A true melting pot of America, the style and culture of New Orleans is rich, diverse, and seething with luxurious design appeal. A city steeped in its own traditions, the Big Easy has a vibe like nowhere else. Although technically located in the deep south, New Orleans has a combined culture that’s a composition of the unique fusion of African, Caribbean, English, French, Haitian, and Spanish heritages. Drawing from all these different influences gives the city its unique sense of place.
What does this NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) design aesthetic look like?
- Antique furniture
- Bold colors
- Clever improvisation to give timeless classics new life
- Crumbling plaster as decorative element
- European influences laced throughout
- Jazz and Mardi Gras-inspired art
- Rooms built for entertaining
- Statement pieces
- Velvet covered seating in rich hues
There are many festive, practical, and exciting ways to bring NOLA culture to your life. To infuse your home with a little bit of the Southern city’s charm, follow along for all the elements that are needed for the quintessential New Orleans style. Whether you’re decorating an apartment in the French Quarter, a colorful cottage, or a grand manor, a home that embodies the spirit of New Orleans should have a sense of fearless drama.
Every New Orleans inspired home needs a little bit of ornamentation.
- Crown molding.
- Plaster ceiling medallions draw the eyes up to the flair.
- Easily add multiple layers of molding.
- Install medallions around light fixtures.
- Paint ceiling medallions to enhance your chandeliers.
Shabby Chic: Ground Zero
New Orleans locals have deep roots and take the history of their city into their hearts and homes. This romantic sensibility displayed throughout a home’s interior and exterior décor is the foundation for the shabby chic style. The hand-me-downs and re-fitted/refurbished antiques are deeply loved items that are proudly used and presented in the NOLA home. The overall effect is a comfortably lived-in look that manages to retain a certain elegance thanks to careful composition.
- Time worn walls treatments.
- Unique aged floors.
- Antique furniture that has seen generations of use.
- Reading nooks with well-read old books and antique lighting.
New Orleans is a city of wild character that embraces a carefree vibe by way of color.
- Pastel shaded houses line the streets of the Garden District.
- Saturated jewel-toned homes adorne the French Quarter.
- These shades of vibrant bold colors are brought into the home as well.
- You basically can't go wrong when choosing your color palette as long as it is rich, bold, and alive!
Lighting guides demonstrate just how distinctly the right layers of lighting can influence how a space looks and feels. To mimic the sensual glow and vibrant nightlife of the Big Easy, add a few of these options to your home design plan.
- Low candlelight glow is reminiscent of a live jazz concert.
- Bright spotlights are used to uplight rooms in a traditional Southern home (and traditional NOLA parties!).
- Layer rooms with multiple lighting options to create a soft or illuminated light.
- Pair lighting elements with the distinctive lampshades for more control over the look and feel of your rooms.
French Flair Furniture
With a portion of the city designated to the French Quarter, it’s no wonder that French antiques and French interior design have a strong influence on New Orleans decorating style. Antique French furniture can be the focal point of a living room or bedroom with its ornate woodwork and finishing.
- Follow French design principles- steer clear of neutral colors.
- Inherited elegant French antiques.
- Upholstered pieces.
- Solid wood furnishings.
- Furniture with Western European roots
Low Country Antiques
French and other European settlers brought their finery with them when moving into New Orleans. As time marched on and families, households, and the community expanded, these furnishings were integrated with locally made crafts. You can turn your home’s accessories into looking more antique by adding or including:
- Gilded accents
- Oil paintings
- Artifacts from the beginning of the city’s history
- These more primitive designs were called Low Country.
- This style heralded mainly from South Carolina and other areas in the South all considered in the American Low Country heritage categories.
Centered around music, almost every NOLA home will have some element of musical instrument or representation in attendance.
- Bring the city’s jovial atmosphere of music into your home by displaying musical instruments.
- Hanging hand drums, small guitars, or horns on the wall is perfectly acceptable.
- Get out the record player and some fine vinyl to let the rhythms roll through your stereo system.
When you first consider what stands for New Orleans style, no doubt iron railings that line the streets of the famous French Quarter come to mind. Bring bits of this decorative ironwork into or around your home to emulate that NOLA vibe.
- Hang a piece of an iron gate on your wall as decorative art.
- Use a section of iron fence as a headboard.
- Top a three-sided balcony piece with glass or marble to make a console table.
- An old iron gate or door makes a gorgeous piece of art to place anywhere in the home, or on the porch, or outdoor entertaining area.
The more ornate and colorful the better! A chandelier with dangling crystals should be the focal point of the main room. This style goes with any of the New Orleans design looks and can be installed in the entryway, bathroom, living room or anywhere else you’d like. This fancy element will fit anywhere. Styles in the French Empire to fun and funky renditions are all included. A chandelier instantly adds elegance and creates ambiance.
- Crystal Chandeliers- New Orleans style includes luxurious French-inspired decor to a super stylistic voodoo vibe.
Gilding and Tufting
Opulent design details like gilding and tufting reflect the glamorous Parisian roots of the city's history.
- Gilding- the process of applying gold leaf or gold paint.
- Tufting- a type of textile weaving in which a thread is inserted on a primary base.
The religious influences of Catholicism and Voodoo make for an interesting blend of decorative artifacts.
- Voodoo first came to Louisiana with enslaved West Africans and fleeing Haitians after the 1791 slave revolt.
- Free people of color made these practices an important part of their culture while merging religious and rituals with those of the local Catholic population.
- It is a tradition connected to nature, spirits, and ancestors.
- Connection is believed to be obtained through various rituals such as dance, music, and chanting.
- Potions and talismans are still found in stores and homes throughout the city – a reminder of the New Orleans fascination with spirits, magic, and mystery.
Mardi Gras Memorabilia
New Orleans residents love Mardi Gras year-round which is the celebration at the beginning of Lent.
- “Fat Tuesday," is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Christian season leading up to Easter.
- During Lent, many fast and the name Fat Tuesday refers to the last day of eating richer foods before the leaner days of Lent begin.
- Many NOLA locals will display Mardi Gras trinkets and memorabilia all year long to bring back those memories of Carnival time.
Tradition with a Twist
New Orleans is a city steeped in history and tradition, but residents like to have fun with their homes.
- Try an unexpected twist on a serious piece, like a traditional French chair reupholstered in a bright hue.
- Nothing is out of place.
New Orleans is rich with talented local artists, especially those in the Cajun folk arena.
NOLA home decor style definitely includes elements of local art.
- Mix funky, contemporary artwork with traditional Parisian furnishings for a fun, colorful touch.
- Influences from Jackson Square Park where local artists sell their work can help inspire you.
- Artistic depictions of this famous city will continue to keep your attention for the long haul.
Bring the New Orleans-style courtyard inside with classical urns and statuary.
- Fill the statues with ferns and tropicals for a lush indoor garden.
Green Indoor Gardens
Many New Orleans homes boast lush, green courtyards, and relaxing hideaways in the middle of a bustling city.
- Mimic the feel-good vibes by accessorizing your home with live plants.
- Add greens to your entryway, balcony, or any small nook hangout area.
- New Orleans creole cuisine uses tons of culinary herbs like oregano, parsley, thyme, or sage. These herbs are easy to grow in your kitchen and are delightful ingredients to add to a big pot of gumbo.
There’s no mixing words; New Orleans style is sexy. The city gives off a vibe of romance and heady sensuality by embracing the worn patina and long history of European settler’s influences. Secluded courtyards full of lush foliage open onto private living rooms infused with history. A mixture of beautiful antiques, saturated colors, and spaces created to entertain rule the style attitude of the city. Enjoy bringing this warm and sensuous style into your home.
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