The Dead Rabbit

THE DEAD RABBIT

Use: Restaurant
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.

Frederick A. Douglass Senior High School Auditorium

Frederick A. Douglass Senior High School Auditorium

Use: Education
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 15,078 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

The Frederick Douglass High School auditorium isn’t just anarea for student performance; it’s an important civic space for the Bywater neighborhood. Since 2005, the auditorium has been closed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina; its grand Art Deco-inspired assemblyleft only for the use of storage. To help the school system return this invaluable resource to the community, NANO devised a strategy for making the auditorium more accessible, more accommodating, and more authentic than it has been for decades. 

In addition to overseeing the sensitive repairs of the hurricane-caused damage, we are working with local artisans and restoration specialists to preserve the feeling of the 1940s auditorium – cleaning and repainting its original deco-patterned acoustic tile ceiling and restoring all the original light fixtures and wooden chairs. And to ensure visitors are comfortable in the restored auditorium, we integrated a new air conditioning system into the building’s structure. The unobtrusive new system features custom high-flow grills artfully set into the existing ceiling grid, and ducts installed between the trusses concealed above. Visitors won’t see the changes, but on a sweltering New Orleans day, they’ll definitely feel the difference. 

While retaining the historic character of the 1940s building, NANO also improved accessibility throughout the building to ensure it could serve the entire community. With great care and thoughtfulness to the existing space, we incorporated a wheelchair lift into the stage, removed seating to create wider aisles, and added more visitor seating. We also integrated a more accessible production control platform to the theater’s main floor. Outside, working with the HDLC, we added a new exterior ramp that complements the building’s design and its recently updated courtyard.

NANO also prepared an alternate theater package for the school that will let them move forward with a complete revamp of the lighting and sound systems as soon as they have the resources. The new Frederick Douglass High School auditorium will help the New Orleans charter school system continue its mission to build students’ character and prepare them for the future of their choice.

2401 Bienville

2401 Bienville

Use: Commercial/Offices
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 12,600SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

In our first project as developer and architect, NANO restored and reimagined a historic New Orleans church as a performance-based mixed-use complex designed to make a positive impact on the community. Located on a prominent corner lot in a Mid-City neighborhood that lost many residents after Hurricane Katrina, the former home of the Central Congregational United Church of Christ is the new home to NANO. But more importantly, it’s a new home for other small businesses, public amenities, and flood mitigation measures that will ensure the neighborhood weathers future storms and bounces back stronger than ever.  

Initially built in 1944, the church at 2401 Bienville Street was designed by Ferdinand Lucien Rousseve, the first black architect licensed in Louisiana. It played a significant role in the community, hosting prominent African American leaders such as Walter Young and Lester Blackwell Grange, and housing one of the country’s first African American childcare centers in the rear sanctuary building. NANO’s rejuvenation of 2401 Bienville draws on our knowledge of local zoning policy, preservation guidelines, and city demographics to honor this rich history by preserving the adjoined buildings’ architectural character and continuing their tradition of community service.  

We made minimal changes to the church structure, restoring and reinforcing the original brick facade as needed, and inserting new double-glazed windows to improve energy efficiency and create a more attractive street presence. Inside, we restored the trusses in the main sanctuary, which provides a memorable space for a community-supporting anchor tenant, and slightly expanded the second-floor choir to be NANO’s new home. Celebrating both the past and the future, the new space better serves our growing staff and reflects who we are as a company.  

NANO also updated the former Hume building with a new entry, new windows, and new storefront–all designed to complement the original architecture–and new plumbing to ensure the flexible spaces can host a diverse range of tenants. The central courtyard and parking area have been strengthened new stormwater management systems, including permeable pavers, large planters, and catch basins to make the neighborhood more resilient. And extensive new outdoor lighting throughout the complex will help make it safer. The updated building meets both WELL certification standards and the energy targets established by the AIA 2030 challenge. 

We developed 2401 Bienville –because we love and believe in this neighborhood. We designed the building with great care to be a cultural hub that makes our community more environmentally and economically resilient. 

Octavia Books & Toast

OCTAVIA BOOKS & TOAST

Use: Restaurant, Retail
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 4,422 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

To help a beloved local bookstore and neighborhood bakery 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 Toast 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.

The space weaves around four structural cores that house essential building systems, storage, and offices. Between the bookstore and cafe, pivoting shelves can be easily opened or closed to separate the stores as needed. 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. 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 Toast 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.

1308 Moss Street 

1308 Moss Street

Use: Residential
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size:4,184 SF
Category: Architecture, Historical, In-Process, Interiors, Residential

NANO has a profound respect for the vernacular architecture and culture of New Orleans, and this reverence is exhibited through the thoughtful measures we have taken while renovating 1308 Moss Street, a 100-year-old tear down in the historic Bayou St. John community. 
 
Our client’s primary residence, immediately adjacent to 1308 Moss, is the nationally renowned Spanish Custom House located in the Library of Congress’ National Register of Historic Buildings. The more modest home at 1308 Moss was originally built on the same property, likely serving as caretaker’s quarters. When the client hired NANO, the structure was in dire need of repair; we were tasked to preserve what we could, while salvaging and constructing a safe haven for the Client’s mother to age in place. The challenge of this full renovation was to improve the home’s accessibility and resilience while protecting the architectural integrity of the Bayou St. John neighborhood as set forth by the Historic District Landmarks Commission.
 
Our solution involved a three-stage preservation plan: first, the demolition of non-historic additions that had accrued over time; second, the careful shoring of the home’s significant historical elements; and finally, the physical raising of the house. By elevating the historic structure, we created a utility space and garage on the ground level while giving the water-side building an extra layer of flood protection. In addition to expanding and updating the home to meet current codes, NANO further transformed the residence by aligning floor plates, using reductive measures of incorporating the architectural features of the neighborhood, including flat arches, using minimal detailing, adding a Sack-finish brick facade and baseless columns, custom railings, gas lanterns, and custom-made carriage doors.
 
Inside, the spacious floor plan is open and accessible, with the incorporation of an elevator. NANO reused the original front door, with its charming sidelights and transom, as a garden entry, and repurposed wood elements from the original structure wherever possible. Large French doors open onto a generous balcony with views out over the bayou, echoing the front façade of the Spanish Custom House. Our modern take on a classic yet enduring design bolsters the fabric of the community, reunifies a historic property, and brings a family closer together.

Moss Street

MOSS STREET

Use: Residential
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 6,553 SF
Category: Architecture, Interior Design & Furniture
Built in the early 1800s, this building was originally the Jockey Club for the Fair Grounds Race Track. The project encompassed full interior design services for most of the house, design for an auto covering, reconfiguration of the bathrooms, design and built of the custom furniture pieces and addition of solar panels. The client’s primary goal was to upgrade the building to serve a contemporary lifestyle while maintaining its historical significance. The cantilevered auto cover design emerged from zoning restrictions preventing construction within 10’ of the property line, forcing NANO to think creatively to maneuver around the codes to meet the client’s needs. LED tape lights run between steel angles creating a striking line of light that highlights the design’s contemporary construction. Custom furniture pieces include the entertainment unit in the living room and vanity in the master bath. The light fixtures in the living room were custom pieces made from the salvaged batten strips from the second floor of the home.

Il Mercato

IL MERCATO

2015 Louisiana Landmarks Society Award of Excellence in Historic Preservation
Use: Reception Hall
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 10,000 SF
Category: Architecture & Interiors

Located at the triangular lot defined by Magazine Street, St. Mary Street, and Sophie Wright Place, and sharing the lot with Sophie Wright Park, Il Mercato was an historic architectural gem waiting for the right project and vision to make it the centerpiece of the neighborhood it had been envisioned to be.

Built in the 1930s as a WPA project for the New Orleans Public Market System, the “Magazine Market”is a stucco finished building, with a classical arched loggia, red tile roof, and steel casement windows. Over the years, the building had suffered from deferred maintenance, and had become a signage fabrication and design shop, that had enclosed or covered many of the historic/iconic architectural elements. The surrounding neighborhood and park had equally suffered from declining interest, use, and larger economic factors.

Working with the owner, NANO was originally hired to assist with the historic tax credit applications and systems integration. Due to a variety of technical, HDLC, SHPO, systems integration, design, other considerations, ownership hired NANO to take the project from mid Schematic Design to Occupancy.

The owner’s, vision for the project was a full-service banquet hall. The realities of historic renovations, mechanical upgrades, life safety issues, and budget drove the design team to suggest a phased approach with the inclusion of a future production kitchen to be allowed for spatially, but not completed during Phase 1.

Budget and aesthetic priorities were centered on the historic materials, replacing primary mechanical systems and creating a ‘Destination’ facility. Creating an outdoor venue that enhanced the hall both functionally, commercially, and aesthetically helped achieve that mission. Pricing offsets were discovered in a performance-based life safety solution that eliminated the requirement for fire suppression systems, that would have significantly impacted the stucco ceilings as well as typical installation costs. As a result, the owner was able to make substantial donations / improvements to the adjacent public park improving their own property as well as the neighborhood’s.

Today the business is a centerpiece for the neighborhood resurgence with new businesses, commerce and renovations occurring on all sides of the property, creating a placemaking area for the neighborhood.

Due to the commercial success, Phase II, the implementation of the commercial kitchen has recently been achieved.

Apolline

APOLLINE

Use: Restaurant
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 2,600 SF
Category: Architecture, Interior Design & Furniture

NANO provided architectural and design services for the Uptown New Orleans restaurant Dominique’s, known today as Apolline. During the restoration process, special care was taken to ensure the newly introduced contemporary elements properly fused with the restaurant’s original aesthetic, creating a more enhanced expression of a classic design. NANO recognized the importance of maintaining a sense of cohesiveness within the space while the separate bar, private dining, and public space incorporated a “thickened wall condition”. This created well-defined framed entrances to the bar and dining spaces while allowing continuity throughout the space. The custom hidden cabinetry surrounding the bar was designed and built by NANO to increase the amount of available storage without detracting from the unique interior. On the exterior, the original cypress shutters and hand-crafted architectural trim work were restored to their former glory.

7887 Main

7887 MAIN

Use: Apartments & Commercial
Location: Houma, LA
Size: 22,000 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design
Also known as The Houma Bargain Store, 7887 Main was originally built in 1891 and was occupied by the only department store in Houma for over 50 years. It was a keystone commerce center and Houma’s Main Street. Prior to its renovation, the facility most recently housed the Houma Traffic Court and Administration Services. The owners’ dedication to the revitalization of the Houma Downtown Center and Main Street were integral to the realization of this project. With their input, and memories of the original building, NANO delivered the first Historic Renovation and Tax Credit project in Houma, Louisiana. Overlooking both Main Street and Bayou Terrebonne, and in association with Houma’s bayou walk revitalization program, NANO envisioned a double sided Public | Private design solution that encourages the public to enjoy the communities historic architecture, while providing a variety of commercial opportunities on the first floor, with 5 residential units above. The project, in combination with Houma’s dedication to a revitalized city center, has ignited a revitalization of Houma’s Main Street District. The exterior first floor and all of the back elevation overlooking Bayou Terrebonne were reconfigured with a storefront system approved by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to define the commercial component and increase square footage for the inhabitants.

Shine Spa

SHINE SPA

Use: Retail
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 800 SF
Category: Interior Design
Custom retail shelving was designed and fabricated for this day spa and retail space located in a historic building in the French Quarter. Flexible, moving storage systems were selected to occupy the main floor, providing ample display for products, while permitting the owner to reorganize the displays at will. Bright colors at countertops and shelving provide accents against the continuous white and wood of the space.