A 100-Year-Old Spanish Revival NOLA Home Has the Dreamiest Tropical Backyard

A 100-Year-Old Spanish Revival NOLA Home Has the Dreamiest Tropical Backyard

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Name: Diogo DeLima, Michael Hahn, and their dog Trigger
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 2400 sf
Years lived in: 7 years; rented

Mellow Brazilian music is playing throughout Diogo and Michael’s New Orleans home on a sunny summer day. Open windows offer a view of live oaks, banana trees, and palms everywhere you turn. The verdant surroundings, along with house plants in every room, blur the lines between inside and out.

In a city where most people seek refuge from the heat inside of sealed, air-conditioned spaces, feeling a breeze inside a home—however slight—is a welcome change. Diogo, who was born in Brazil, explains that the windows were painted shut when he moved in seven years ago. Along with stripping the paint from the wood walls with a scraper and heat gun, he made all of the windows operable. “It would be a tragedy to have these beautiful windows without function,” he says. “To feel the heat brings you closer to nature; you’re accepting it.”

Before Diogo moved in, the 100-year-old Spanish Revival home looked like a frat house. There were couches everywhere, different colors on the walls in every room, and the yard was a wreck. “The owner didn’t love the house,” he says. “Nothing was taken care of. I saw potential, but the vibe just wasn’t right. There was contradictory energy between the things in the house and architecture.”

Diogo set out to give the neglected home the love and attention it deserves and seven years later, there’s an enchanting quality to the place. Friends come and go freely and have nicknamed the house “tropical seclusion”. “People here feel very at home and free,” Diogo says, “it reminds them of vacation places.” The lush, beautifully landscaped backyard is the perfect setting for parties. In fact, it was were Diogo and Michael first met in 2017. Michael attended a party with a mutual friend, then romance eventually led to marriage. “At least three other couples we are friends with have met right here in this yard,” Michael says with a smile. “The walls come down and people lose track of time when they are here,” he adds.

Michael, an engineer, is the perfect creative collaborator for Diogo, a choreographer and contemporary dancer. When they started living together, they decided that instead of buying furniture, they would invest in tools and build the things they needed. Together they have designed and built a platform bed, the frame for their sofa, and all of their outdoor furniture. They describe their method as focused, efficient, and fast. “Constantly working on a project is part of making a home. Once you’ve put a lot of hours into it,” Michael says, “it makes it feel like home. We’ve really enjoyed the process.”

The men describe their style as organic, eclectic, and masculine. The decor, they say, is a cohesive mix of their values. “To us, home is a sacred place. We pour good energy into it, design spaces intentionally, maintain it constantly, and fill it with friends, family and love—and, it works! The result is a space that gives back! It has a warm feeling that at once inspires and makes you feel welcome.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Inspiration: Places around the world that we have visited that have a feeling of home

Favorite Element: Natural light and plants. The Spanish Revival architecture features open spaces with lots of light. When plants are added, it creates a feeling of relaxation and of being outside while indoors.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for us was to honor the architecture of the home while making it unique and ours—we wanted our style to be elegant, yet relaxed—to create a place which is beautiful, but still feels like home and which feels immediately welcoming to everyone.

Proudest DIY: Hand-crafted furniture in our house: the platform couch, bed frame in master suite, and outdoor furniture.

Biggest Indulgence: PLANTS

Best Advice: Make your home your own—truly find the things that reflect who you are and which make you feel good—try new things and see how they fit! Let your home grow and change as you do.

What’s your best home secret? Brazilian hospitality goes a long way. Simple gestures like making coffee or offering fresh fruit help people feel welcome and at home.

Jacqueline Marque

Contributor

Jacqueline is a commercial and editorial photographer based in her beloved hometown of New Orleans. She spent 16 years working as a newspaper photojournalist in Newport, RI, before returning home. When she isn’t taking photos of her spirited 9-year-old, she’s busy beading her costume for next Mardi Gras.

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A Family Shares a Kid-Friendly French Quarter Rental Apartment

A Family Shares a Kid-Friendly French Quarter Rental Apartment

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Name: Megan and Chris Olsen
Location: French Quarter, New Orleans
Size: 1100 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment in Creole townhouse
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

After seeing the courtyards and curved staircases of this rental apartment in the French Quarter, Megan and Chris Olsen knew this was the place for them. They are a very creative couple: Chris owns the vintage and antique clothing and furniture brand Vice & Graft as well as Swamp Rags, and Megan is Assistant Vice President of Nursing at Ochsner Health, a paper artist, and co-owner of Vice & Graft. They both love that their home has a ton of natural light, great French Quarter views, and that it’s within walking distance to their favorite bars, coffee shops, and their kids’ school. Like everywhere in the Quarter, their home is dripping with history, too.

“A few weeks after moving in, we headed to The Historic New Orleans collection, which maintains the original blueprints and history of most of the buildings in the French Quarter. The plot of land for this home was designated in 1722 and construction for a single-family townhouse and completed in 1833,” Megan explains. “By the Storyville era in the 1900s, it was purchased by the current owners, Mercier Realty & Investment Co., and it became known as The Shim Sham Lounge, a jazz hall. When jazz fell out of popularity, it was reverted to individual townhouses by the 1970s. One of our neighbors has resided there since that time! We have two young kids and they’re the first kids to live in the building in a long time.”

“When we’re at home, we typically keep the balcony doors open to let in the light and sounds. The French Quarter is magic no matter what time of day it is, but at night the gas lamps glitter and the sound of horse-drawn carriages or jazz drifting lazily through the neighborhood feels like a perpetual vacation. Even after more than a year in it’s still magical,” Megan says.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Vintage, eclectic, and kid-friendly

Inspiration: The lush and old-timey New Orleans vibes mixed with eclectic vintage pieces.

Favorite Element: The view! The other details like the gas lamps and courtyards are also neat.

Biggest Challenge: The small space, especially with two kids. This is the subtropics, so there’s no attic, and no basement, and with the humidity you can’t store much in the courtyard. We’ve gotten pretty good at storage and organization and making dual use of spaces.

Proudest DIY: The paper moon hung in our bedroom! I made a vintage-style paper moon out of leftover Mardi Gras supplies and Amazon boxes for a photoshoot prop and it came out so good that I’ve gotten dozens of messages to sell it, or make more. It’s got the right amount of whimsy and romantic old-timey vibes that I can’t let it go.

Biggest Indulgence: The plants — it makes a difference in how lush the apartment feels. Because of the sunlight and humidity we get in New Orleans it’s pretty easy to grow big tropical plants indoors. I have made some expensive mistakes, though, so I’m grateful for all the guidance from our local plant shops who give all the tips and tricks (@Fait.Nola and @UrbanrootsNOLA).

Sometimes Chris comes home with these incredible Storyville-era pieces of art simply to get my opinion on it and do research on it for Vice & Graft and I just can’t let them go. And I have quite a collection of vintage accessories (purses, pins, beaded collars)!

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Well, we’re running two small businesses out of it, and raising two kids in it so we’re sensitive to staying organized to make the most use out of the space. We’ve done research on different kinds of vintage furniture that both meets our aesthetic and keeps things organized.

An example is the 1920s Stradivara sheet music cabinet in our bedroom that is a perfect piece to house all the paper for my paper art business. Another example is repurposing a vintage bar cabinet that was repainted to look Atomic Age that had these neat shelves that my five-year-old assures are perfect for housing his Lego collection.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? We’ve amassed a sizeable record collection of vintage jazz and swing records since we couldn’t go swing dancing during the pandemic and used the living room as our dance floor. Some are from @peachesrecords and some from antique shops. And locally made goods, especially candles from Hazeltine. They’re locally made, women-made from start to finish, hand-poured candles that smell incredible, and have great art on the labels that depict the memories that the scents are based on. I give them as gifts often.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: While we deal in a lot of vintage furniture and would love to outfit the entire place in perfect-condition vintage pieces, sometimes it’s better to go with the worn-in (or washable) version of it for now because of the amount of Crayola paint and goldfish snacks in our lives while raising kids. Having a couch cover that can be washed easily but still fits with the rest of the furniture has come in handy more times than I can count.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Take your time. It took us a year to curate the space into our vision, and it’s still a work in progress. We travel around rural Louisiana every few months now to source vintage pieces for Vice and Graft. I’d encourage people to have an adventurous spirit and check out antique shops in their travels. You’d be surprised at the neat pieces you’ll find.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

This NOLA Shotgun Proves You Can Have a Stylish Home on a Tiny Budget

This NOLA Shotgun Proves You Can Have a Stylish Home on a Tiny Budget

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Name: Emily Thibodeaux Meyer, Andy Meyer, and our dog Clementine
Location: Mid-City — New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 860 square feet
Type of Home: Double Shotgun House
Years lived in: 4 years, renting

Emily Thibodeaux Meyer and Andy Meyer’s double shotgun in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood embraces the city’s porch life. “Porch sitting is one of our favorite New Orleans past times. We’ve met most of our neighbors by either passing them on their porch while we walk Clementine or seeing them walk by our house! After seeing someone over and over it just makes sense to strike up a conversation,” begins Emily, who is a creative director, stylist, and maker documenting all of her projects on her website and on her Instagram feed

“This is the second place me and Andy have lived together but I would very much call this our first home. We found it on Craigslist and couldn’t have got luckier! It’s a double shotgun meaning there are two units that mirror each other and a shared porch. Our landlord lives in the other half and he’s basically turned into a part of our family. It’s an everyday occurrence that we both leave our doors open and our dog Clementine runs back and forth between our house and his. We also share food, which is so amazing. He will give us fish he caught and I’ll give him homemade baked goods.” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Thrift store chic but make it comfortable

Inspiration: Bold colors and pattern are my biggest inspiration and usually my starting point for any kind of creative project whether that be decorating a room or making a costume.

Favorite Element: I love our porch and the street we’re on. It’s pretty busy and there’s a lot of foot traffic, which I really like. It’s fun to sit and people watch. We’re also on the second floor, which means you can overhear some really great pieces of conversation because most people don’t look up to see that there’s someone on the porch on the second floor.

Biggest Challenge: The combination of the layout and size of the rooms is a big challenge. Because it’s a shotgun-style you have to leave a walking path to get through each room into the next and that combined with a relatively small room means there are very few options for where to put furniture and what kind of furniture will work in the space. 

Proudest DIY: Definitely the cabinets I made! They’re really simple but the thing that makes me the most proud is that first, they came out exactly how I envisioned them, and second I only used a hacksaw and a drill to put them together (plus a ton of patience and maybe just a little crying). It was one of those projects that prove you don’t need to have expensive equipment to make it happen. I’m very much into the idea that you should use what you have and make it work. It’s also the most recent “big build” I’ve done so it’s the star child until I work on something new.

Biggest Indulgence: Our couch! I wouldn’t purchase this couch if we had a bigger living room but this one was worth it because it’s literally the only couch that fit all of our criteria. This goes back to the biggest challenge in our house being layout and size of rooms. We knew we wanted a sectional because we wanted something all three of us could sit on together and because we thought it would look the best in the room versus a smaller couch and armchair combo. It was a huge challenge finding a sectional that could fit in this room without completely blocking the doorway. Most of the small sectionals have a chaise as the short side but that would have looked really strange in our space because it would have been facing the wrong direction to fit and it would have looked out of place. We also wanted it to be in a light color because Clem sheds so much that we have to buy furniture that matches her. I’m aware of how ridiculous that statement is but it’s the honest truth. We ended up finding this modular sectional from Abbyson Living that’s available at Target and Wayfair and I’m sure lots of other retailers. The complaint is that because it’s modular the pieces tend to shift as you’re sitting on it so there ends up being a gap between the sections and it’s super annoying. I tried to attach the pieces together at the bottom but it did not go smoothly.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I think we have a pretty conventional home for the most part. The front room is my studio, which I guess is a little odd but when you live in a city where literally everyone has a costume closet it doesn’t feel that strange to have a room dedicated to pom poms and sequins. We’ve deemed both my studio and Andy’s office the messy rooms of the house. I can’t complain about his office being a mess as long as he doesn’t complain about my studio being a mess. It’s a pretty fair deal in my opinion! 

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I just bought this lint roller from an Instagram ad and part of me felt like it was going to be such a scam but it’s actually amazing!! Clementine has very coarse hair that gets into everything and this does such an amazing job at removing it. It’s kind of a workout to use but totally worth it. I’ll run it over the rug after I’ve vacuumed and still manage to collect so much of her fur. 10/10 would recommend it if you have a pet.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Like every room of our house the bathroom is tiny! Mix a tiny bathroom with a short human and there’s no place to keep a step stool so instead of trekking to the kitchen to grab it I installed rock climbing holds on the wall so that I can reach the top shelf easily. My tall friends were very confused when I told them about my brilliant plan because I don’t think it crossed their minds that reaching a top shelf would be such an ordeal.

Because we live in an old house there’s not a lot of storage or closet space so we keep our shoes in almost every room of the house under whatever furniture it fits under. It’s like a game of memory trying to figure out where your shoes are when you’re getting ready in the morning.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I watched a home tour with Amy Sedaris and she said once you accept that you’re never getting your rental deposit back it’s amazing because then you can just do whatever you want. I think about that all the time. Because of that I’ve decided I’m never asking permission to paint an apartment again and let me tell you it is liberating. Another piece of advice I would say is to find a barter or free Facebook page if there is one in your area! My biggest setback from creating the home I wanted for years and years was not having the budget. Thrift stores are great but a lot of times my budget was zero. Finding barter/trade groups or attending or organizing swap meets are excellent ways to get things like house paint, furniture, scrap wood, etc. I would also go on drives the night before trash day to look for curb alert items people had just put out that I could snag. Some of my favorite pieces to this day are roadside finds! You can always upgrade later on but don’t let lack of funds stop you from rolling up your sleeves and making your house feel like a home.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.