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M.S. Rau Antiques

Size of Project

32,530 SF

Location

New Orleans, LA

Owner

M.S. Rau Antiques

Industry

Historic

Type

Historic Renovation

Status

Completed in 2021

Architect

Office of Jonathan Tate

Overview

A historic restoration of the highest sophistication.

How do you create a rare, beautiful, and enchanting experience? You don’t just dream about it. You build it. At 110 years old, M.S. Rau has enchanted visitors and clients worldwide with their fascinating collection of illustrious jewels, rare fine art, and exclusive antiques. Beginning in 2018, they were ready to embark on a new opportunity to expand their French Quarter footprint following the acquisition of additional historic properties in the 600 block of gallery-lined Royal Street. For a historic renovation of the highest sophistication, M.S. Rau turned to Impetus to be the Design-Lead Contractor for the brand’s monumental 32,530 sq. ft. project that would join, preserve, and update two identical 1800s-era Creole dwellings, setting the scene for a revitalized high-end experience. What better way to help treasures shine than by giving them a three-story luxurious chest to be found in?

Simple details restored into prominent features.

When handled gently, historic buildings are fortified for the long run. The complex renovation would take place over four phases of work, each tackling a different aspect of the owner’s operations. Impetus’ preconstruction team employed the company’s signature planning style—meticulously laying out strategy, value analysis, and team culture to meet the elevated standards of the M.S. Rau brand, as well as the historical considerations governed by the Vieux Carre Commission. Seventy-four new masonry openings required the installation of masonry lintel supports and additional structural steel shear bracing to stabilize the structure and prevent the historical building from twisting or racking. The existing brick masonry walls were also stabilized, with over 8,000 sq. ft. tuckpointed. All buildings received new true slate shingles, copper flashings, gutters, and downspouts, covering roughly 12,360 sq. ft. Brought back into use by the Impetus team, the historical building’s simple details were restored into prominent features. The notable three-story staircase was refurbished, along with over 120 historical windows, doors, and shutters. New storm drainage was installed within all courtyards to eliminate the flooding that previously plagued the buildings. The future use of the main courtyard would be a thematic extension supporting the guest experience, allowing visitors to relax and partake in its historical use.

Modernizing elements.

Once a building is fortified and brought up to code, you can bring it into the future with modernizing elements. The centerpiece of M.S. Rau’s new jewelry gallery would be an ellipse-shaped room with curved glass, nicknamed “The Crystal Palace.” Surrounding the statement feature, the Impetus team installed custom casework designed in Milan, Italy. Sophisticated lighting and updated access controls bolstered both presentation and day-to-day operations. Two elevators were installed, along with a material lift. New Orleans’ climate is a critical factor with historical buildings, especially ones housing fine art sensitive to temperature changes. Glass sliding doors at the gallery entrance were installed to provide security and maintain gallery temperature. Proper waterproofing was also critical, so the Impetus team engaged a waterproofing consultant to properly prevent moisture intrusion. Exterior wall deficiencies were repaired, and waterproofing details that fit into the historical aesthetic of the building were introduced.

A new, beautiful chapter.

Historical renovation is an intense, beautiful mystery. You never know what you might find. This complex project saw a variety of challenges—hurricanes, the pandemic, logistics, and supplies—just to name a few. But Impetus’ signature preconstruction process augments our field team’s execution and allows them to meet the project’s unique demands. And whether it’s preconstruction or our on-site team, when the unexpected occurs, our renegade mindset means a contingency plan is always within reach. It’s an approach that enabled M.S. Rau to open its doors to a new, beautiful chapter of business that complements the luxurious curiosities inside. It also put Impetus on the award list—yet again—with a 2018 Associated Builders and Contractors Historic Renovation Award of Excellence. After all, building a destination for “rare and extraordinary things” takes a rare and extraordinary team.


Recognition

Historic Renovation Award of Excellence

Associated Builders and Contractors Historic