New Orleans is one of those magical places that oozes inspiration for all of the senses. Your ears will be treated to the rhythmic tunes of jazz and soulful blues in the Quarter. Your tastebuds will be tantilized by the mouthwatering flavors of beignets, seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffe′. But it is your eyes that are inspired the most as they feast upon the architectural and interior treats the city has to offer. Asking anyone we know to go on an antiquing trip to New Orleans, usually gets a one word response..."Absolutely!" But knowing where to go and what to see is a whole challenge in itself. Fear not, we have you covered. Amy Liz Riddick - a native of New Orleans, resident of Nashville, and antique aficionado - has graciously given us a roadmap for navigating the Big Easy's famed Magazine Street to ensure your antique getaway is most enjoyable.
BACKGROUND: Amy Liz Riddick is a native of New Orleans and a lover of all things French and antique. While she currently answers to three pint-sized bosses at her home in Nashville, she also works as a freelance writer on the side. And on occasion, when let out of the house, she consults on design projects as well.
Antiquing in New Orleans
Whenever possible, I try to make the pilgrimage to New Orleans, my favorite Southern mecca for antiquing. There are very few Southern cities where the word “antique” can appropriately be used as a verb, and fortunately, my hometown of New Orleans is one of them.
While we all wait patiently as Nashville’s shopping renaissance unfolds, there is nothing that will get your design juices flowing like a quick jaunt to the Crescent City. A direct flight on Southwest or seven hour drive (without children) and voilà -- laissez les bon temps rouler! While some may argue that their favorite shops are in the French Quarter, I always head strait for Magazine Street (by way of Cafe du Monde for beignets, of course!). Located in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, Magazine Street runs parallel to the famed St. Charles Avenue, where the streetcar line can be found.
If you have not ventured to Magazine Street before, let me go ahead and warn you -- it is not meant to look glossy or even clean, for that matter. The street is worn with a fine patina, much like the priceless antiques that its storefronts contain. What you can expect to see is a wonderful assortment of shot-gun style cottages that go on for miles, oozing the sort of charm that has been synonymous with the city for decades. I could honestly spend hours walking in and out of almost every shop in sight, but in the interest of time, here are a few on the short list:
Karla Katz Antiques(4014 Magazine Street)
Karla Katz is usually the one to greet you at her eponymous store. She is extremely knowledgable and can give you the origins and background on any of her countless pieces. The store is so chocked-full of fabulous French and Italian antiques, that frankly, it is hard to get your bearings -- but somehow I always manage!
This 18th Century French Directoire painted Trumeau is spectacular, but I especially love the 18th Century Italian Commode. It would be a perfect “pièce de résistance” in any space.
The store is painted stark white -- allowing for optimal gawking over the fabulousness that it contains. Beautiful chandeliers and prints abound, in addition to the priceless antiques.
I was quite smitten with this pair of over-sized gilt urns and their accompanying preserved boxwood topiaries. I’ll take a pair of those, thank you very much
Mac Maison Ltd. (3963 Magazine Street)
It is even more difficult to walk through Mac Maison Ltd., which is stuffed to the gills with treasures. Everywhere you turn, something fantastic jumps out at you. But don’t be fooled by the quantity, quality rules the day at this Magazine Street staple (just check the price tag if you are in question!).***
This petite Italian chandelier caught my eye. I thought for a moment that it looked familiar, and then remembered that this is the original “look” that countless lighting companies are currently trying to knock-off. But there’s something nice about knowing yours is an original, right?
I was also drawn to this pair of French wall plaques. They had a wonderful antique finish and were framed so neatly in matching gilt frames. I can definitely picture them in a master bedroom over the bed -- just wish it was mine!
Bremermann Designs (3943 Magazine Street)
On to Bremermann Designs, one of my all-time favorite Magazine Street stores. The shop is owned by Gerrie Bremermann, considered by many to be the grande dame of the New Orleans interior design scene. If you consider yourself to be design savvy and do not know Gerrie Bremermann, you must be living under a de Gournay-covered rock! Just reference your old issues of Southern Accents (R.I.P.), which are surely stock-piled under your bed (I hear some people do this). You will see Gerry featured in spades!
Her store somehow manages to showcase the finest in French and Italian antiques while simultaneously pushing the envelope with a slightly modern edge, driven by her selection of contemporary artwork and accents. Notice the French Empire basket-style beaded chandelier, surrounded by the artwork of various contemporary artists.
This 18th century Venetian commode is exquisite. Note the contemporary lamps that are paired with it.
Although I set out to see antiques in Bremermann Designs, I quickly found myself drawn to the artwork. The store practically doubles as a gallery, as Gerrie has a keen eye for up-and-coming artists. I saw the work of Amanda Talley in her store years ago, and I think it’s safe to say that Ms. Talley has officially arrived as an artist. This latest visit turned up the talents of Alexis Walter. She is a new New Orleans artist who recently opened her own gallery on Julia Street. Featured is her mixed-medium painting “Upside.” It is so soothing and ready to live in any chic space!
Julie Neill Designs (3908 Magazine Street)
I never leave Magazine Street without a visit to Julie Neill Designs. Although I do not know Julie Neill personally, I have met her before and she is tons of fun. She generates more custom furniture and lighting than I can even fathom. All of it has a New Orleans flair and a certain “je ne sais quois.” No, this is not the spot for antiques, but Julie’s pieces compliment any fine antique and are more budget-friendly to boot.
These beaded chandeliers (designed and created by Julie Neill) are clearly paying homage to their antique inspirations -- and giving them a run for their money as well! Don’t miss the painting by Michelle Tullis in the background -- another Big Easy artistic gem.
Julie Neill Designs boasts sophisticated style and a contemporary flair. Julie’s sconces on the back wall demonstrate this well, along with the sepia-toned painting that they flank.
If you are lucky enough to visit New Orleans this fall, please be sure to add the following shops to your line-up: Uptowner Antiques, Wirthmore Antiques, Ann Koerner Antiques, Maison de Provence, Leontine Linens, Lum, Perch, Balzac Antiques and Neal Auction Company. And don’t miss the newest addition to Magazine Street, Malachite. Owned by Adrienne Casbarian (a close personal friend who also owns Lum) and Melissa Rufty (one of my all-time favorite interior designers), Malachite opened late this summer and should not be missed. Of course, if you want to bypass the antiques and look for fabulous (and affordable) home accessories, skip right over to Prytania Street and visit Kay Fausset at Judy at the Rink (located in the Garden District, right around the corner from Commander’s Palace). Just make sure to tell Kay that we sent you!
*** Speaking of affordable, in full disclosure, I have to wrap-up with a few thoughts on pricing. For the most part, Magazine Street is not known for bargains -- it is known for showcasing the very finest antiques. (Bargain hunting will have to be discussed in a different chapter on Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta!) Of course, if your budget enables you to indulge in the treasures of Magazine Street, please invite us over to see them. But for the rest of us, a trip to Magazine Street is often what I call “aspirational shopping.” While you may aspire to own many of the things that you see there, at the end of the day, even if you leave empty-handed, your mind will be swimming with ideas and inspiration. Plus, you can always head down the street to Sucré and reward yourself with a very well-priced French confection. Bon appetite!
Thank you Amy Liz! When you can take us??? For more information about how to contact Amy Liz (or get more great antiquing advice) see below:
Amy Liz Riddick
(Images2-3,5-16: Amy Liz Riddick; 4:thepresidentwearsprada.com ; 17: sucre.com )