Capturing the soul of a city: The Ace Hotel New Orleans

Recently renovated from the Art Deco building on the corner of Carondolet and Lafayette Street, the Ace Hotel New Orleans is the Portland-based hospitality group’s first foray into the Deep South. The Warehouse District hotel features 234 rooms, rooftop pool, lush courtyard, restaurant, music venue, event spaces and more. To create a space that exuded the rich culture of the city, captured Ace’s unique approach to hospitality and utilized the almost 90 year-old building’s inherent style, Ace Hotel tapped New York design firm Roman & Williams who were “thrilled by the opportunity to peel back the many layers of New Orleans’ history.”

Mimicking the multicultural aspects of the Crescent City, Roman & Williams combined many different design elements to create the rich, complex tapestry that is the Ace Hotel New Orleans. Influences range from 1920’s French design (inspired by the Art Deco building) to Romantic Gothic details and African Geometries. The palette of dark grays, greens and eggplant serve as a backdrop for bespoke furnishings and lighting, setting off the preserved terrazzo floors.

Ace Hotel and Roman & Williams made every effort to incorporate local elements into many details of their design. They commissioned 32 southern artists, 13 of which were New Orleanians, to paint impressionistic depictions of swamps and bayou landscapes on the handcrafted armoires in all the guest rooms. Third-generation set painter, Nathan Arthur from the New Orleans Opera House, designed three hanging murals from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” that hang in the lobby and inside Josephine Estelle, the hotel’s featured restaurant. Local DJ and music historian Brice Nice curated vinyl selections, young artists from the Young Creative Agency were tapped to illustrate calendars and New Orleans sculptor Sadie Sheldon created one-of-a-kind steel baskets — all used to decorate individual guest rooms throughout the hotel.

Kelly Sawdon, Ace Hotel Group’s chief brand officer, explained the vision behind the hotel’s design which always emphasized discovery and unexpected pleasures. “We set out to make a warm, welcoming, relaxed space that was conducive to surprise— a catalyst for genuine, humorous, human moments to happen.” Sawdon says. “From opening day, guests and visitors have brought an animating spirit of curiosity, joy and harmony to the space that’s been wonderful to experience.” Many visitors and guests have tagged the Ace Hotel New Orleans in Instagram photos revealing their appreciation of the space, capturing everything from the rooftop pool and gorgeous bar to the drippy wax chandeliers hanging in their private dining room created by LA-based artist Michael Schmitdt.

Embracing sustainability as well as familiarity, Roman & Williams painstakingly included “found” objects by digging through local flea markets, estate sales and Craigslist posts adding to the mystique of the hotel’s atmosphere. “The lobby’s interior is an amalgamation of found furniture, artwork, books and trinkets all culled from in and around Louisiana.” Sawdon explains. “Everything was selected based on an almost ineffable quality … each object had to feel like it had a story to tell.”

Built in homage to the city it resides in, the Ace Hotel New Orleans’s design has done more than simply embrace the vibrant soul of New Orleans, it gives forth a deeply-felt composite of the city’s past, present and its thriving future. “The building Ace New Orleans lives in, the original Barnett Furniture Store, carries with it a rich, extensive history, and it was important to us to imbue the design with a reverence for its past.” Sawdon says. “We opened the doors at dawn surrounded by old friends and new and the sound of a musician playing Buddy Bolden on a brass cornet. It was a beautiful experience, and it continues to be so.”

*Article originally published in the May 2016 issue of New Orleans Living Magazine

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