interior design

Design Destination ~The Eliza Jane, Nola

Not Too Pretty | Not Too Gritty

Design lovers headed to New Orleans have to make a stop at newly opened The Eliza Jane. Easily one of my new favorites. Located away from Bourbon St. in the Central Business District, for those who prefer a little something other than that scene, yet it’s still walking distance to the French Quarter. The hotel takes up several historic renovated warehouses and occupies what was previously Gulf Baking Soda, Paychaud Bitters Factory, and The Daily Picayune, and takes its namesake from the previous publisher of the newspaper, Eliza Jane. Jane was the country’s first female publisher, turning a small newspaper into a nationally recognized one. Next door you’ll find this old architectural treasure sharing similar round details on the columns as the the hotel itself but remains as just a facade today.

Original historic details were preserved when possible, exposing and restoring much of the brick archways and metal structural components, while opening up the multiple, adjacent warehouse spaces as much as possible. Upon arrival guests are greeted with red doors, mosaic tile floors and an original fireplace that remains behind the front desk painted the perfect blue with a calming seafoam color on the walls.

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Holiday Travels 2019

Christmastime in The Crescent City and The Conch Republic

There is nothing more I love than hotels and traveling around Christmastime. I love hotel Christmas decorations, because they usually have larger floral and decorative budgets than any of us, along with a full staff to make Christmas magic truly something special.  I love huge Christmas buffets (because who doesn’t like options), formal Christmas dinners, and special Christmas treats that trained pastry chefs take years learning to perfect. I love the sound of a piano playing Christmas music in the marble lobby of a grand hotel with a tree three times what I can fit in my house and hotels with the most memorable Christmas traditions, as you’ll see below. It reminds me of the little girl inside me who remembers going to the mall as a child and thinking how big and beautiful all the decorations were and wishing we could have that at home.

This year we spent Christmastime in New Orleans, St Pete (more on that in a different post) and Key West.  If you’ve always done the traditional thing at Christmas, I hope these images and places inspire you to try something different for Christmas in 2020, like take a trip with your family during the holidays, to create new memories and experiences. One day, I hope to visit some of the world’s most well-known Christmas markets. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to survive the cold to get there. 😉

New Orleans, AKA The Crescent City

Roosevelt Hotel

So for the grandest of places, the Roosevelt ranks high on the list, and their beautiful trees and florals do not disappoint. The lighting of their decorations is almost as historic as the building itself and draws people annually to the event.

The interior lobby without the decorations is still nothing short of fabulous. The ceiling, moulding, mosaics, and lighting are a course of study in interior design alone. After a closing due to hurricane Katrina and reopening in 2009, the carpet that had previously covered the lobby was removed, everything was restored, and everything brought back to its original grandeur. I’ll save more of the details of that for a design details focused blog post later, but because I can’t resist, here are a few.

The Ritz Carlton

Another grand favorite going over the top is the Ritz. Their gingerbread display is probably the best I’ve seen so far, which includes a streetcar and a tugboat. The tugboat is a new addition this year and both are all made from gingerbread. A work of culinary art indeed and truly a labor of love. If you’ve ever built one from a kit, you know the amount of patience they take.



Step right outside the Ritz for these windows. Who doesn’t love a beautiful Christmas window to inspire child-like wonder?

The Hotel Monteleone

The Monteleone is always a must, especially if you’ve never seen the Carousel Bar. They also offer a Reveillion dinners throughout the month of December. Don’t know about this New Orleans tradition? Click here for an explanation.

The Royal Sonesta

This is probably one of the most photographed street corners in New Orleans, thanks to their quintessential New Orleans style architecture, iron balconies and their showstopping hanging planters. It’s a corner I often see used in tourism promotional photos. Pop in for a coffee at PJ’s and walk through their hall of trees. Oh, and here is their balcony with ferns, sweet potato vine and fig vine just pouring out of their planters.

Key West AKA The Conch Republic

Old Town

Mid-December we headed to Key West for the remainder of the year. The entire town was decorated, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on not having a tree or decorations this year. This little conch cottage is so classic Key West Christmas and who doesn’t love lighted palm trees? The lighted chicken is absolutely perfect considering the amount of gypsy chickens roaming the town. The big Victorian house did a blue, snowy theme with giant snowflakes hanging, and makes my favorite list just for carrying a concept throughout.  They did an outstanding job on it. The city must have a Christmas light competition, because we saw signs in yards saying, “vote for this house.” The tree below at the marina was all buoys and the lighted boats were always fun to see from shore.

America 2.0 Schooner

We sailed on an classic schooner for brunch on Christmas Day and saw Santa boarding his yacht for vacation after making all his deliveries. Haha. Just kidding. I’m sure he was paying the very lucky kids on board a visit to hand deliver their gifts.

This sweet little bakery, just a block away from our rental, was absolutely adorable and yummy, so we were there frequently. I think my husband walked there every single day for coffee, even if we didn’t get food from there. My favorite shop in Key West, Grace on Frances, did an all minimal, organic theme with their decorations, which I love. They used a Mexican straw garland seen above the windows, which I had to buy, and natural ornaments on their tree. I have blogged about them before and tell people all the time, you have to get off Duval St. for some of the best places in Key West.

And when you live on a tiny island with quirky houses, eclectic people, and chickens running loose, your mode of transportation should be anything but ordinary. This Moke wins my heart.

Hope you enjoyed reading and if you’ve never traveled during the holidays, I hope you’ll consider it this year.



1960s Ranch Kitchen

This 1960s ranch had low ceilings, limited light, and a poorly designed, inefficient floor plan.

Space planning:

The main problem with the design of this kitchen was the peninsula. Peninsula kitchens almost always make a kitchen smaller, and I only use this design configuration as a last resort. In this scenario, the peninsula and raised bar (a thing of the past), cut the kitchen off physically and visually from the breakfast room, limited contiguous countertop space, and in the below pictures you can see how it’s dividing the room in half.

Several other problems existed:

  1. Bar seating wasn’t possible due to the limited space on the breakfast room side and conflicted with the breakfast room chairs, making the bar useless anyway.
  2. The refrigerator was too far out of the work triangle guidelines for kitchen design, making it very inefficient and creating more steps than necessary.
  3. The refrigerator was on the other side of the entry, crossing the circulation path from the laundry room, powder room, and garage studio/workshop.
  4. The wall next to the refrigerator further fragmented this section from the kitchen as a whole.

 Design is not just trying to make spaces beautiful that are Pinterest or Instgram-worthy. Design is about making them more solution-oriented, so life is life easier, and one of those ways is by eliminating problem areas in the built environment.

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Jekyll Island Club

Slow Living

Just recently we returned from a lovely week at the Jekyll Island Club on the coast of Georgia. Not our first time, but each time I am struck. It is a course of study in architecture, design and fine living. Such an easy getaway from Atlanta, and it’s as if time slows at the Jekyll Club – a place where croquet is played on the front lawn, porches overlook the gardens and beautiful historic trees, and architectural masterpieces line the street to the Jekyll Island Club Resort – a once seasonal destination for the wealthiest people in the world.

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House of Lu Restaurant Project Published in CODAMagazine

CODAMagazine Tranformative Walls

It has been a crazy, busy couple of years. Blogging is one of those things that is always in the back of my mind but seems to get lost in the daily tasks, repeatedly. This year already, I have finalized House of Lu, the Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been working on for over a year, started a neighborhood, and just came off a life-changing journey in Thailand. There is so much to write about, and while I was in Southeast Asia, I promised myself to spend more time here blogging.

As I’m working on my blogs for Thailand and gathering pictures, I thought I’d share an exciting little piece about House of Lu I received while in Thailand. CODA (Collaboration of Design and Art) Magazine published my project in their Transformative Walls issue. This issue is about “reinventing the wall: design + art projects that cover, adorn, and construct the walls that make up our built habitats.” It’s so rewarding to see your work alongside projects featured all over the world in places like Japan, Germany, Canada and more.

This issue specifically focuses on the walls (murals) and the relationship the art had to this project. Myself and clients Cindy Lu Tam and Johnny Tam worked closely with artist Marc Noreikas to develop the concept for both walls. My client was extremely thorough and specific in her desires for the project, and we spent many months researching, designing, redesigning and taking field trips to many restaurants in the Atlanta area. We created Pinterest boards for every aspect of the project, (including the murals), saved ideas from magazines in binders, and looked at restaurants and hotels all over the world. Having clients that love design meant they came to the project with magazines and a binder of clippings they had been saving. Designers love that. It helps us know what a client is thinking.

Previously only a Chinese restaurant, my client’s family owned business had already been in operation for 17 years. After the renovation was complete, my client wanted to reopen with Vietnamese cuisine, in addition to their longstanding successful Chinese menu, in order to reflect both of their family’s cultural heritages. We knew then, one mural would represent their Chinese heritage and the other would represent their Vietnamese heritage.

From the beginning, my goal for this project was to be sure we used cultural images, but in a new and exciting way. How many times have you been in a Chinese restaurant and seen dragons, jade, lanterns etc? It alway looks so tired and uninteresting. I wanted to represent the culture but in a bold, captivating way. Having worked with Marc Noreikas previously, we both really liked his graffiti style and thought large, bright murals could give it the edge it needed. We knew he could convey the energetic, graphic feel we were trying to achieve, while maintaining a softer more elegant look to elevate the dining experience without being too harsh and reminiscent street style graffiti.

The first mural we decided on was the dragon mural. Dragons are common in Chinese motifs, and Cindy found a dragon she fell in love with instantly and had been holding on it to for quite some time. In fact, initially, she wanted to see if the Historic Board of Review would allow it on the outside of the building in the historic downtown area. The second mural was the Vietnamese lady. The girl with the hat and boats in Halong Bay in the background were prefect to represent Vietnamese culture. We worked hours and hours compiling motifs and images for the murals, reviewing the edits Marc made, and continued to have him recreate the preliminary sketches. I thought he was going to fire us as clients. 😉 He was patient and helped guide us to and away from certain ideas that may not work on such a large scale and both murals came out fantastic. Scroll down about half way to see the project. Huge thanks to CODA for including us in this issue.

It took him about a week to paint each one, working nights after the restaurant closed. I’ve included some of his WIP (work in progress) pics below, because I know those are always fun to see. For me, preliminary sketches and progress pics of how an idea comes together are more interesting sometimes. It show me how artists work and how they think.

More on the process for House of Lu soon. I can’t wait to share pics and stories about Thailand with you.