Shotguns Uniquely Joined! –
Built circa 1890, the colorful little house at 912 8th Street is actually two separate shotgun singles connected in the middle by a great room. The front courtyard is welcoming, paved with bricks from the original fireplaces of both shotguns. At one time there was a garage between the two houses.
When you see the house for the first time, it’s almost a shock in a quirky, yet stunningly beautiful way. Painted yellow with purple doors and lime green trim, it’s fresh and crisp and the perfect downsize, a “hobby house” for Peter and Jill DeBroeck.
The displays of art and the unique way of showcasing ordinary things inside and out are a treat to witness. There are utterly stunning displays of antiques, sentimental collectibles like the clocks that don’t work, as well as creatively repurposed items.
With the couple’s four daughters raised and gone, the DeBroecks who lived in Bocage in Algiers decided to downsize. They wanted a walking neighborhood, to live in a small town near a big city. They looked all over, including in Texas with nothing feeling right. One day, by chance, Jill found herself on 8th Street in Gretna where she saw a renovation in progress. It was so unusual, two single shotguns joined together to make one house. She couldn’t get the house out of her mind!
“I drove by dozens of times, day and night, needing to be sure!” Jill said.
Now, 20 years later, the couple has made the quirky cottage their own.
The two houses were converted to a single family residence in 1947 by Harry Sanchez when he purchased the second shotgun for $3,000. Needing the most room for his six children, Sanchez built a center wing, where a garage sat originally, stretching all the way from the very front façade of the two houses to the rear. A lone window in its center looked out to the sidewalk.
When Jill stumbled upon the house, a renovator who had bought the house was working on an acceptable renovation plan with the Gretna Historic Advisory Board. It was decided to pull the central wing back about 15 feet from the sidewalk, retaining the façade and front porches of both original houses. It allowed expansion to 1650 square footage, while avoiding tearing down a historical house.
“After we bought the house in 2000, we soon realized the inside floor plan needed some tweaking. With all our daughters and their families here for a period of time, the kitchen in the center wing just got too crowded and had to simply be moved,” she said.
“We moved the kitchen from the main entry of the house to the back of the right wing, converting the new open space into a living and dining area. It was just plain walls after we moved the kitchen, so we added bead board wainscoting and I found a mantel at the Green Project to serve as the focal point of the room.”
The wing to the right of the entry holds two bedrooms, the kitchen, laundry area and a bath. The left wing holds the master suite, consisting of a sitting room, bedroom and bath.
Sharing their mom’s keen eye for style, the talented four DeBroeck daughters love to immerse themselves in projects at the 8th Street house. Kellie Soileau, who lives just around the block and Jennie Holley regularly swap furniture with their parents. Sarah Pitz, a Baton Rouge artist created the alligator wall-hanging in the kitchen.
Maggie Overby, a graduate architect who likes sewing better, gutted and renovated two baths and also installed the tilework around the firebox in the living room. Whenever her soldier husband was deployed, Maggie would get bored and want to do another project on the house. Maggie had a whole house write up in “Flea Market Décor” and a page in “HGTV Magazine.” Check out her blog, MaggieOverbyStudios.com.
Jill likes to shop at the Green Project, likes to use Strip-Ease for pieces that fit her style and especially likes when she, sometimes with Pete, attends the Round Top Antique Fair in Texas.
“Nothing stays here too long because I get tired of things fast. When that happens I put them on Craig’s List, sell them and use the proceeds to buy something else. That way, I get my money back and don’t have to stop shopping,” she said. “I like meeting the buyers and knowing the pieces are going to a good home.”
Jill loves glass items and mirrors that reflect light like the tall bell jars half filled with buttons in the master sitting room, clear Lucite lamps in the bedroom and the various sized and styled mirrors that Maggie arranged in the living room. Wanting the grandkids to have a place in the home while trying to keep their stuffage in order, school lockers were installed for each, with their respective names on chalkboard.
Thinking outside of the box is using things as they were never meant to be used. Jill has a talent for doing so. Ordinary items like an old time metal ceiling tile or her favorites, a trio of clocks are framed in shadowboxes and featured as artwork. Signs and industrial metal letters become art and old doors are turned into trumeau style mirrors.
The pleasures of the “hobby house” aren’t just on the inside! The backyard got its share of attention with a shed painted to match the front façade of the home and an old sink that became a fountain. Flowering plants and trees are lovingly tended.
“We are so glad that we are here in Gretna and got in on the ground floor when this area wasn’t mainstream like it is today. But, I knew it would be one day. I love the feel of the place, everyone knows everyone’s business and helps each other out. Our new little Aussiedoodle, Eloise, recently went missing. Neighbors up and down the street went out looking, on foot, in vehicles and one neighbor on his scooter. Word went out and people from all over the neighborhood were calling that they were looking. Eloise showed up asleep in the closet and I hated that everyone went through so much trouble for nothing. It was such a good feeling, though, to receive such kindness from folks. It’s like living in Mayberry!”
This charming home was a favorite on the Gretna Historical Society Spring Tour of Homes in 2005 and again in 2016 after a total redecoration.
It was featured in Inside Out, a Times Picayune real estate magazine that Stephanie Bruno called “Bridging the Gap” in July of 2013. The home is also featured in the 2013 decorating book, “House Proud,” Unique Home Design-Louisiana, by Valerie Hart.