If you live in a place that has a true winter, you know that this is the time of year when everyone starts clamoring for sunshine and socializing. So we’re dedicating this newsletter to two favorite party cities in honor of the upcoming one-two punch of Mardi Gras and Super Bowl LVIII. And we tossed in a cocktail recipe and a playlist to set the mood. Join the parade!
Here’s what we’re talking about:
- A new boutique hotel in NOLA’s French Quarter
- The latest and greatest in Sin City
- One giant drink, lots of straws
- The tunes to set the mood
The Newest Hotel in New Orleans: Respite From the Chaos
Jeralyn here. You can find pretty much anything you want in the French Quarter, but a boutique hotel like The Celestine is rare. It officially opens March 1 but is informally taking guests next week, after Fat Tuesday, traditionally a time of suffering and sacrifice — from parade hangovers and glitter overload. (Been there!)
The adorable ten-room hotel, in an 18th-century building around the corner from Preservation Hall, is a creative project between Robert LeBlanc (Sylvain, The Chloe), Neal Bodenheimer (Cane & Table, Cure), and designer Sara Ruffin Costello, whose sensibility I would characterize as one part relaxed bohemian, one part academic preservationist, one part Amy Sedaris (subversive, funny — I’m here for it). Furnishings and finishes have eclectic French, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean influences and nod to midcentury style.
Maybe you’ll find the spirit of Tennessee Williams lingering in the hotel courtyard (they say he penned A Streetcar Named Desire back there). You’ll almost certainly hear sounds of a sweet jazz trio playing in the Court of Two Sisters just beyond the gate. It’s New Orleans exactly — but not too on the nose. It’s perfect. So how’d they do it? Sara says, “You want to walk in and sense a whiff of the time in which it was built. You want that vibe to ripple through all the rooms … mindful updating is how I like to think about these sorts of projects.”
Sara was kind enough to answer a few more of my questions.
I love the French Quarter’s old, haunted bones. What can you tell us about the building The Celestine now inhabits?
SRC: It’s got a storied past for sure. Everyone here remembers the Bistro at Maison de Ville, probably one of the most fantastic restaurants in the city across a hundred years. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s the hotel was THE point of glamour for out-of-towners and famously was the only place Elizabeth Taylor would stay. Once we peeled away the previous owner’s renovation, the magic emerged. Transoms windows were restored, others were uncovered. We even found a literal treasure trove of art in the attic — we died over that one.
What’s an original detail that informed a particular design decision?
SRC: All rooms have balconies facing either the street or the courtyard. Since guests will be opening windows and doors all the time, ceiling fans are a necessity. I felt like we needed to restore the glamour, so we had plaster medallions made and attached ceiling fans to them. It’s really beautiful when you’re lying in bed to see real plaster and a slow fan turning. The bathrooms are super tiny — as was the way back in the day. There’s something charming about renovating within that economical footprint. We stayed true and used vintage tiles and chrome fixtures.
There’s a lot of vitality on the streets of the French Quarter. What hotel energy are you going for?
SRC: [Channeling] old Soniat House, a sanctuary where you dip in and out of the party. A place where you can blow it out at Galatoire's one day and then stay in bed all the next (and order room service from The Will and The Way). I think if you’ve brought preconceived notions of the Quarter (frat boy party zone, etc.), you’ll find The Celestine to be an antidote to that.
* If you want to keep lurking in Sara’s dreamy Crescent City corner, look up her cheeky interior design advice column in The Times-Picayune.
ADD TO YOUR NOLA LITTLE BLACK BOOK
- New-school Ayu Bakehouse makes some of the best king cakes in town.
- The new Le Petit Bleu creperie and marché serves biscuits and bowls of café au lait under the wing of Garden District icon Commander’s Palace.
- It’s chef’s choice at stunning Senegalese supper spot Dakar Nola.
- Creole cottage Jewel of the South is a celebratory date night joint.
- Look up at botanicals hanging down from the ceiling at MaMou.
Here's What Else We're Talking About
Our report on Las Vegas includes updates the new Fontainebleau Las Vegas and The Sphere.
Plus: a punch and a playlist for your next party.
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