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For those of you who are lucky enough to have visited the Garden District in New Orleans, the first kind of house that may come to mind may be an Italianate Victorian like this one. Because of all of the ornate detailing, houses like this one are often referred to as wedding-cake houses.
In addition to the wealth of historic homes, one thing that makes New Orleans style unique is that "women in New Orleans spend more money on their houses than on their wardrobes," says Valorie Hart interior decorator, blogger and soon-to-be author (look for her book on interior design in 2013).
A trend on the rise in New Orleans: "adding color and modern and vintage pieces to the mix of antiques and swamp palazzo," Hart says.
The biggest 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 in the continuing rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina."
That said, homes certainly transform dramatically during the weeks before Fat Tuesday.
"As a New Orleans architect and interior designer, I do not consider my style typical of New Orleans," says Stephanie Adler of Adler Design Build. "But in the past many of my clients have motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and provide them with a design that is distinctly New Orleans," she says. "In this cabana I designed, the weathered wood combined with traditional elements in an outdoor setting is typical of this city. In this subtropical region, New Orleanians like to enjoy the outdoors with a cocktail and friends. We don't need an excuse to celebrate!"
"Old-world elements mingled with unexpected flair is distinctly New Orleans," says Adler. "Lanterns, chandeliers and wood paneling combined with antiqued paint finishes are typical of New Orleans. As in the Victorian era, it is not unusual to mix many different styles in one room of a New Orleans home."
"New Orleans residential architecture is distinctive and unique in that it is a collection of various early styles that make up a wonderful cityscape," says architect Al Jones. "Different areas have different blends of styles with different features. The way the early founding fathers divided up and planned the city determined how the houses developed. Also, much of the urban design came out of necessity for the various trades in the city."
"New Orleans is blessed with a large stock of historic structures characterized by tall ceilings, exterior living spaces and detailed millwork, but what separates us from other historic Southern cities is the way in which we use our surroundings," says Brook Malec. "Here, design must be thought of in terms of social experiences. A porch is not just for chatting with the neighbors, it’s also for watching parades. Courtyards must easily transform from quiet retreats to lively settings for crawfish boils."
"In terms of interiors, it is about generations of New Orleanians creating comfortable environments that are both functional and beautiful, where homes reflect a certain level of eclectic sentimentality," says Malec. "It is not uncommon to proudly display your grandmother’s silver tea service alongside your collection of glitter-laden shoes from years of Muses parades. "
Of course, a whole new architectural approach has happened post-Katrina, with so much of the housing stock ruined.
Workshop/apd won the Global Green Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans in 2006 with the team's plans for an entire block of the Holy Cross neighborhood in the Ninth Ward.
Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation's efforts to rebuild the community continue. Keep your eye on this historic city to see some of the most cutting-edge sustainable technology rising in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
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