Today we’re taking a cue from Top Chef this season, and drawing inspiration from the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. Its Carousel Bar, designed by Robert Polacek, Ashley Wilkins and Lindsay Broad of the San Francisco based Puccini Group, draws from elements like the Jazz Age and the influence of Mardis Gras. It’s necessary to celebrate New Orleans on a Thursday, especially to get us all in the mood for the weekend. We’re here to take you out of your city for the day (unless you’re surfing TNP from New Orleans, in which case we’re here to further celebrate your city), so get lost in this mood board, and find out a little more about the the designers’ sources of inspiration…
What were the inspirations for the design and aesthetic of Carousel Bar?
New Orleans’ historic Hotel Monteleone, situated in the French Quarter, was a fixture in the neighborhood during the Jazz Age. The Hotel Monteleone (a historical landmark), the rich culture of the Jazz Age, and the influence of Mardi Gras all worked together to inspire our design.
Where did you find most of this inspiration?
The first motion picture theater in America, Vitascope Hall, opened on Canal Street in the late 1800’s, shortly after the Hotel Monteleone first opened its doors. The theater turned into a premiere movie house in the 1930s and 40s, making the town a central hotspot for famous actors, actresses, and writers of the time.
We were also drawn to the lost portraits of photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. His photos featured famous starlets who appeared on the silver screen and may have paid a visit to the Carousel Bar during their stay at the Hotel Monteleone. The women in the photographs wore beautifully detailed beaded gowns and jewels and we wanted to highlight and bring to life those fashions.
Inspired by the glittered luxury of a carousel-themed shoot by Luiz Monteiro for Vogue Portugal, we imagined how detailed embroidery could be an elegant and eye-catching way to add drama to the Carousel Bar while paying homage to the history of Mardi Gras beads.
We stumbled upon a talented bead artist, Binka Rigava, featured on Etsy, who was creating intricately detailed bead embroidery on the other side of the world, in Latvia. She agreed to collaborate with us on this project and hand bead the printed photographs for the Carousel Bar. We selected three Johnston portraits to enlarge and print on canvas, which we then shipped to Binka to add elaborate beaded embroidery to the garments. The result was an added level of detail and texture that was shockingly realistic, rendering the garments closely to how they once appeared.
What do you love most about the bar? What would you change?
What we love most about the bar is the iconic merry-go-round that it clearly defines the space and serves as a unique form of entertainment. The only thing we’d change, if necessary, would be the merry-go-round and bar, to ensure both are kept current and up-to-date.
How does the food/drink play into the design?
The rich tradition of classic, New Orleans fare, in combination with the history of the authors who frequented the Hotel Monteleone during its early years, complement and celebrate the refined, soulful, and colorful design of the space.
What five things, in your mind, most evoke the spirit and look of the Carousel Bar?
1. The Monteleone family, who continues to own and operate the hotel that has been in the family for four generations over the past century.
2. The film, Dixie Bohemia.
3. Literary heroes, such as Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, who all chose the Hotel Monteleone as their home-away-from-home while in New Orleans.
4. Jazz Age greats, such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
5. Classic Prohibition-Era cocktails, such as the Manhattan and the Dry Gin Martini.