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A Nest in New Orleans

A century-old arts and crafts home in New Orleans gets a new life. Featured on Generation Renovation.

Jim Gabour and Faun Fenderson were having difficulties searching New Orleans for a historic house to renovate. They had just missed out on one possibility when a friend who specializes in historic districts showed them an arts and crafts in very rough shape. The 100-year-old house had been divided into three apartments and was in very bad condition. The situation was complicated by a sense of urgency.

Ripping out an interior wall was one of the first projects on the to-do list.

"It was in horrible shape, but was to go on the market Monday," Gabour says. "We looked at it that Friday with our jaws dropped."

Though it was in a rough neighborhood, the home was basically very appealing. Gabour says they liked the four interior pillars, the freestanding cottage in the backyard, the large lot and the price.

"We came back Saturday and videotaped a walk-through," he says. "We looked at the tape all weekend and then at 8:30 am Monday went in and put down a deposit before it hit the market."

The upstairs kitchen was turned into the master bedroom.

They set right to work on a three-year restoration to turn the house into the showplace featured on HGTV's Generation Renovation. They also had to move quickly since the terms of the "historic renovation" loan they took out required they move into the house within eight weeks.

Fenderson used her skills at faux painting to highlight a drab fireplace. They brought in light by removing closets flanking the fireplace and installing windows.

"It was just barely habitable at that point. And I do mean barely," Gabour says. They hired contractors to take care of upgrades required by code, while Gabour and Fenderson got busy with upgrading the cosmetics.

"I personally removed and restored each of the 42 windows and restored and re-hung all the doors. Plus we redid all the sheetrock," Gabour says. "Faun floated, painted and reset the windows and walls. She did all the real grunt work and kept me from suicidal thoughts."

Things are really growing in the yard of the Gabour-Fenderson home in New Orleans. They harvested 400 pounds of bananas last year along with bushels of figs. They've also planted citrus, guavas, mangoes and avocados.

They continued working day jobs while renovating their house nights and weekends. And all the while they were living "in the house while it was still such a huge mess," Gabour says. But when it was all done they found they'd built themselves a fine nest. Though Gabour was still a bit sore from all the work.

"It took five years for me to stop hating this place for the severity of the manual labor it had required," he says. But they've come to terms with the house and completed other projects. Gabour says they've renovated the backyard cottage and turned it into a home office. They've also installed a water garden and added gates to the backyard fence to make it easier for neighbors to pass through.

And speaking of the neighborhood, Gabour says the Faubourg Marigny area where they live is exploding. Just four blocks from the French Quarter, Gabour says area improvements include the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and a new cruise boat terminal on the river at the end of the neighborhood. Plans include a riverfront park and green space with two large performance amphitheatres. The Desire streetcar made famous by Tennessee Williams might even return.

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