City View: New Orleans Style Mixes It Up

We are continuing our suburban city exploration, this week studying all about the very rich history of design at New Orleans. Personally I can say this is the only U.S. city I’ve seen which made me feel like I was in another country because of its unique personality, culture and perspectives. I’ve asked New Orleans design pros to share:
Something which produces a design distinctly New Orleans A trend that is on the rise in New Orleans A misconception concerning design at New Orleans”A misconception could be that people think New Orleans style is simply French design, when it is French, Spanish, Caribbean and English,” states Al Jones of Al Jones Architect. “While ardently French, it is a lovely blend of numerous influences.”

This is true not only historically but also today, writes Brook Malec of CAIN Construction and Design: “New Orleans has been, and continues to be, a cultural crossroads. This is becoming more and more applicable on the design front as people bring with them a wealth of knowledge and ideas from all over the world. There’s a demand for locally sourced materials and design tools. In addition, we have resources like The Green Project for sourcing materials. As performers, we now have the chance to combine the best of both trends by utilizing local talent to make new and creative spaces.”

A mix of historic and modern-day influences, together with resilient residents who love to celebrate, continue to shape the town of New Orleans. “For me the beauty of New Orleans is the mix of different styles driven by use and location that make a great cityscape. It has been wonderfully preserved and has withstood hurricanes, fires and Mardi Gras,” states Jones. Take a Look at a Selection of New Orleans styles.


For all those of you who are lucky enough to have seen the Garden District in New Orleans, the first kind of house that may come into mind could be an Italianate Victorian similar to this one. Due to all of the elaborate detailing, homes like this one are usually known as wedding-cake homes.

Valorie Hart

Along with the wealth of historic homes, one thing which makes New Orleans style unique is that “girls in New Orleans invest more money in their homes than in their wardrobes,” states Valorie Hart interior decorator, blogger and soon-to-be author (look for her book about interior design at 2013).

A trend on the upswing from New Orleans: “adding color and contemporary and classic pieces to the mix of antiques and swamp palazzo,” Hart says.

Valorie Hart

The largest misconception about New Orleans, Hart says, is “that it is all antebellum style or the Mardi Gras and jazz and bordello look. Design is very sophisticated in New Orleans, even more so from the continuing rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina.”

Having said that, homes surely transform dramatically during the months prior to Fat Tuesday.

One of the styles most closely connected with New Orleans is your shotgun house. The exceptional footprint of the shotgun house grew out of an old New Orleans property tax structure which was predicated on a lot’s street frontage. The long, narrow homes minimized street frontage, squeezing from the house for the least amount of taxation.

Elizabeth Calogero and Marion Cage McCollam remodeled this two-bay shotgun house in the Faubourg Bouligny part of uptown. It is a great example of mixing styles, reconfiguring old architecture for modern-day life and reusing substance in New Orleans.

“We reconfigured the railroad-like floor program by dividing the bedrooms and opening the center of the house with a living and kitchen room,” states Calogero. They transferred the entrance from the front into the side of the house to enhance the layout and flow.

The pair also gave old stuff a brand new life in a way that blended architectural styles. “To flooding the living room with light, we installed double-hung cypress windows recycled by a St. Charles Avenue mansion,” she states. “All of the doors inside and out were also recycled cypress, though they’re not original to the house — vandals had stripped the house of these before we bought it,” she states.

Adler Design Build

“As a New Orleans architect and interior designer, I do not believe my style standard of New Orleans,” states Stephanie Adler of Adler Design Build. “But in the past many of my clients have prompted me to step out of my comfort zone and supply them with a design that is clearly New Orleans,” she states. “In this cabana I made, the weathered wood together with traditional components in an outdoor atmosphere is typical of the city. Within this subtropical region, New Orleanians like to enjoy the outside with a cocktail as well as friends. We do not need an excuse to celebrate!”

Adler Design Build

“Old-world elements mingled with unexpected flair is distinctly New Orleans,” says Adler. “Lanterns, chandeliers and wood paneling together with antiqued paint finishes are typical of New Orleans. As from the Victorian era, it is not strange to combine many distinct styles in one area of a New Orleans home.”

Adler Design Build

“A trend that is on the rise is taking traditional components and paring them down with contemporary finishes and less accessories,” says Adler. “Recycling traditional details and using them in new ways is also a trend. Many folks lost all of their worldly possessions in Katrina, and it taught us all to live with less and to love and celebrate life even more.”

Nelson Wilson Interiors

“The amazing interior architectural components of the many beautiful, grand old homes is clearly New Orleans,” says interior designer Karin Nelson of Nelson Wilson Interiors. “Nothing sets the platform for design quite like towering 14-foot ceilings, intricate century-old plaster medallions and moldings, and beautiful marble mantels.”

Al Jones Architect

“New Orleans residential design is distinctive and unique in it is a selection of various early styles which constitute a superb cityscape,” says architect Al Jones. “Different places have different combinations of styles with different capabilities. How the early founding fathers divided up and planned the town decided how the homes developed. Additionally, a lot of the urban design came out of necessity for the several trades in the city.”

Al Jones Architect

“The New Orleans courtyard house is all within the French Quarter,” states Jones. “It appears to be a leading sidewalk facade with entry doors off the sidewalk but explodes into magnificent gardens once you enter the house and its own walled courtyards.”

CAIN Construction and Designs

“New Orleans is blessed with a large stock of historic structures characterized by tall ceilings, outside living spaces and comprehensive millwork, but that which separates us from other historic Southern cities is the way by which we utilize our environment,” says Brook Malec. “Here, design must be considered in terms of social experiences. A porch is not only for chatting with the neighbors, it is also for seeing parades. Courtyards must easily transform from silent retreats to vibrant configurations for crawfish boils.”

CAIN Construction and Designs

“In terms of insides, it is about generations of New Orleanians producing comfortable environments which are both functional and beautiful, where homes reflect a certain level of diverse sentimentality,” states Malec. “It is not uncommon to proudly display your grandmother’s silver tea service alongside your Set of glitter-laden sneakers out of years of Muses parades. “

CAIN Construction and Designs

“Visitors who see only a small segment of the city may feel that New Orleans design is antiquated. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” states Malec. “In the past decade sustainable design has made enormous strides, and designers have embraced that theory. Luckily, for the greater portion of its existence, New Orleans has been incorporating several sustainable philosophies like passive venting, locally sourced materials and walkability. One can discover examples of modern design throughout the city. When done well, the design and scale characteristics of these buildings reflect a seamless integration with their historic setting.”

Of course, a new strategy has occurred post-Katrina, with so much of this housing stock.

Workshop/apd won the Global Green Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans in 2006 together with the group’s strategies for an Whole block of the Holy Cross neighborhood from the Ninth Ward.

Brad Pitt’s Make It Proper foundation’s efforts to reconstruct the community continue. Keep tabs on this historic city to see a few of the most cutting-edge technologies rising in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

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