New Orleans: Clicking Snapshots of a Unique Culture

New Orleans’ culture is rich and multi-layered like a complex and very refined cake. While on tour with the wonderful BlogtourNOLA gang, I snapped a few images of some of what makes this city’s heart beat faster.

The food:

Chez ElzaAll photos and layout by Chez Elza The food is to die for and -literally- has visitors commenting out loud with their mouths full: “I’ll diet as soon as I get back home!”

 The music:

Photos and layout by Chez ElzaAnd the good times:

Photos and layout by Chez ElzaAnd what a fabulous night life, with artists in markets at 11 PM!

Photo by Barbara Elza Elza HirschAt the Frenchmen Art Market. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Chez ElzaNOLA 1962Artist photographer Andy Levin holding up some of his work. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Chez ElzaArtist jeweler Krista De Joseph and her wonderful smile in front of her handmade jewelery.

Chez ElzaCheck out her work by clicking on the link above! Photos by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

We had a blast, thank you, Veronika of Modenus! Organizer extraordinaire:

V and daughterA lovely mother-daughter duo… Veronika at right. Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

 

Seen at KBIS 2013 in NOLA

Of course, my trip to New Orleans for our fabulous BlogtourNOLA adventure was not just about touring the city and discovering its charms. We were invited to visit and report back from KBIS 2013, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Many of our sponsors had fantastic new products and great booths to flaunt and I very much enjoyed my visit and learning about these. I should also mention the hospitable Press lounge hosted by the NKBA, thank God for their snack station and their inviting and gigantic white sofas and chairs!

For starters, I was extremely impressed by the Cosentino Group. Cosentino, a large Spanish Company, is famously know for its Silestone Brand, but I also discovered their Eco brand, and learned that they make sinks!

Through superior strength, incredible beauty and an unparalleled distribution network, Silestone is rapidly becoming the choice for discerning consumers. There are many advantages to using Silestone: since it is a surface that is manufactured from natural quartz, it’s highly resistant to stains and scratches, and has a low level of fluid absorption. Silestone comes in over 60 quartz colors for countertops, two textures (polished and suede) and several different formats, which make it extremely versatile, and can even be used in large pieces without requiring any joins. Silestone is perfect for use in a great many applications in the kitchen and bathroom.

I fell head over heels for the Nebula series:

Lyra in the Nebula series by Silestone. Photo via Cosentino.

I was surprised by how it closely resembles marble yet is extremely durable and resistant to liquids.

Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch for Chez Elza.The latest Ismir pattern in the Nebula collection by Silestone. Note the discreet gold lines threaded throughout. Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch, Chez Elza.

We were lucky to meet with Silestone’s VP of Marketing, Lorenzo Marquez, who took the time to answer questions and present upcoming top secret creations. All I can say is “Wow!”

Integrated sink made of White Zeus:

Integrity One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Integrity sink by Silestone courtesy Cosentino Group.

Integrity sinks gives you the sensation of unity, of perfect integration with the rest of the elements of your worktop.

This most innovative product launch boasts all the remarkable characteristics of Silestone that make it the premier product on the market. These features include: high scratch resistance, durability and of course the highest performance in terms of design and guaranteed bacteriostatic protection.

An example of Silestone in the bathroom for the sink:

TOTO toilets are world class. We all know someone who needs a new toilet. “Mine won’t, hum, (whisper) f-l-u-s-h what it’s supposed to!” “I am tired of craning my neck to clean all the nooks and curves of my toilet pedestal!” Shhh…But really, guess what? We hear this time over and again, and TOTO has truly a response to every toilet dilemma!

Consider the wall mounted (extremely popular with designers and home owners alike):

Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaThe tag is self explanatory and showcases the advantages to a wall mount. No more huffing and puffing with your hair brushing the toilet lid (eek!) as you bend over and attempt to take out dirt from the sinewy pedestal…Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Then there’s the one piece toilet. A cleaning dream!

Chez ElzaThe Legato One piece toilet by TOTO. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

TOTO is unabashedly in love with its products, and they are perfectly justified in being so! Imagine a company whose commitment to environmental sustainability goes “beyond compliance.” Their high-efficiency toilets, faucets and showers lead the industry in water savings, and their expert engineering results in first-rate performance, reliability and customer satisfaction. I loved that they have a People First policy as their core principle, the people are central in their innovations.

TOTO also creates beautiful sinks and bathroom products such as this little favorite of mine:

Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaThe Maris semi-recessed vessel sink by TOTO. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

I have to share a snapshot of local Cape Cod based designer Linda Merrill under an umbrella, testing one of TOTO’s pulsating shower heads!

Linda 's dashing smile. Photo Barbara Elza HirschDashing smile on designer Linda Merrill. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Other impressive products I noted at KBIS 2013 were the trendy free standing tub fillers by Brizo:

Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch-Chez ElzaOr the mother company Delta:

Chez ElzaAnd the frenzy over stand alone tubs…such sculptural elements :

Chez ElzaChez ElzaTwo beauties by Fleurco line Aria, Vivace and Adagio. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

I could not resist this pièce de resistance, a miniature wall exhibit of Aria tubs:

Chez Elza

And my pet peeve, exceptionally built shower doors:

 Kinetic In-Line KS by Fleurco . Stunning shower door systems. Photo courtesy Fleurco.

Well, it’s time for me to renovate my bathroom, folks! When I do, I promise to document the redo here and share with my readers!

In the meantime, it is time to bid you farewell. A bientôt!

 

 

DU VERRE, a Hardware Company with Style

One of our Blogtour Sponsors was DUVERRE Hardware, a leader in quality and original design for cabinet hardware based in Canada.

I did not have the pleasure of meeting the owners but examined their website and press information with a lot of interest. I also had a lot of fun participating in a Pinterest contest challenge organized by DU Verre which I won! I cannot wait to receive my prize, an IPAD Mini!

Who knew such creative energy could be put into drawer pulls and knobs? Working with highly respected designers from all aspects of the design world, Du Verre has created unique design-driven collections of knobs and pulls for fine furniture and interiors. The company has raised the bar on innovative hardware design and the sustainable use of materials.

2½Pomegranate Pull by Heinz Pflege for DU VERRE. . Shown in satin nickel.

17

Forged 3 by Heinz Pfleger for DU VERRE. -Shown in antiqued brass.

Thanks to progressive manufacturing methods, each piece of their die cast hardware is crafted in eco-friendly recycled aluminum that is fully compatible with LEED objectives. Known for originality, sculptural designs, warm textures and beautiful finishes, Du Verre’s hardware collections exude a global elegance and classical silhouette that will appeal to many designers and homeowners. Each piece is finished by hand, making each one truly unique.

Knob

Series 3 by Scot Laughton for DU VERRE. Shown in satin nickel.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gina Lubin, one of the founding partners of Du Verre.

CHEZ ELZA: Gina, what motivated you to start Du Verre?

Gina: “The evolution of Du Verre has been a pretty organic process. My partner and I had a studio/retail design business in Toronto. We were designing furniture and making
custom hardware for our own projects. An opportunity arose for us to try our hand at
production. We leaped at it. And now, thirteen years later it is our sole focus.”

Did you know right away what the company would produce or did you evolve as the company grew?

“We really didn’t know where Du Verre Hardware would take us. But, curiosity and a willingness to try things has been a driving force in our business life.

When you were a child, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?  Are you surprised you grew up to do what you do?

“To be honest, I thought I’d be living in the country somewhere bucolic working as a
sculptor! Well I find myself in the city but creating hardware does have some of that
sculptor fantasy in it. So maybe I’m on my way!”

What is your favorite part of the job? the one that is most dear to you.

“I do like my work. It’s so varied. Du Verre has been my school. We have been
in business for thirty years. Through its many incarnations, I have traveled, met
amazing people, created interesting objects and learned about business, politics and
the world.”

How many years elapse from design thought process to prototype to manufacturing of a pull or knob?

“Sometimes years, sometimes weeks. From the time we decide to put something in
the line, it usually takes about three to six months to get it produced and into stock.”

How do you see the art of pulls and knobs evolving in the next few decades?

“I don’t really know. I suppose the use of new materials and technologies will have animpact. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Can you send me a photo of you with your favorite knob and pull?

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/?ui=2&ik=a4a3ac9d13&view=att&th=13eb2926952e8855&attid=0.1.3&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-DJdQq3IBP534J7BAeuamt&sadet=1369329382152&sads=j1qyYAE4vRN_u1EuW99IRcvuX8w

One of Gina Lubin”s favorite pull, Arroyo in white. Du Verre.

I had a lot of fun discovering this unique hardware brand. Creative processes are found everywhere. When art meets industrial design, it can mean a perfect marriage! Du Verre is clearly example of this!

A bientôt!

Note: all photos courtesy Du Verre Hardware.

4-The Wonderful World of New Orleans Designers and Antiques

On our first day in New Orleans with BlogtourNOLA, we were treated to a visite guidée* of renowned Magazine Street by local interior designer Shaun Smith, a gracious and most talented young man.

Shaun Smith on magazine Street. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Shaun Smith walks us through the shops on Magazine Street. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Shaun proceeded to take us into upscale antique shop Antiquités d’Europe, owned by Petricia Thompson, an antique shop owner for the past 13 years. Petricia has quite a collection of 18th and 19th Century European antiques. The prices are steep but I recommend you stop by this one. Here are a few snapshots:

Antiquités d'Europe - Photo Drecit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAntiquités d’Europe – Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAntiquités d’Europe- 19th Century French Tole Bed Corona Canopy – Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Antiquités d'Europe- Phot  Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAntiquités d’Europe- 18th Century Spanish Dining chairs – Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAntiquités d’Europe- Vase of April, A French creation, one of my favorites, even if more contemporary.  Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Next stop was Empire Antiques:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaContinuing on Magazine Street we passed Julie Neill‘s Designs, as Julie herself greeted us in front of her storefront. Unfortunately we were headed to another destination, but I could not resist taking a few snapshots of her stylish vitrines**:

Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaJulie Neill’s unusual storefront window with the street reflection- Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaJulie Neill’s unusual storefront window with the street and myself reflected- Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Malachite Home was a big favorite with our group: Shaun Smith introduced us to the designer and her fabulous shop, filled with unusual juxtapositions and brimming with art and sculpture:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaMalachite’s. Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaBunny Williams Table with turned legs and assortment of candy colored glassware. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

 My personal favorites:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaMalachite Home unusual mid century sculptures- Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

 Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

 Gorgeous dragons and floral details enhance these gilded sconces- Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Shaun Smith then invited us in his own shop and regaled us with little canapés of goat cheese decorated with fresh strawberries and other canapés topped with charcuteries***. We welcomed the break and admired his elegant and whimsical style:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Religious symbols abound in New Orleans, a town with a strong Catholic history and culture. One has to keep in mind Louisiana is the only state to be  divided into Parishes rather than Counties.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaThese chairs might be the ones that belonged to my French grandparents. In fact, they are so eerily similar I am a bit taken aback. Chairs on which grandchildren sat to eat tartines de pain de campagne au miel**** dipped in hot chocolate. Chairs on which my family sat next to the free standing 1950’s first fridge and played bridge. Photo credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAnd then there is this Louis Philippe commode*****. Surely this has to be the one that was in the guest bedroom in my grandparents’ home?! Feelings like this overcome me throughout my trip in new Orleans. It’s as if the city lends itself to travel into time and pulls me back to Europe…Photo credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Next stop was Gerrie Bremermann’s fantastic shop with Gerrie herself! Gerrie is a lovely and energetic octogenarian interior designer who left her career as a seamstress to become an interior designer in her 40’s. She was voted Vogue Magazine’s top interior designers in 2004. Her boutique/office is refined and personalized. Gerrie is also represented on 1st Dibs.

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaSoothing palette for this ethereal and elegant bedroom by Gerrie Bremermann. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaFun fact: Gerrie says because the ceilings are so tall in her offices, she selects very tall staff, as she herself is quite petite. Note the stunning -I assume- Italian Murano glass chandelier. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Art holds a big place in Gerrie Bremermann’s designs. I can see why! Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWith Gerrie :-) We had a good laugh at how New Orleans affected our hair!!!  I so enjoyed my visit with her!

We finish our street tour at Ecru, a tasteful antique shop owned by a darling mother and daughter team:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaIf you love whites, greys and greiges, this is the shop for you! Photo: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

The day ended at the Ogden Museum with a presentation and book signing with interior designer Miles Redd, author of a book called The Big Book of Chic:

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaTwo design legends, Gerrie Bremermann and Miles Redd enjoy a quick chat minutes before the book signing. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

*French for guided tour
**French for storefront windows
***French for prepared meats usually made of pork, using methods such as curing or smoking, which were methods developed to preserve meat in times when refrigeration was not an option (jambon, saucisson, etc)
****French for buttered peasant bread slices with honey
*****French for chest of drawers

Ready for ACTION? Ready, Set, Go, NOLA!

The movement continues, as designers who attended BlogtourNOLA with Modenus principal Veronika Miller want to GIVE BACK and bring your ATTENTION to a city still rebuilding itself after Katrina. Thursday the 9th Veronika has organized for a  FUNDRAISER via a chat on Twitter (May 9 from 4-5pm EST #BlogtourNOLA) to raise funds via World Vision for Joe Robert.

Jo Robert with his wife, Gloria. Photo Credit: via Modenus

I introduced you to Joe and the plight of New Orleans people in my recent post. Please help him rebuild his home, his story is particularly touching as he has delayed rebuilding his home to donate his time to rebuild other Hurricane victims homes’.

His home:

Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaJoe and Gloria’s home

A little bio:

Joe and Gloria Robert of New Orleans were newlyweds looking forward to a bright
future together when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

Residing in their new house for just one month before Katrina slammed the city, the
couple lost everything when the levee behind their house was destroyed – one of 53
levees in the city breached by the storm surge – and canal water swallowed the home.
The Roberts evacuated the city, staying with various friends and relatives. When the
flood waters receded weeks later, Joe and Gloria moved into a pop-up camper in their
driveway for a while, but they’ve also been staying with Joe’s daughter from a previous
marriage.

Nearly eight years later, Joe and Gloria’s house is still uninhabitable. While a new
house has been framed out, the building lacks essentials including electrical, drywall,
flooring and plumbing. Because Joe is a contractor by trade, he has the skills to work
on his house, but he has generously donated much of his free time to volunteering with
St. Paul’s Homecoming Center helping to rebuild other people’s houses.

Joe works on his home little by little, but is often derailed by setbacks such as having
his house broken into and his tools stolen. Even though Joe was forced to save up until
he could replenish his tool supply, he has not lost his faith in humanity.

Fortunately, Joe and Gloria received some good news recently when Storehouse of
World Vision selected the couple and their house for a rehab project. A few weeks
ago Storehouse joined forces with the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
and St. Paul’s Homecoming Center to help rehab kitchens and baths in three houses
as a lead-in to NKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) held April 19-21 in New
Orleans.

While Storehouse and NKBA partners have donated materials, appliances and labor
for a new kitchen and bath in the Robert’s house, the rest of the unfinished home still
needs lots of TLC.

Please view this film by Kurt Wulff about the day of our visit to Gentilly, in New Orleans, with Joe, Connie Udo, and Efrain Perez, Jr from World Vision and so many more:

If you want to HELP, please click to give—> GIVE NOW LINK

Thank you so much for your support!

3-New Orleans: A Strong Community Rebuilding Itself Needs Your Help

Our BlogtourNOLA trip to New Orleans was not just about interior design. Our organizer, Veronika Miller, wanted us to have the opportunity to understand New Orleans as a community that has and continues to suffer. We were invited to visit with neighborhoods deeply affected by Katrina and witness their rebuilding efforts firsthand.

Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Our first tour is organized by the Storehouse of World Vision, a network of six storehouses which supply donated goods such as building materials, school supplies, personal care items and clothing from corporate partners to more than 2.2 million people annually in low-income communities. As part of the upcoming National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) which took place in New Orleans April 19-21, World Vision partnered with  New Orleans St Paul’s Homecoming Center and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) to help three deserving families rebuild their homes.

We are invited to tour these homes in Gentilly, a neighborhood located near the levees that has seen only 60% of its homes rebuilt. Efrain Perez, Jr., Corporate Relations Director of World Vision explains how his organization partners with companies to donate products to help those in needs. New Orleans continues to need all the support it can get: corporate donations are essential in this reconstruction.  Connie Uddo, director of St Paul’s Homecoming Center, explains how her local community was affected: “100 000 trees were destroyed by salt water and 80% of homes flooded”. Connie tells how contractor fraud had affected the already demoralized inhabitants. When the government money came in, people started hiring contractors. Unfortunately, some of these contractors profited from the situation and took the money and ran.

It is hard to transcribe here the level of raw emotion, determination and courage the locals shared with us as we visit with them.

Connie guided St Paul’s Episcopal Church effort to offer the post-Katrina community a place where they could find volunteer help, housing, tools, computer access, mental health and much, much more. She speaks in an energetic, focused and dedicated manner about her community: “We just held each other up, pulled ourselves by the bootstraps and we continue to today”. Gentilly’s middle class neighborhood was under water 8 years ago. It has been a very slow process to rebuild. Connie works tirelessly with volunteers like Joe Robert, a contractor whose home was entirely destroyed during Katrina.

Joe Robert and Connie Uddo of St Paul's Homecoming Center -Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaJoe Robert and Connie Uddo tell us their story in front of one of the homes being rebuilt in Gentilly. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Joe was in the process of rebuilding when all his tools and floors were stolen out of his house. He owns one of the homes currently being helped by donations from World Vision, and which he helps rebuild, along with other homes, after his workday.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaA team of volunteers from The Home Depot help construct the Davis’ family home, as their daughter explains that her father so wanted to meet with us but is currently in the hospital. This family did not have flood insurance. The little money they got for their contents was stolen by a fraudulent contractor who ran off with $32,000. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaA special ceremony is underway. White doves will be released in the sky to symbolize the rebirth of these homes and give strength and courage to all. Photo : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Everyone holds their breath as the doves are about to be released. The owner of the birds explains what will happen.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAnd there they go! Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Our last stop is Joe’s home. His property abuts the levee and he tells a heart wrenching story. Since his home’s destruction 8 years ago, he and his wife have had to live with a family member. Their home rebuilding project is finally on the right track. He is torn between moving back here, to a neighborhood he and his ancestors grew up in, and his wife’s fear that the brand new levee will not protect them in case of a another disastrous storm.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNote how the homes’ levels are elevated and have doors at every floor: this is the new approach to re-building homes in the area.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez ElzaIn Joe’s driveway, we ask for permission to walk to the newly constructed levee and are struck by how eerily close to the homes these are.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez ElzaI climb on a ledge to take this shot and assess the water level. Joe’s house is 50 feet to the right of this view.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza Joe lifts his arm as he tells the story of how high the water went. Later he will show us a street sign, about as high as our tour bus. The water reached that sign’s  level. We can still see the water stains. Photos : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Inside the home, boxes of donated items are ready to be opened. A kitchen that for most of us is a simple commodity is a luxury long awaited for here.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza Corporations who donated to this project should feel proud:

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza hirsch | Chez Elza

It is time to say goodbye. Tears are shed. We leave our new Gentilly friends behind with a heavy heart. The mood in the bus is morose as we grapple with all we’ve seen and heard.

Next stop is another neighborhood, the Lower 9th Ward, a historic working class community which was also hit hard during the hurricane. 1,200 people perished here and only 20% of the original population has returned.  When Brad Pitt visited New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward two years after Hurricane Katrina, he was shocked by the lack of rebuilding progress in this community. Pitt decided to help rebuild in the hardest hit area of the city and created Make It Right, which is committed to building high-quality, sustainable homes designed by architects for communities in need. All Make It Right projects are LEED Platinum certified and Cradle to Cradle inspired – meeting the highest standards of green building. The homes are sold at a very low price and buyers need to be previous neighborhood residents. 90 homes have already been rebuilt. 350 people have been brought back home thanks to Make It Right.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

The homes here are designed with the architect according to the homeowner’s taste and preferences. Each is unique. The U.S. Green Building Council named Make It Right‘s work in the Lower 9th Ward “the largest, greenest neighborhood of single family homes in the world.”

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credits:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaMany renowned architects have designed homes for this project, such as Frank Gehry’s pink house above. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAn empty park awaits the return of its children. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWell ventilated homes, built to optimize light and shade, as well as bright colors are a signature of the Make it Right  homes. Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Help from corporations and individuals is key to the success of the Make It Right project and companies such as Benjamin Moore, Cosentino (owner of Silestone) and Shaw Floors are active partners in this reconstruction.

We visit one home where one older woman has reintegrated her neighborhood. She is happy and loves the new space. Two members of Make it Right can’t seem to agree on whether her home was designed by a Japanese architect or a Chinese architect. Is it really important at this point ? I don’t really care. I’d much rather meet and hear the locals.

This afternoon visit to the Lower 9th Ward feels very different than Gentilly’s tour. Having someone like Brad Pitt bring attention to this area is like a double edge sword. It is a wonderful initiative, yet many of us can’t help feeling there is something surreal about the whole thing. Is it because we are shown around in a very rapid and business like manner, making this feel less about the local people than about the design concept behind these green designed homes? Something is missing. Suddenly the amount of publicity brought to this area feels very unfair compared to what we saw in the morning. Would we have felt differently had our day started in the Lower 9th Ward?

The truth is, I am not from New Orleans. I only visited two neighborhoods. I am sure the reconstruction initiatives and the politics behind these are more complex than what they seem.

One thing is for sure: New Orleans is still not out of the woods. People are still suffering.  I am hoping to plan a trip to Gentilly with my family and help hammer and paint.

How can you help?

  “Everyone can help us rebuild, even families with children who want to come visit and help out”, says Connie. St Paul’s Homecoming Center is a “boots on the ground” program.

As explained on St Paul’s website, each volunteer group is matched with a project suited to their unique qualifications. When skilled construction workers are here, they may do carpentry, drywall, roofing etc. If a group of unskilled people are here to work, they might be asked to do landscaping, painting, or community-related improvements. Because of the variety of needs in the New Orleans area, St Paul’s is able to provide a project for any group, regardless of age or skill level – they even have families that come to New Orleans and work for a few days during their vacations.

Cash Donations are welcome and I have affixed a direct link here to St Paul’s Homecoming Center here as well as on the right of my blog, where it will be part of CHEZ ELZA’s ongoing effort to help rebuild New Orleans.

If your corporation wishes to donate to The Storehouse of World Vision, please click here.

To donate to Make It Right and help bring more sustainable homes around the world, consider donating here.

Make It Right is committed to hiring and training local workers in green building practices. Because of this commitment, they don’t use volunteers for daily construction work. They do sometimes ask for help with landscaping, gardening and light maintenance around their construction sites.

I urge you to consult the Make It Right Library here. It offers free resources about green building.

Everyone should have a home they can call their own. New Orleans decided to expand on its swampy areas to grow the city centuries ago. We cannot, as some suggested 8 years ago, just eliminate entire neighborhoods that have been home to families for generations. We need to make sure levees are rebuilt appropriately and drainage is set in place all over the area. New Orleans is part of this country’s unique history and I believe Americans should come together and help rebuild and preserve its beautiful heritage.

2-New Orleans: Sustainable Gas Lanterns and Bevolo

The Gas Lantern is one of the signatures of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Our BlogtourNOLA group was invited for breakfast and a factory tour at Bevolo, a family owned business that revolutionized the production of gas lamps by developing a unique technique. In 1945, the French Quarter opened its doors to an Italian-American family owned business: Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights. Andrew Bevolo, Sr., who had worked in manufacturing  for companies such as Ford,  realized that by utilizing a hand riveting technique rather than making brittle soldered joints, he could create sustainable gas lights. He started working with architect A. Hays Town to develop a beautiful design. Thus was born the French Quarter Gas Lamp, inspired by the London street lights of the 19th century.

Bevolo Lighting in NOLA French Quarter.  Photo by Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Bevolo offers 500 types of lights, and we saw a good 40 styles displayed at the factory. These are offered in multiple finishes, but copper is the best seller, sought after for its beauty and durability. I learned that gas lights utilize very little energy and the cost to keep one lit is 7 to 10 dollars per lamp per month. They are “basically a pilot light with a fancy cover” to quote the third generation owner, Drew Bevolo. Due to their high efficiency, the gas lamps stay on day and night. They can be used indoors as well. Kitchens are seeing a big trend in large lantern pendants. Lights used indoors are equipped with a safety valve. All these lanterns can be made electric as well. Bevolo offers a lifetime warranty on broken glass: if it breaks, the glass will be replaced for free!

As I observed the soft glimmer of the gas flames, I was transported through time and charmed by the quiet and non glaring properties of this type of lighting.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaSecond from right is the original 35 x 18 London inspired Street Gas Light. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Detail of 1/4 inch tubing used  for the gas line. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.Detail of 1/4 inch tubing used for the gas line. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.One of my absolute favorite lamp designs at Bevolo’s. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.Entrance to the factory. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.A coppersmith at work at Bevolo’s. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

 

Bevolo lamp -electrical version. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAn electric lamp version. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaHere I am standing in the courtyard beween the factory and the museum part of Bevolo. Note the Bevolo lantern on the wall behind me. Photo Credit: Linda Merrill,  a fellow designer, holding the camera for Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

I will end this second chapter by sharing a few images of the streets where the store and factory is located.

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaFrench Quarter- Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaFrench Quarter. Literally felt I was in Europe standing here. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaFrom the first floor of Bevolo’s, looking out. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaFrench Quarter- Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

I want to thank the Bevolo team for a fabulous tour and visit. I learned so much and as always, relish a factory tour!

Next on the list, I will share what I learned about the New Orleans community’s efforts to rebuild its homes. A la prochaine!

1-New Orleans: Architecture, its Crown Jewel

I am back after a formidable blogtourNOLA journey with the lovely Veronika Miller and an amazing group of designers/bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting.

I debated on what to share with you in this 1st chapter of my New Orleans adventure. I decided to begin with setting the scene. And what comes to mind is BEAUTY. Beautiful architecture abounds in this gorgeous city.

How can I even start to explain the beauty of New Orleans? There are no words, really.

We begin on a warm, muggy day in April 2013. Destination: The Garden District.

The Garden District was designated a national historical landmark in 1974. It is renowned for its beautiful 19th century mansions, some late Victorian homes and elaborate gardens. Greek revival, Spanish, French, British and Italian influences have come together to create an incredible architecture.

New Orleans Street Car on Charles Street- Photo: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNew Orleans Street Car on Charles Street- Photo: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Click on link below for a little film I took of the ride from the streetcar:

Link to Film of BlogTourNola-StreetCar

It will give a sense of the laid back, green and lush vibe of this city.

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

NOLA Garden District -Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza


At this point, I imagine and hope your are rendered speechless. Good! This is truly a trip I recommend!  Be sure to follow my blog posts on new Orleans over the next few weeks. A bientôt, les amis!

 

 

 

Blogtour NOLA, New Orleans, Me Voilà!

I am cramming. Cramming for a good cause. I am off to New Orleans next week for an exciting week of discovery, design education, socializing and sight seeing.

Favrot

New Orleans photo via Courtney Price Design

Trying to juggle all clients before my departure plus the organization of my upcoming show house in Maine, with a sick child who ended up staying at home the end of the week after almost breaking his toe and a rush to X-ray Wednesday, I admit I feel wiped out. But this cramming and exhaustion serve a good purpose. It’s 1 AM and I am writing with some news I have to share before I leave!  I have been generously invited to a very special event called Blogtour NOLA, organized by Modenus. Veronika Miller is the founder and CEO of Modenus the leading interior design resource in the US and UK. For the past few years now she has been partnering with sponsors to invite trend setting bloggers and design minded individuals to Blogtour events.

Definition of a Blogtour organized by Modenus: bloggers are invited to scout the world for great design and report back live from the world’s greatest cities and the most recognized design trade shows.

Blogtour NOLA is taking us to KBIS 2013 this month, a Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, which will be held in New Orleans this month. KBIS is a huge industry event which allows industry professionals to connect, exchange ideas, learn and discover new products and technologies. I look forward to learning a lot, and adding many new design tricks to my practice! I am particularly interested in new technologies, materials used for surfaces, and plumbing design.

This trip could not be possible without the generous sponsorship of KBIS, The NKBA, Mr. Steam, TOTO USA, Blanco America, Poggenpohl USA, Silestone USA, and Duverre Hardware

I will be writing more about these brands as I discover them firsthand.

I love that Veronika conceives her blog tours as not only opportunities for bloggers to learn a lot about all the latest trends at these trade shows, but also as an opportunity to discover  the culture of the area they are traveling to. In this case, I am really blessed to travel to New Orleans, a city I have never had the pleasure of visiting. I am looking forward to learning about ” the effort to rebuild many parts of the city and hear stories of how people have coped with the emotional and physical devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The mere fact that this is still a topic today, eight years later, made it clear that BlogTour needed to share the latest with its readers” (in Modenus’ own words).

And sharing we will, Veronika!

I could not resist to leave you with a photo of the hotel we will be staying at. My readers know my love for hotel design :-)  !

Photo of a room at the Renaissance Arts Hotel, located in the heart of New Orleans warehouse district.

New Orleans, this Frenchie is ready! Beignets? Oui, avec grand plaisir!