Jan 26, 2024

A restored 1929 New Orleans home makes the perfect canvas for two passionate preservationists

Erika and Robert Gates love to frequent estate sales, looking to add to their collections of vintage fountain pens, rotary phones, typewriters, midcentury linens, juice glasses, streetcar memorabilia and more. But one estate sale on North Carrollton Avenue was different. The couple went twice, but not to search for collectibles.

“We went to this estate sale with the mentality like it was an open house,” said Erika Gates, adding that they were in the middle of a house hunt at the time in March 2021. They’d outgrown the Arts-and-Crafts raised double shotgun they renovated on Third Street.

In the living area, the original fireplace and applied molding were stripped and repainted. The chandelier, a cross between Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, was brought from the Gates' previous home.

Located in the Parkview Historic District, the Mediterranean Revival-style raised-basement house on North Carrollton was not on the market. But a photo of its kitchen in the estate sale email piqued Erika Gate’s curiosity. It showed 1950s-era yellow countertops with metal trim, pale-blue cabinets with curved drawers, and yellow-and-blue speckled wall tiles, along with a patterned tile floor original to the house’s construction.

On the sale’s second day, when most of the shoppers had left, Erika — eight months pregnant at the time — crawled under folding tables blocking the two bathrooms. She slid her iPhone under the doors and discovered incredibly colorful spaces. The bathrooms have original floors and wall tiles in shades of pink, mint green and orchid purple. Narrow bands of decorative tile also adorn the walls, and there are original pink pedestal sinks and pink wall heaters. The primary bathroom contains a pink tub.

“They are 1929 Standard Company. That was actually the first year of colored fixtures,” she said, noting that the rooms also have intact mirrored medicine cabinets, painted wood storage cabinets with laundry chutes, ceramic towel rods and windowpanes with opaque glass for privacy.

An Art Deco-style chandelier from the Gates' previous home now hangs in the dining room below an original ceiling medallion. The '50s-style dining table was purchased at an estate sale for $40, Erika Gates says. Stripping the yellow and black paint on the top revealed beautiful white formica.

In addition to the plethora of original details, the house had an original layout that would work well for their family and proximity to the Carrollton streetcar line and City Park. When the three-bedroom, two-bath house hit the market one week after the estate sale, the Gates made an offer the same day.

The couple and their two sons, 6-year-old Henry and 2-year-old Walter, are the fifth family to live in the house. In 1929, contractor William Badeaux constructed it — at a cost of $20,000 — for Charles and Helen Ramos and their children, Melvin and Lois. “It was a pretty high-end, middle-class house for the time,” Erika Gates said.

The Ramos family did not live there long. Listed for rent in a 1932 newspaper ad, it became the residence of Ford plant manager Eugene Stolz. He rented it for himself, his wife and his daughter and son-in-law.

The blues and yellows of the '50s kitchen remain, but Erika Gates pored over vintage wallpaper options to find the Bradbury & Bradbury print, which she hung herself. 'It was a little expensive, a little cumbersome ... that’s where the architecture degree came in,' she says.

In 1940, Ruth Furlong bought the “attractive residence” with a $13,000 price tag, as it was described in the real estate ad. A 1920s silent film star, Furlong made her fortune as an investor and spent her adult life traveling and working with the American Women’s Voluntary Services. She lived in the house along with her parents until their deaths in 1945 and 1953. When she died in 1986, her nephew, Army Lt. Col. William Furlong, inherited the house. He resided there until his death in 2020.

The previous owners changed little and threw away nothing, so the Gates — who are both avid preservationists — have been able to restore and repair many original elements.

To accommodate life with young children, they turned part of a generous storage closet in the hallway into a main-floor laundry space. Removing part of a large forced-air duct created room for a stackable washer and dryer (relocating HVAC equipment to the attic was part of the project). A 1930s-era linoleum rug salvaged from an Uptown house under renovation was used to cover patched floors from the project.

An original chandelier lights the foyer, whose shades of green transition to the deeper hue in the living area. The rotary-dial phone on the table is part of the Gates' collection of about 50 of them.

They left the rest of the layout as it was. “What I love about homes of this period (1920s-30s) is it’s when the modern house layout really starts to take shape, with modernized closets, centralized kitchens and more open living spaces,” Erika Gates said.

The solarium has original arched casement windows with views of City Park. Art deco-style chandeliers — moved from the Gates’ former house — now hang in the living and dining rooms below original ceiling medallions. More period-appropriate paint colors cover the once-pink walls, part of an effort to incorporate decor that harkens to the 1920s and 1930s.

A bathroom retains the '50s purple tiles and fixtures.

In the dining room, one doorway opens to a hallway connecting the bedrooms and bathrooms, while the other doorway opens to the kitchen, which features a working 1950s refrigerator. A breakfast room behind the kitchen contains three original built-in cabinets.

The couple’s other improvements have included updating electrical wiring and removing outdated technology, nonoriginal ironwork and the front façade’s hurricane shutters. Their removal revealed the original awning hardware; the couple intends to restore the awnings at some point.

The couple does as much of the work themselves as they can. “All of it is done over time when small children will allow,” Erika Gates said.

This story was reported by The Preservation Resource Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve New Orleans’ historic architecture, neighborhoods and cultural identity. For information, visit