How to Make the Super Tricky “Shotgun” Layout Work

published Apr 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

I recently stayed in a traditional shotgun apartment in New Orleans with my partner and one of my best friends. If you aren’t familiar with the shotgun home layout, it’s typically long and narrow, and made up of rooms that are directly connected to each other, directing you through each room to get to the next. The layouts were very popular in the South (especially New Orleans), but are also common in New York and Chicago. In our rental, my friend definitely woke me up a couple of times during the night when walking to the bathroom, so it’s clear how the layout might present design challenges, whether living alone, with roommates, or when entertaining guests. Here are some beautiful spaces that make this tricky layout work.

(Image credit: Lauren & Breeze)

Lauren and Breeze’s duplex in New Orleans is the perfect example of the shotgun floorplan—it’s said that the term “shotgun” may be a reference to a shotgun blast easily flying from one end of the house to the other. What we love about Breeze’s space is the unique church pew seating at the entry that takes up little space and leaves a clear path to the next room. This keeps a harmonious flow throughout the space, while providing extra seating for guests if needed.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Though literally side-by-side, Lauren and Breeze’s shotgun homes have different styles, but both show the importance of natural light. The windows in the front room of Lauren’s space are covered by sheer curtains, which filter the sunlight, but still let in plenty on a clear day. And because Lauren keeps the doors to every room wide open, the light from the front room brightens the adjacent bedroom.

(Image credit: Design)
(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

Textile designer Christian Rathbone does a great job with the shotgun floorplan in his New York apartment, found via Design*Sponge. He keeps the path that connects all of the rooms clear, as pictured in the kitchen above, which makes for a smooth transition from room to room (and likely prevents accidental run-ins with furniture).

(Image credit: Kerry Maloney)
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Renters and owners of shotgun homes typically strive for a certain harmony between each room. Kerry does just that in her French Quarter apartment by adding fun, bright, and eclectic art and accents throughout the space. But each room is also distinct at the same time, due to the various wall textures and paint colors Kerry added throughout: the living room features an exposed brick wall, the kitchen a bold blue, and the bedroom a dark shade of purple.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Kendra’s historic Fresno apartment features a shotgun layout and illustrates an important yet simple tip to maintain a smooth flow throughout the space: keeping the doors wide open. Not only does this allow natural light to flow from room to room (as shown above), but it prevents a space from feeling closed off and limited. Sure, it pushes you to keep areas in view clean for guests, but can’t we all use that boost?