Tim Sheehan knew he was in for many years of hard work when he bought an abandoned New Orleans property six years ago. The grounds included a two-story 5,500 square-foot Greek Revival home and a ramshackle guest house, both in need of major renovations. The outdoor space started taking shape to become what it is today, a communal quad where Tim gathers regularly with friends, when he started using the yard as a staging ground for his many projects in 2012. Each addition he made started out of necessity and evolved into a social space. Now that the renovations are complete, and Tim has friends renting both the first floor of the main house and the guest house, the property finally feels like the homestead he set out to create.
A lean-to furnished with chairs and decorated with string lights and an assortment of strange objects serves as a stage for small concerts, impromptu Cajun and bluegrass jam sessions, and hanging out. The structure has electricity and the exterior includes a sink and outdoor shower. A small outhouse with a toilet is nearby. Two side-by-side claw-foot tubs, raised on a wooden platform and hooked up to water, are used for outdoor soaking. Plants, cow skulls, and objects removed from the houses during renovation surround the tubs. A holy water basin, salvaged from the church next door, is included among the back yard decor.
We asked Tim to tell us about the origins and inspirations for his unusual outdoor space. This is what he had to say:
What was your inspiration for the backyard?
Inspiration for the back yard came from my desire to create a livable outdoor space, a space where you could have dinner, read, relax, and hangout; as opposed to being inside with AC and TV, both of which I have intentionally limited. I spend most of my free time out there hanging out or working on little projects for the house or yard.
How did the lean-to come about?
The lean-to provided a much-need covered outdoor work and storage area. It was constructed of salvaged 4X4 pine beams from the back house, which itself was fully renovated from 2012 to 2015.
Did you intend to have backyard musical performances or did that just happen organically?
The music started when a friend suggested I contact Sofar sounds (like dinner lab for bands). They came to look at the space and ended up booking twice, once inside and once outside. In addition, the band Bon Bon Vivant came to a party one time and suggested they do a show. Since then, we have done 3 shows every other month or so, with suggested donations for the band. There was a burlesque dancer and a juggler at the last one.
Where did the clawfoot tubs come from?
The tubs came out the house and I didn't want to part with them. However, they kept catching water, so I decided to install them as part of the outdoor living theme. They get heavy use, though bathing suits are typically in the mix.
How did the Airstream enter the picture?
I bought the Airstream in Aug 2014 from a guy in Mid-city who had had his fun with it. Due to space constraints and dust, I spent about six months living in it while some of the work was done.