A talented lighting designer shows us around her charming, romantic hometown of New Orleans.
"I love New Orleans with all my heart and soul,” says lighting designer Julie Neill, whose showroom is on the city’s bustling Magazine Street, “waking up each day in this magical place inspires me to live a life filled with beauty and passion to create wonderful things."
And Neill’s custom pieces are indeed wonderful. For each client, the artist sketches the design by hand, and oversees the finishing of the plaster chandeliers, wrought iron lanterns or gilded sconces, to name just a few. Neill's fixtures have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Garden & Gun, Coastal Living, and House Beautiful, and her work can be seen in spaces around the city, including the legendary Brennan’s Restaurant.
Neill, who grew up here, says there’s no other place on earth that “truly feels like home." The southern city known for its gorgeous architecture, lush gardens, and rich culinary history is filled with “interesting, creative people,” according to the designer. One of the reasons Neill loves living here is because “each day contains the possibility of some remarkable, unexpected experience,” says Neill. “It is never ordinary.”
And Neill is quick to dismiss the idea that NOLA is just one big party. “The real New Orleans is not the place tourism promoters would have you believe,” says the designer. “It is really a very unique small town that is home to many different types of amazing people that love to celebrate life. New Orleanians are warm and welcoming, and want everyone to have a good time.”
If you're ready to pack your bags for an adventure in The Big Easy, don’t forget to take Neill’s travel guide with you. Below, she reveals the insider places, people, and things to check out in New Orleans. Laissez le bon temps rouler!
For Breakfast or Brunch...
"My absolute favorite place for a delicious and elegant brunch is La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine Street | 504-891-3377) which is housed in a 100-year-old former grocery. The pressed tin ceilings are original and set the tone for enjoying chef Justin Devillier’s modern take on a traditional New Orleans meal. Don’t miss the B.E.L.T."
"For a hip and healthy brunch, head over to Satsuma (7901 Maple Street | 504-309-5557) in the Bywater. The decor is artsy and feels like New Orleans and the food is all locally grown and made from scratch. They make amazing fresh squeezed juices and I especially love their beet lemonade. Their Mexican breakfast plate and the avocado toast are two of my favorites and I love their gluten-free bread."
"I feel so lucky that Lilette (3637 Magazine Street | 504-895-1636) is just two blocks from my shop. It's one of the prettiest restaurants on Magazine Street and has the perfect vibe. Some of my favorite dishes for lunch are the chilled corn broth with lump crabmeat and avocado, and the grilled beets with goat cheese and walnuts. Their homemade ice creams and sorbets are also heavenly, and I swoon over the quenelles of goat cheese crème fraîche, which is the best combination of light and sweet to finish off the perfect lunch."
"For a lunch adventure, head down to the Bywater for lunch in the courtyard at Bacchanal (600 Poland Avenue | 504-948-9111). Wine and dine in the open air while listening to some of the best local jazz our city has to offer. Truly a unique New Orlenian experience combining artful, delicious food and wine with great atmosphere and music."
"Chic and glamorous with some of the most inspired decor, including murals painted over tile walls and a hip Parisian feel, the new Justine (225 Chartres Street | 504-218-8533) in the French Quarter is just happening and fabulous. The Shrimp en Papillote is just perfect as is the Salade Niçoise. For dessert, the coconut passion fruit pavlova is unforgettable."
"With its contemporary take on Creole cuisine, the newly renovated Brennan’s (417 Royal Street | 504-525-9711) is the quintessential New Orleans dining experience. My favorites are the seared foie gras and the barbecued lobster. The interiors were designed by AD100 designer Richard Keith Langham, with whom we had the pleasure of collaborating for the design and creation of the custom lighting."
"The Elysian Bar (2317 Burgundy Street | 504-356-6769) in Hotel Peter & Paul, a partnership between ASH NYC and New Orleans resident Nathalie Jordi, is a great place to drink, enjoy the atmosphere, and people watch. My favorite cocktail is the Kir Royale. The menu of creative small plates makes hanging out in the fabulously decorated former convent a religious experience!"
"No trip to New Orleans is complete without having a drink on the front porch of The Columns Hotel, (3811 St. Charles Avenue | 504-899-9308) a beautiful old mansion on St. Charles Ave, as you listen to music and watch the streetcars go by."
"I love New Orleans with all my heart and soul,” says Neill, “waking up each day in this magical place inspires me to live a life filled with beauty and passion to create wonderful things."
"Have a French 75 cocktail at Arnaud’s (813 Rue Bienville | 504-523-5433), a small sophisticated, and intimate bar attached to this wonderful historic French Quarter restaurant."
"I love shopping for unique and beautiful things. For great antiques, I head straight to Karla Katz (4017 Magazine Street | 504-897-0061) or Balzac (3506 Magazine Street | (504) 899-2668). My dear friend, Becky Vizard has just opened her shop inside of Balzac, where she has a great place to showcase her exquisite pillows. I love that she’s set up a studio atmosphere where you can find antique textiles and embroideries and work with Becky or her daughter Sarah to customize your own pillows."
"One of my favorite people is the super-talented Amanda Talley (1382 Magazine Street | 504-595-3136), and I always relish a visit to her Magazine Street gallery where you’ll find her magical artwork and so much more. Amanda has turned many of her paintings into printed fabrics from which she creates a dizzying array of irresistible products, from upholstered furniture and throw pillows to couture clothing and so much more."
"For an antique adventure where you never know what amazing piece you will find, I love to visit Maria at Antiques on Jackson (1028 Jackson Avenue | 504-524-8201). It is chock full of French antiques and religious artifacts that will blow you away. When I go there I never want to leave."
"Rivers Spencer (3909 Magazine Street | 504-609-2436) is the place to go for beautiful feminine decor and furniture as well as great clothing. I love to check out the pretty things she has and also to see some of the lighting I design for Visual Comfort which she carries."
"When I want something fabulous to wear, I head to So Susu Boutique (3427 Magazine Street | 504-309-5026). She carries a well-curated collection of the best designer clothing and shoes in town. Erica is great at suggesting the perfect pieces. Some of my favorite lines they carry are Brandon Maxwell and Irene Luft."
Front of the NOMA photo by R. Alohkin, interior gallery and Besthoff Sculpture Garden entrance photos by Richard Sexton.
"The New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle | 504-658-4100) houses a huge collection of art, from classical to contemporary, from paintings and sculpture to ancient artifacts and glass. The circa 1911 building that houses it all is a work of art in itself. The museum is situated within City Park, the largest park in New Orleans which is also home to the Besthoff Sculpture Garden (1 Collins Diboll Circle | 504-658-4100) and features some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the city."
"If you are an art lover, there are so many great galleries, including Cole Pratt (3800 Magazine Street | 504-891-6789), Callan Contemporary (518 Julia Street | 504-525-0518), Martine Chaisson (727 Camp Street | 504-302-7942), and Arthur Roger (432 Julia Street | 504-522-1999)."
Hotel Peter & Paul images courtesy of Hotel Peter & Paul.
"Not to be redundant, but my favorite hotel in the city is currently Hotel Peter & Paul (2317 Burgundy Street | 504-356-5200). Exquisite and unique in every detail, it is lovingly restored and furnished with European antiques in an atmosphere which is surprisingly fresh and modern. Each room is individually furnished with artful details and comfort in mind. Its location in the artsy Faubourg Marigny makes for some great walking adventures around the historic neighborhood."
"One of the most intimate and beautiful and luxurious places to stay in the French Quarter is the Soniat House (1133 Chartres Street | 504-522-0570), which was built in the 1800s as a private residence. Tastefully furnished with elegant antiques, it is an adventure in nurturing and beautiful surroundings. There is also an antique shop filled with treasures next door run by the hotel’s owners."
"For complete pampering and luxurious relaxation, I love the spa at The Ritz Carlton (921 Canal Street | 504-524-1331). You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced their Voodoo Ritual massage package!"
Photos by Digital Roux Photography LLC, Eston Photography, and Courtesy of Audubon Park.
"Take a walk in beautiful Audubon Park (6500 Magazine Street | 504-861-2537) which is located just across St Charles Avenue from Tulane University. The moss-covered oaks, duck-filled lagoon, and 19th-century bandstand will delight your eyes and feed your soul. They have a fabulous golf course if you’re so inclined. Have brunch at the Clubhouse Café (6500 Magazine Street | 504-212-5282) where you can dine on the veranda."
Audubon Zoo images Copyright of Audubon Institute 2019; Audubon Aquarium photo by Digital Roux Photography LLC.
"The Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine Street | 504-861-2537) is such a great place for kids of all ages. Located in historic uptown New Orleans, it offers an exotic mix of animals from around the globe, engaging educational programs, hands-on animal encounters, and lush gardens. Unique natural habitat exhibits such as the award-winning Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle showcase the relationship between people and nature."
"Also, check out the Audubon Institute’s Aquarium and the Insectarium (6500 Magazine Street | 504-861-2537) both located in the downtown area."
"A great adventure for kids is City Park (1 Palm Drive | 504-482-4888). Rent a boat and go paddling around the Big Lake or visit the magical Storyland. There is also a botanical garden, putt-putt golf and a train which takes you all around the park where you will experience lots of Louisiana nature."
"For me, every day spent in New Orleans is pretty wonderful.”