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New Orleans’ music, muffeletta and Mardi Gras may  garner the most tourist attention. But until you’ve seen this city’s homes, you haven’t really seen New Orleans. Such a unique mix of homes… from Creole townhouses, cottages and shotgun homes to majestic Greek Revival mansions… is unlike anything you’ll find in any other city.

Second only to New York as the largest port of entry into America during the 19th century, settlers arrived in New Orleans from all over, bringing their style preferences with them. The French brought their love of dressy décor. The Spanish brought their knack for building houses that last forever and look better with age. Neighboring islanders brought their open-air living and breeze-management skills!  Americans of British descent (who flocked from the northeast to New Orleans after LA was purchased by the United States) brought their love of Greek Revival and Queen Ann Decor.

 New Orleans’ rich, varied history has left us with a style of home décor that really can’t be found anywhere else. In fact, there’s no one style of  furniture that identifies a New Orleans home. But whatever the influence, what’s common to the most historic New Orleans homes is a love of an elegant past; toned-down to suit a languid, tropical lifestyle.

Interiors renovated in ‘New Orleans’, or ‘Creole’ (French and Spanish) style today may follow the  relaxed traditional styles the city is famous for. But they’re also likely to mix old and new into a unique, very personal style. In many ways New Orleans offers fresh inspiration for today’s trend to eclectic, collected-over-time rooms.

 The charm of a New Orleans home is its atmosphere more than its style… a sense of oldness, sensuality and faded elegance. It’s a blend of aged patinas, plaster, brick, painted shutters, waxed wood, tarnished  metals and rich mahogany furniture that give a Creole interior so much charm. There’s no effort to conceal age or history here.

New Orleans French Quarter home

New Orleans Creole cottage

New Orleans Greek Revival home

For more information on New Orleans style decor and interior design, check out our special New Orleans issue of roomplanners magazine. Or sign up to receive roomplanners magazine free each month.



What makes New Orleans decor so seductive, nostalgic, exotic, elegant and memorable?

It can be tough to put your finger on what makes these one-of-a-kind interiors so mesmerizing, but we’re going to try! Here they are… eight things authentic New Orleans, or Creole, style interiors have in common. (You can read more about each of these (along with dozens of photos!) inside this month’s issue of roomplanners magazine. Click on the magazine cover to open the issue!) 

8 ways to create New Orleans style at home

1. Colorful Walls. Perhaps it’s being around all those Cajun spices… all that tropical sunshine that fades anything but bold colors… or that melting pot of cultures from Paris to Port au Prince, from Seville to Sierra Leone. Whatever the cause, the use of color in New Orleans is nothing short of fearless, both in the exuberant choice of colors and how they’re used together. In a Creole home, walls are covered in strong, elegant hues. Baseboards, planked ceilings, trim and doors are also painted  to preserve wood from weather and insects. 

2. Unmatched furniture.  It’s unlikely to find matching upholstery or  bedrooms suites in a Creole interior. An eclectic, inherited, collected-over-time quality is much preferred. French or English, city or country furniture from the 18th and 19th century are favorite choices and freely mixed. 

The parlor is the prized room in a Creole home, and it’s rarely without a shapely camel back sofa, a few18th century chairs, a well-dressed mantel, elegant drapes or tall shutters. But formality is always subdued, toned down with slightly faded colors, worn surfaces and a patina of age.

3. One-of-a-kind objects. Unique and disparate objects perfectly coexist in a New Orleans home. There’s little effort to coordinate them or to hide their age. A chipped or faded surface is welcomed; it gives objects an inherited quality or has a personal story. 

With each object possessing traces of the past, an agreeable harmony results. A penchant for displaying favorite objects is rooted in both a French appreciation for owning beautiful things that dates back to the 18th century, and a Victorian penchant  for collecting that dates back to the 19th.

4. Picture walls. Exuberantly covering an interior wall with a variety of framed artwork is distinctly New Orleans thing to do. Surrounded by so much artwork, Creoles regularly peered into the past. Such a museum-like tradition also recalls Victorians’ habit of creating ‘picture rooms’ that simulated art galleries, or hanging a variety of framed art together in an intimate collage.

Oil paintings with rich Renaissance colors and gilded frames have been favored in New Orleans homes, but any mix of size, shape or style of paintings adds to the New Orleans ‘picture wall’  effect, especially when they’re clustered together, or even  leaned against walls or mantels.

5. Tall windows & shutters. Tall, narrow and elegant French doors grace nearly all the buildings in New Orleans, recalling Paris apartments with their tall doors leading out onto tiny iron-clad balconies filled with flower pots.

Tall working shutters bracket both windows and doors; a clever and practical idea in a tropical, hurricane zone… and an undeniable hallmark of New Orleans style. Louvered shutters are believed to be uniquely Spanish; board-and-batten shutters more French.

6. Ferns and fans. Picture lush ferns enclosing lazy, tropical porches, filling rooms or hanging from wire baskets … tropical ceiling fans in every room… louvered shutters letting in a breeze… slipcovers       protecting furniture from perspiration and insects… hardwood floors with removable area rugs for summer seasons… and you’ve got the idea!

A New Orleans’ home feels summery and sultry, inviting us to slow down and cool off. With deep porches, windows clad with lush drapery, shutters or both, interiors look slightly dim… shaded from the sunlight and protected from the elements.

7. Iron furniture and furnishings. Were all those fancy iron balconies in New Orleans aa French idea? A Spanish import? A Victorian excuse to elaborate? No matter. Curiosity about the origin of all the wrought and cast iron in New Orleans is usually quickly replaced by an appreciation for how well iron it works as decoration rather than just structure!

In New Orleans, intricate, exquisitely detailed ironwork scrolls its way onto balconies, gates, fences, doors, planters, staircases, beds, lanterns, candelabras and more.

8. Brick, plaster & paint. Creole homes suggest centuries of attempts s to resist harsh weather and intense heat. Simulating something between old-world European ruins and color-rich Caribbean islands, the walls of many New Orleans homes uniquely mix brick, painted wood and     plastered walls.

Painting wood preserved it from weather and insects (and offered Creoles more places to add color!). Plaster was used to cover brick walls in city center homes after disastrous fires in 1788 and 1794. Today, painted wood trim and aged plaster walls suggest the romantic ambiance of bygone days.

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Few books have captured the beauty of New Orleans interiors and Creole-style design quite like Richard Sexton’s New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence. Published in 1993 (Chronicle Books) and again in 2003, the book was dubbed “the best photography book ever done on the city.”

A resident of New Orleans, Richard Sexton is a noted photographer, artist, writer, critic, teacher and author. Sexton specializes in photography of architecture, design and landscapes.

Several of Sexton’s photographs are featured in this month’s roomplanners magazine.  We dedicated the entire issue to New Orleans homes and his shots helped us capture the flavor of this unique city and its one-of-a-kind interior design. To find out more about eclectic New Orleans interiors and Creole-style room designs, furniture, paint colors and architecture, click on this link to open the magazine:

Richard Sexton’s photographs have also been featured in The Cottage Book, In the Victorian Style, American Style: Classic Product Design from Airstream to Zippo, in addition to books profiling New Orleans’ architecture and interiors, Louisiana plantations and the Gulf Coast. 

New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence. Richard Sexton, photographer


It’s been 5 years since hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans.

 The Crescent City didn’t just suffer severe damage to 200,000 homes. It suffered damage to some of the most unique homes in America. With so many of those homes still in need of repair, we dedicated our June 2010 roomplanners magazine issue to highlighting what makes New Orleans homes and Creole-style interior design so special.

Much more has been written about New  Orleans’ music, food and festivals than about its interiors. But it’s the city’s homes and interior design that let us glimpse into America’s golden age of home design, and its most unique creations.

You don’t need to decorate in New Orleans style to appreciate it (though you may be tempted to!). But we hope this issue peeks your curiosity about New Orleans enough to put it at the top of your list of places to visit. No other city in America offer such a unique, indigenous mix of European,  American, African and island culture.

Sadly, at the time of this publication, the people of New Orleans are again under siege; this time by an oil spill that threatens their wildlife, seafood industry and tourism. The tragedy of the past months motivated us even more to bring the beauty of this city’s culture, seen through its homes and interior design, to our pages this month.

Click on the magazine cover above, or the link below to open the issue! Enjoy!