courtyard seating, offer a variety of indoor and outdoor dining options. Because the courtyard didn’t contribute to the building’s historic integrity, we were able to make it a distinctly contemporary outdoor dining space – possibly the only one in the Quarter. The third floor features additional balcony seating as well as a private dining room and, due to the unusual existing conditions, the restaurant’s main kitchen.
At times, working on the Dead Rabbit was almost like solving a puzzle. Through creativity and collaboration, we’ve leveraged our expertise with historic buildings to help the Dead Rabbit expand, blending the culture and cuisine of New Orleans and Ireland.