ACE HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS
Harking back to its Art Deco foundations, the Ace Hotel New Orleans is a smooth blend of classic design and history mixed with contemporary additions that all remain true to the city’s southern soul. SPACE spoke to the hotel’s architects and interior design team to find out more.
America’s deep south is a hive of mixed culture and rich music heritage – the home to a number of wildly different genres and styles, and an area in which tradition is put high up on its own pedestal. New Orleans is no exception to the rule, and brings a colourful jamboree of sights, smells, and sounds to the landscape. The city’s French quarter is perhaps its best-known area, and sees tourists flock in their thousands to join the thrum of noisy parades and vibrant street celebrations in the summer; there are, however, plenty of areas in New Orleans for those looking for something other than a 24-hour party.
Just a stone’s throw from the city’s noisiest streets, in downtown New Orleans, is the historic Warehouse District – known for its boutique restaurants and cafes, farmers markets, slick retail outlets, and fantastic arts scene. Named for the number of former warehouses in the area that have been restored or converted into exciting new businesses, the district is hugely popular but offers visitors a more laidback Louisiana experience.
The Warehouse District is home to the new Ace Hotel New Orleans, which sits proudly on a corner lot in what was once the largest furniture store in the South. Originally built circa 1928, the old Art Deco building was designed by state architects, Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth, but had been used as an office block as well as having periods of zero occupancy for the best part of three decades prior to its reimagination as an Ace Hotel.
Drafted in to renovate the old furniture store and create an additional four-storey building as part of the hotel complex, local architect firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple were able to create a 184,000-square-foot mixed-use development centered on the existing nine-storey building. The site in its entirety now includes a 234-room boutique hotel, bar, restaurant, meeting spaces, and retail units.
The additional complex complements the original building, referencing existing features through the use of handmade brick masonry and cast stone cladding. The project is punctuated with elements that recall images of New Orleans, such as a carriageway and courtyard, balcony gardens, and an eclectic collection of interior materials and furnishings. Each hotel room pays tribute to the unique culture and history of the city, creating an authentic experience for guests.
Major and minor subdivisions occur along the art deco brick and limestone cladding of the existing building and the darker brick cladding of the newer building. The new construction is connected to the existing structure by a minimal glass bridge, set back from the street in order to preserve the historical one-storey garage (now front-end retail) below. The new building is a quiet, elegant reinterpretation of its classic neighbour and was designed as a contemporary homage to the adjacent Art Deco character. The new building’s strong base and complex texture play off the pattern of the existing building’s façade, complementing the original structure without competing with it. The deep recesses of the balconies at the top floor offer a contemporary relief to the punched openings of the existing structure and reference back to the heavily ornamented top floor of the existing Art Deco building. Upgrades to the core, including additional lateral bracing, new elevator and new stairwell were added to the centre, providing structural and safety support for the rooftop and pool area.
The original building’s vestibule and ground floor, previously dedicated to the building’s former use as an office building, now serve as the main lobby and signature restaurant. The interior features restrained finishes and a lively but warm character that provide a welcome contrast from the original ornamentation at the building’s base. The main lobby includes a variety of elements that are all part of the hotel brand’s aesthetic, while incorporating many elements from the existing building. These elements are complemented by custom solid wood panelling and trim that round out the character of the hotel’s interior ambience.
The original concrete and plaster Corinthian columns have been refurbished, with capitals replaced in custom plaster where they had been removed over time. A new rooftop pool deck and lounge atop the existing historic building features spectacular downtown views within a setting defined by lush plantings and overhead wooden trellises, giving this space an overgrown, jungle-like look and feel.
The interior design was carried out by Manhattan-based design company Roman and Williams, who have previously worked on Ace Hotel New York. The concept for the Ace Hotel New Orleans was to incorporate feminine elements of French design, as well as the elevated simplicity of the Bloomsbury Arts movement balanced by the powerful geometry of African art. The result is a soothing palette of deep, rich, shadowy colours that create a good balance between dark and light shades and makes each space feel individual and unlike many other hotel chains.
The hotel’s living room space is bedecked in black panelling with green paper inserts inhabited by found objects, creating an artistic yet residential feeling and an intimacy that fosters an immediate sense of connection. The vintage tones of the room reinforce this with shades of dark greys and greens that can be seen in the surrounding city streets and are shown off by the custom lighting, which, along with generous plant life, adds a feeling of spontaneity and craft. The existing terrazzo floors have been carefully refinished, to help the room resonate with the additional dimension of historic detail. The bespoke furnishings are inspired by the humble French Deco building and add to the contrast, giving the room more animation.
In a high-ceilinged room with a custom black ink-stained oak floor underscoring the solid walnut panelled bar and black slate countertop, is the building’s onsite café. With custom walnut and brass shelving and brass drink rails, this setting is reminiscent of the airy ambiance of a French café. The walls are a combination of five-foot tall walnut veneer panelling and trim, with painted shiplap above crowned by a feature light. The design includes unlacquered brass as well as the new addition of burnished aluminum and custard glass, subtly referencing the mix of influences that enriches the culture of New Orleans.
The restaurant, a big rambling Bohemian brasserie, anchors one full corner of the hotel using the intact bones of the building. The room is defined by a series of vernacular Corinthian columns that march down the centre of the 17-foot tall room and a contrary movement of existing terrazzo in a diagonal chequerboard pattern across the floor. The perimeter of the room includes walls, newly panelled to ten feet in stained oak, with fabric-wrapped panels above. The central bar wraps around an existing column, its shape inspired by Art Deco with a stone front integrated with curved tambour. The green-figured stone of the bar top adds to the old world textures of the room.
Salvaged cast iron gates were installed between the centre of the restaurant and the lobby leading to the music venue and living room, to be open in the morning as the hotel welcomes guests for breakfast. At the restaurant’s corner, plate glass windows look out onto carless Lafayette with planters, outdoor seating, protective awnings and the flicker of gas lamps that emanate the characteristics of the city. The reclaimed back bar frames the main bar of the living room, anchoring the space and with a full view of the action from Carondelet.
Inspiration for the rooftop came from the burgeoning flora and lush deep greens of New Orleans plant life that seems to permeate everything; the creeping vines and the scent of jasmine, the mosses and the ferns that hint at the bayous that border the city. An elevated pool and hanging gardens provide aerial views of New Orleans and a bird’s-eye perch for observing the flow of life below. Seating areas are framed by trellises and heavy planting provides verdant shadows in which to flee or revel in the heat, setting a backdrop for evening socialising. Intriguing objects sourced from stores in the region serve as totems, creating an atmosphere of fantasy and the supernatural, while a bar and grill alongside a uniquely shaped pool create a space for cooling off and connecting to the watery origins of New Orleans.
The historic building includes generous guest rooms that evoke the rich decadence of the city with heavy curtains and an elegantly moody palette that envelop guests while providing the functionality and chic of a loft apartment. Muntined windows frame large interior painted wooden shutters – a signature of New York’s Ace, but also reflecting a local vernacular for the practical use of shutters and enhancing the residential inspiration of these interiors. A tall green baseboard runs around the perimeter of the room abutting large format cork plank flooring laid in a staggered pattern, which keeps the room feeling light and cool in the sultry climate. The selective use of area rugs creates richness in texture and homely feel. Behind a tall velvet drape the substantial grey marble vanity enhances the studio loft feeling, with a simple framed mirror and a cascade of hues to enhance the cooling, calming atmosphere of the room.
The glossy grey tiles in the shower room evoke deep waters, with their shimmering surface reflecting the custard glass light fixtures. The door features a diamond panel shape in a fluted pattern designed especially for the hotel. Custom-designed Gothic ceiling lamps with ribbed ivory covers that resemble a wing or a seashell are inspired by the natural forms of Art Nouveau, creating an other-worldly glow. Signature Ace dry goods come as standard, accompanied by the luminous SMEG refrigerator in a custom shade of French Quarter Green produced exclusively for the project.
To imbue the rooms with the art that is a part of daily life in New Orleans, Roman and Williams worked with the artist Daniel Christensen to create one-of-a-kind nature paintings for the armoires that add to the boutique feel and make rooms feel intimate at the same time. The impressionistic depiction of the swamps and bayou landscapes of Louisiana provide an imaginary vista, in the absence of an actual window.
The new Ace Hotel New Orleans is packed full of deeply romantic and bohemian-influenced interior design, which not only mimics its surroundings but celebrates its unique location in the cultural landscape.