Sleek commercial interiors are bread-and-butter work for Steve Dumez, FAIA, who heads up design for Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in New Orleans. But he was a relative stranger to the subtleties of residential practice when he took on this project—the conversion of a century-old triangular warehouse in the Lower Garden District into a live/work building. Fortunately, he had understanding clients: his own immediate family.

He began by assigning the best real estate—the top floor—to the entertaining spaces. Private quarters occupy a mezzanine below. And a local importer of specialty coffee beans is on the ground-floor retail level. A 6-foot-wide staircase acts as the core of the residential side, climbing from the entry to the bedroom landing and culminating in the open living, dining, and kitchen area.

Rather than engage in a battle with the building's triangular shape, Dumez created his own geometry and organized key elements according to its rules. A 30-foot-long walnut plywood cabinet divides a private library from the public realm and contains the messy workings of the kitchen, including the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Other components of the open plan are arranged in symmetry to this anchor and pulled away from the building's corners.

Dumez defined the lighter-function areas of the kitchen wall with wood and the heavy-duty cooking area with stainless steel reaching up to the ceiling. “I wanted to keep the ceiling plane as clean as possible,” he explains, “so except for lights, the only thing that pierces it is this one stainless piece.” Dishwasher, fridge, and microwave are all integrated into the cabinetry.

Steps from the stove, a pair of islands provide work surfaces and storage. Their dark stain and black honed-granite countertops highlight them as “objects,” says Dumez, in contrast to the built-ins' role as organizational pieces. Another object—a dining table built as a mock-up but kept as the final product—completes the rectangular kitchen/dining zone. Beyond, the building's corners come together in their own peaceful planes.

architect: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans

general contractor: Redding Construction, New Orleans

resources: bath fittings and fixtures: Duravit USA; dishwasher: AM Appliance Group (ASKO); range and hood: Viking Range Corp.; refrigerator: Sub-Zero

see k+b studio "bath: secret passage"