For its photographer and musician owners, this Bywater home has the right ingredients
Once the L.E. Koffskey Pharmacy in the Bywater neighborhood, today the building is a unique studio and home.
EUGENIA UHL PHOTOGRAPHS
LE. Koffskey Pharmacy once stood in the Bywater neighborhood. The corner building that housed it still maintains its commercial façade while concealing the comfortable home of photographer Eugenia Uhl and David Rebeck, a freelance musician and private music teacher. “We enjoy knowing that the building is historical,” Uhl says. “It began life as a double shotgun house around 1870 that eventually became a drugstore, undergoing changes by different people over the span of a century.”
Today the curbside view provides little hint to the cars on the quiet one-way street of the stylish/funky treasures inside. “I spotted the “for sale” sign on the building when we were attending a party half a block away,” she says.
After a quick call to the agent for an inside view, both agreed it would be ideal for their combined studios and home. “Once I stepped inside I knew I had to have it. It felt like the realization of a dream. I had been looking for a place for years, and I realized that this one had everything I had been seeking.”
Rebeck immediately settled into the studio because of its wide-open space. “It feels like a concert hall for practice and rehearsals,” he said. It is here Uhl also maintains her photography studio with ample storage for her photo props. “We maintained the large space that had housed the pharmacy as we found it,” she says.
They purchased the building in 1999 from Rosemary Koffskey, the sister of the pharmacist. Koffskey was born in the house across the street and she lived in the pharmacy building her entire life; her father ran the pharmacy.
“Once we updated the electricity, painted and refinished the floors, we were set to go,” Rebeck says. “The biggest challenge was to make the converted double shotgun into a comfortable modern living space, without doing major renovations. In the end, we removed some walls and changed a few of the doors.” Fortunately, Rebeck turned out to be quite a handyman, demonstrating his wide range of skills by renovating most of the kitchen. “He also picked out all the colors for the walls,” Uhl says.
Furnishings for the couple’s home are eclectic. “We have a combination of family antiques and modern design pieces,” Uhl explains. “There are even some special finds from our neighborhood streets.”
Uhl was determined to carve out a garden where they found a slab of concrete with weeds growing out of the cracks. “Our first step was to break open an area for a tree. Imagine our surprise when we accidently discovered an old privy where we wanted to plant the tree. We began a mini excavation project and found pieces from discarded chamber pots. The discarded china pieces were incorporated in the mosaic on the steps.”
While most floors are hard wood, the original blue tile floor in the studio remains untouched. “It is wonderful and indestructible. I recently did some coffee staining onto watercolor paper. I stretched the paper on the floor and it wasn’t a problem to clean up my mess.”
“We love our neighborhood,” Rebeck says. “We can bike or walk to the Riverfront and French Quarter.” Uhl agrees, adding, “Whenever we open our front door, we see one of our friends, or Arthur the produce truck guy. This place is a realization of a dream and it’s perfect for us.”