Katherine O'Bryon:  Construction Boss Lady

Katherine O'Bryon: Construction Boss Lady

Posted by F&N Babe Kayla Jones on Oct 29th 2019

Katherine O'Bryon is the founder and a partner of The Blue House Construction & Consulting. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, she attended the University of Vermont where she studied Community and International Development and Applied Design: Architecture.

Her construction experience ranges from a commercial teaching hospital in rural West Virginia, to LEED Platinum Residential construction in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward neighborhood. Katherine is a LEED Accredited Building Design + Construction Professional, and holds a Master’s degree from Tulane University in Sustainable Real Estate Development. Passionate about urban design that forges connections between communities and our natural environment, Katherine is one kick-ass construction boss lady.

Annunciation House

Have you always been interested in architecture and designs? What drew you to it?

Yes, since a young age I was always interested in the built environment and how spaces and people interact indoors and outdoors. In college, I majored in Community and International Development with a minor in Applied Design: Architecture. Many of my college courses were centered around understanding community and economic development, as well as their overlap with the built environment.

Dauphine Bakery

What are some of your inspirations?

More than ever I see businesses and people making a more considerable effort for beautiful placemaking - many beautiful adaptive re-use project continue to inspire me to work with challenging historic properties. Projects like The Catahoula Hotel in the CBD and Electric Depot in Baton Rouge make stunning examples of bringing blighted historic structures back into commerce.

Instagram makes for easy design inspiration at your fingertips; designers like @amberinteriors, @emilyhenderson, @sarahshermansamuel, @studiomcgee, @jennikayne, and lots of other blogs @dominomag, @apartmenttherapy, @designlovefest for constant design and style, tips and trends.

Dauphine Bakery

What’s been your favorite project so far? What made this one stand out from the others?

Our Dauphine Bakery Project was a highlight. It was our first multi-unit renovation on a very historic property. It was equally thrilling and challenging to work with some of the incredible craftsmanship that came with a property built in 1872. While all of the units were renovated together and utilized the same materials, they all turned out very unique.

We’re currently working on developing 6 residential units out of a 1950’s laundromat, while the exterior brick structure is less than interesting, the interior steel beams and metal butterfly roof will give all of the apartments an amazing industrial aesthetic that I am excited to see shine.

Dauphine Bakery

What made you want to go into business for yourself? How did you connect with your current team?

In 2016, I started school at Tulane University where I received my Master’s in Sustainable Real Estate Development. Through this program, I met my business partner Anthony Kimble. Anthony’s experience in pre-development of projects paired well with my ability to design and construct.

We were able to begin to work together on his renovation in the Irish Channel and pushed our synergies forward to start The Blue House Construction + Consulting . Working with Anthony and his team at Kimble Properties has been an incredible asset as we are able to work closely on adaptive re-use projects in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which align well with our former studies at Tulane. Working with a driven and supportive team has made an incredible impact on the success of The Blue House Co . And has allowed us to pursue more creative projects in dynamic neighborhoods.

As a woman, what challenges have you faced starting a business?

People are often surprised when I tell them that I am a contractor but often get past the realization quickly. It's exciting to be a part of a changing work environment that brings diverse project teams together for a better outcome!

What are some of your favorite things about operating in New Orleans? What are some challenges?

New Orleans has an unmatched culture and its building stock is special in its own regard. On my own block, we have an eclectic mixture of 1800’s shotgun houses, mid-20th century warehouses, cornerstones, and even a Quonset Hut. It’s exciting to work on historic projects within walkable neighborhoods, as these are the developments that I feel strongest about. The residential urban core is a great fabric to build within. On the days where I don’t have to get in my car at all, I feel all the good sustainability feelings.

New Orleans has unmatched culture, which can continue into its city services - historic utilities can be challenging at times.

What advice would you give women wanting to start their own business?

Do what you love and surround yourself with a team of people who are equally passionate! There is no way to sugar-coat it; 20% of small businesses fail within the first year, 25% fail within their second year.

Just know your Tuesday nights might be; coming home from a spin class at 7:30pm, getting interviewed for a local blog, putting together tomorrow’s scope of work for subcontractors, picking out bathroom tile, taking your dog for a walk, doing a proforma projection on a new project, writing a speech for your brother’s wedding in 3 days, and making your best attempt at eating a healthy, well-balanced meal all before midnight. All of this is quickly worthwhile when you have positive outcomes in projects that you worked hardest for.

Why New Orleans? Where’s your favorite place in the city?

The sweet smell of jasmine in the spring, watching a tall ship pass down the river at the end of my street, vibrant houses, historic streets, and daiquiris.

What’s your favorite NOLA festival?

French Quarter festival. The price is right (free), which makes it easy to come and go. Just a quick bike ride from the Bywater neighborhood, grab some food from the Riverwalk and wander through the quarter.

You just finished dinner, what’s for dessert?

A cannoli (or 2) from Angelo Brocato’s!


To see more of Katherine's work, click here, here and here.

Follow her kick-ass construction projects on Instagram at @_thebluehouseco!