W Hotel in New Orleans gets a jazzy revamp

A floor-to-ceiling wall of apothecary bottles inside SoBou, the new restaurant at the W Hotel. Photo by Michael Kleinberg
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Two hotel rooms, one with a tarot card graphic, the other with a French horn image. Photos by Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin
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A hotel corridor with wall features inspired by New Orleans "voodoo queen" Marie Laveau. Photo by Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin
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A hotel corridor. Photo by Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin
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SoBou restaurant, with walls lined in small bottles and floor cabinets filled with mixology implements. Photo by Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin
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A detail shot of the apothecary cases filled with vintage tools from the Museum of the American Cocktail. Photo by Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin
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The brass trumpet-shaped lighting in the restaurant was created by Reveal Design Group. Photo by Michael Kleinberg

For the French Quarter hotel, Nemaworkshop took inspiration from the city’s jazz and voodoo vibe, and the neighbourhood’s historic soul.

As a starting point in the 12-year-old hotel’s redesign, Nemaworkshop, which is based in Manhattan and Bangalore, took to the neighbourhood’s cobblestone streets. In the “living room” (W’s version of a lobby), tables and lamps covered in lively zigzags and squiggly lines imitate musical sound waves, while metallic sofas and curtains recall brass instruments. Cushions are playfully upholstered in imagery from tarot cards, and the vases have an ornate quality harkening back to the area’s historic balconies.

In the 97 guest rooms, the basic black-and-white palette is contrasted with accent walls in saturated colours and gold accessories. Take, for instance, one room that features a vibrant yellow wall, black and gold carpeting, white lacquered furniture and an oversized image of a French horn.

In another room, the city’s voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, inspired a tarot card graphic treatment on one wall. Guests can also feel Laveau’s influence throughout the property – in one corridor, a flame-filled crystal ball graphic adorns a wall, ceiling lights resemble voodoo pins and way-finding signage features her watchful eyes.

Perhaps the boldest part of the renovation is the incorporation of a SoBou restaurant. Headed by executive chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez, the chain (whose name is short for “South of Bourbon Street”) reinterprets Louisiana street food. For the iteration at the W Hotel, design inspiration came from Antoine Peychaud, the Creole apothecary who created his own mixture of bitters in the 1830s. (The word “cocktail” derives from the eggcup – or “coquetier” – in which Peychaud served his elixirs.)

Throughout the 650-square-metre resto-bar, small glass bottles line illuminated wall shelves to create the space’s main motif. Elsewhere, vintage cocktail glasses and mixology tools from the Museum of the American Cocktail are housed in display cases topped with white counters.

Existing brick walls were left exposed, while geometric floor tiles imitate typical features of the European-inspired residences surrounding the hotel. To light the space, Nemaworkshop partnered with Manhattan’s Reveal Design Group (which also lit the lobby) to install brass pendants, with the two largest in the form of flared trumpets.

Nemaworkshop’s $9-million revamp follows on the heels of the firm’s designs for the W Hotel in Mexico City, plus a dozen of hospitality, spa and fitness designs across the US, including a refresh of New York’s iconic 24-hour restaurant, Cafeteria. Over the next year, Starwood Hotels and Resorts will unveil redesigns across 11 of its W Hotels including New York, Seattle, Chicago and L.A.

W New Orleans is located at 316 Rue Chartres.

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