New Orleans, A Love Story

If there is one city on this planet that has no problem letting its freak flag fly, it’s New Orleans. Oh my, am I in love with this city. Five years ago, after a lifetime of yearning to go there,  I finally got the chance—and that was it.  Love at first sight. I’ve returned five times in the last five years. So much for playing hard to get.

The city’s storied past is a beguiling one.  Devastating fires, plague, yellow fever, rebellions, war, floods, malaria, smallpox, the French, and hurricanes have all left their battle scars over the last few centuries.  Yet, what has always intrigued me is the way in which the city’s inhabitants have dealt with the setbacks: they seemingly build a collective conscious that incorporates the sadness and mixes it with equal parts spirit and jubilation (think jazz funerals). Not even the 2005 triple blow dealt by Katrina, FEMA, and George Bush could keep her down for long. The city is still alive, and dang—she’s in the mood to party.

There’s a hauntingly beautiful mix of darkness and ebullience in everything about New Orleans. I’ve chosen a few images from my recent visits that have inspired me, in every conceivable way. New Orleans makes me want to lighten up, break the rules, be a bad-ass, and design with complete abandon.

EVEN IN THE UPPER-CRUSTY GARDEN DISTRICT, COOL DESIGN ELEMENTS ABOUND. THE SKULL MOTIF ON THIS FENCE SURROUNDS THE FORMER HOME OF AUTHOR ANNE RICE.

THIS DELICIOUS MIX OF SANSEVERIA, PLECTRANTHUS, SPANISH MOSS, AND BRIGHT AQUA SHUTTERS HAD ME AT HELLO.

THE NEW ORLEANS BOTANICAL GARDEN BOASTS AN INCREDIBLE “STAGHORN FERN WALK.” DOES DESIGN GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS?

NEW ORLEANIANS DO NOT DO NEUTRALS. BRIGHT, CHEERFUL COLOR IS EVERYWHERE, EVEN ON THE FANCY HOUSES. THIS IS MY FAVORITE HOUSE ON THE PLANET. AND YES, THAT’S ME IN A DORKY GARDENING HAT, FANTASIZING FOR A MOMENT THAT I LIVE HERE.

ALONG MARDI GRAS PARADE ROUTES, ALL THE LIVE OAKS ARE DRAPED WITH COLORFUL BEADS–THOUSANDS OF THEM THOWN THERE BY ENTHUSIASTIC PARADE-GOERS.

HITCHING POSTS ARE ON EVERY BLOCK IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. SOME HAVE AN EXQUISITE PATINA BUILT UP THAT MAKES THEM WORKS OF ART ALL UNTO THEMSELVES.

REPETITION IS A POWERFUL DESIGN ELEMENT, AND NEW ORLEANIANS TOTALLY GET THAT.

EVEN  THE PURE ABSURDITY OF THE CITY IS INSPIRING TO ME. WHERE ELSE ON THE PLANET COULD YOU WITNESS A LEPRECHAUN STROLLING PAST TWO BUSINESSMEN (WHO AREN’T EVEN BLINKING AN EYE AT THE SIGHT)?

OR HOW ABOUT A LATE NIGHT REDNECK WEDDIN’ PARTY, DANCING DOWN THE STREET WITH A FULL JAZZ PROCESSION?

AND YES, I DO BELIEVE WEIRD CAN BE WONDERFUL.

New Orleans is a sensual experience, a moving, breathing work of art.. These few pictures capture just a teeny tiny glimpse into the soul of the city. As a designer, I seek out inspiration in everything, but nowhere else on the planet affects me half as much as this funky little city.

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