Drawing Home Inspiration from our trip to New Orleans

Last week, Justin and I spent 5 days in New Orleans on our first trip away since having our third baby back in August. We went for a work conference for Justin but added a couple days to the front end of the trip so that we had plenty of time for leisure too. It was such a fun getaway and I felt so inspired by the city! It is absolutely full of hidden gems, beautiful buildings, delicious food, fun music, and entertainment unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled before. Even little alleyways had so much character and personality!

I drew an incredible amount of inspiration from this city and made some notes about things I want to incorporate into my own home, so today I thought I’d share them here. Stick around until the end of the post and I also share some of the highlights of the trip and my recommendations if you’re going there yourself!

But first, my biggest design takeaways from our trip:

1. Staircase inspiration

We stayed in a hotel on Canal Street except for the very first night, where Justin chose a cute historic hotel in the Garden District. I could not. stop. staring. at the lobby staircase! For reasons I don’t want to take up space and elaborate on right now, we eventually will need to renovate our staircase and this will definitely be a photo I use as inspiration for that future renovation. I absolutely love how this staircase incorporates clean lines with a traditional vibe and attention to detail. I’m taking notes on the simple balusters, the wood-tone treads, and the simple stringer detail underneath. And look at how the wood-tone handrail extends ever so slightly into the mostly-painted newel! Such a fantastic little detail. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this post from ChrislovesJulia.com taught me so much about staircase anatomy!)

2. Lush greenery in outdoor living spaces

Whether it was a balcony in the French Quarter or a single-family home in the Garden District, I was struck by just how much greenery there was everywhere. It brought so much life and character to every space and I could not get enough!

We have a ton of plants inside our home, and we have woods surrounding our house, but our landscaping has never been high up on our priority list. This trip had me inspired to put more effort into not only our landscaping, but also including some type of potted plants on our porch, deck, and patio.

Something about window boxes and hanging baskets filled with flowers and plants romanticizes outdoor seating and I’m absolutely wanting to incorporate that into our spaces this summer.

3. Rust is missing from my color palette!

Over and over again, I found myself loving the color palette of the city and I think a big reason why is because it mimics the palette I use in my own home. It’s full of (mostly) muted shades of green, yellow, and pink!

It was confirmation for me that I love the colors in my home but also made me realize there’s a color missing: rust!

I was drawn to the contrast of brick and warm orange-brown painted buildings sprinkled in among the other colors I love. While I might not paint an entire room this color, I’m definitely inspired to find ways to incorporate more of it in my home.

4. Team Window Grids

Some of the windows in our house have grids and some do not. We’ve debated whether we should take the grids off or buy more to cover all the windows – this trip was ended the debate for me. I LOVE window grids. They give so much character to a building and I could not stop gushing over all the grid details on windows and doors.

Just look at this front porch! I was swooning over that window and front door.

5. Classic Black & White Flooring

Several places had black-and-white flooring patterns and I loved how classic and timeless they were. From the lobby of our first hotel to the floors of cafes, I was drawn to the simple shapes and patterns that laid the foundation for a well put-together space. I especially loved these smaller mosaic tiles and would love to incorporate something like this in a future bathroom renovation.

There’s so much more I could talk about – gas lanterns everywhere! wrought iron railings! roofing materials! window shutters! – but suffice to say this city made a huge impression on me. I will be drawing on this inspiration in my own home for years to come!

And now, I wanted to share some highlights from our trip itself. Honestly, I planned very little in advance. This city is an easy place to go without an agenda and find things to do. Hop on a streetcar and see where it takes you, wander down streets popping into restaurants for food and drinks as the mood strikes, sit in a cafe or on a balcony and people watch – it’s just a fun place to roam and explore and linger and enjoy. Here’s some of what we did:

French Quarter

Our hotel was on Canal Street, which is right next to the French Quarter, so we walked into the French Quarter pretty much every day. I absolutely loved just walking up and down the streets, turning this way and that depending on which street looked most intriguing. The architecture is so unique for the United States and the atmosphere is so fun. Having no agenda and just strolling and people-watching was an adventure in itself, but some streets do especially stand out.

Bourbon Street is the notorious party street and is worth checking out at any time of day; we went up and down it on a weekend afternoon, a weekend night, a weekday afternoon, and a weekday evening, and a weekday night and each time the vibe was different. While Bourbon Street is known for wild partying, Frenchmen Street is known for quality live music. We ate dinner listening to live jazz on Frenchman and it was such a great experience! Royal Street is another popular street and has more of the shopping scene – lots of art, jewelry, clothing, etc.

Other notable things in the French Quarter:

-dinner on a balcony! Such a fun way to people watch while eating, and don’t discount Bourbon Street. Though it’s a party street, it was also where we found one of our most delectable meals at a restaurant named Cornet. We also got balcony seating at Saint John and Royal House Oyster Bar, both in the French Quarter and both delicious. There are so many restaurants though, so pick and choose what speaks to you šŸ™‚ Honestly one night we just grabbed a slice of pizza on Bourbon Street and even that was delicious so you really can’t go wrong!

-art bazaar on Frenchmen Street; a fun night-time market of booths where local artisans display and sell their work

-Saint Louis Cathedral (free to go inside and it’s beautiful!)

-Jackson Square outside the cathedral is where artists gather to showcase their work. I bought a few pieces from local artists around the square and am excited to have unique artwork that doubles as a souvenir! (This is also where I randomly found my way onto the Today Show!? They were doing a taping here and I got to watch Hoda and Jenna – so fun!)

-Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet both have delicious beignets! Make sure to try them both out to determine your favorite – I think I ate 18 beignets total! šŸ™‚

-there’s an iconic bar inside a hotel called the Carousel Bar that we heard about and decided to check out. It’s cool to see but popular and very hard to find an open seat on the moving bar. We went to see it and ended up getting drinks just sitting near the bar and honestly, for how expensive drinks are, it wasn’t worth it. The bar itself is unique but if you’re not actually able to sit at it, I would just peek in, see the bar, and then head somewhere else to grab a drink.

Explore the City by Streetcar

Their streetcar system is a fun way to explore new areas! It’s inexpensive and reliable (we used the app called Le Pass for purchasing multi-day tickets and keeping track of schedules and stops) and I loved watching the city go by as we traveled to different districts!

Speaking of…

Garden District

We took the streetcar into the Garden District one day and enjoyed walking up and down streets admiring the beautiful houses. We found our way to Magazine Street which is full of restaurants and shopping. We went on a Sunday, which I would not actually recommend because a lot of businesses were closed, but we still enjoyed lunch and a few shops!

The Collective Shop on Magazine Street

A random highlight: I spotted a Little Free Library on our walk and picked up a book I’ve been wanting to read. Then a few blocks later we walked by a bar called The Bulldog and they were playing playoff basketball on their outdoor patio TV. We decided to stop and grab some drinks on the patio so Justin could watch the game and I could start reading my book. Just the kind of spontaneous and fun and relaxing vacation moment we both love šŸ™‚

National WWII Museum

When Justin was in his conference one morning I rode the streetcar by myself to the WWII Museum.

I spent three hours inside and honestly could’ve spent three more. It’s fascinating, so informative, poignant, sobering, important, and just incredibly well done. I learned so much and highly recommend checking it out!

City Park

One day Justin and I took the streetcar to the end of the line at City Park, which kind of feels like NOLA’s version of Central Park. We rented electric blue bikes right by the streetcar stop and biked all around the park.

The park is huge and there’s no way we could’ve walked it all so biking allowed us to see way more of it. We ended up spotting a Cafe du Monde location within the park and decided to stop and grab some beignets. Sitting on the patio eating beignets watching people buy flowers at a little cart and a woman blowing bubbles for kids to play in was one of my most contentedly picturesque moments of the trip! In addition to all the walking and biking paths, the park also has a little amusement area and mini golf, as well as NOLA’s Museum of Art which we did not check out but I would love to visit on a future trip.

On the way back to Canal Street, we spotted a little Irish pub and decided to make a spontaneous pit stop for a drink and outdoor patio seating. That’s another bonus of streetcar exploration – you can hop on and off as the inspiration strikes!

Random Closing Thoughts

New Orleans has a bit of a reputation – I talked to many people about our trip and questions I heard over and over are about safety and cleanliness. True, it’s not the cleanest city and you don’t want to walk alone at night. But using normal precautions like keeping your wallet in your front pocket were really the extent of what we did safety-wise. I explored two different mornings by myself while Justin was in his conference (one morning I walked the French Quarter and another I rode the streetcar) and both times I felt safe. There are so many people around always – so many tourists around always – that I always felt like I had a level of protection just by being around others. Overhearing that the couple walking in front of me are tourists from Oregon made me feel safer, you know? I felt like I could easily get help if I needed, and I also just made sure to regularly check in with Justin to keep him aware of my location.

There’s so much more I didn’t talk about here – walking by the river, checking out the outlet mall, the French Market, etc. There’s also things we didn’t do like a swamp tour, river cruise, or anything with the Battle of New Orleans (maybe next time!) It’s a city full of culture, history, and entertainment and my best advice is to just try different things there. Try different foods, try a museum, try a new mode of transportation. It’s such a fun place to explore!

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