Art, Antiques, and Great Food – New Orleans with Laura U


It’s Valentine’s Day, and while I’m not the most sentimental person, I cannot help but get into the giddy spirit of the holiday of love. To me, V-Day is a celebration of all the things that make you happy. Whether you’re married or single, whether you find joy in your kids or your work, take some time today to embrace the love you have for whatever it is that makes you happy.

Last December, Michael and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! It’s hard to believe that I’ve known Michael for two decades…that’s half of my life! To celebrate this special year, we decided to take a weekend trip to New Orleans. Nothing makes me happier than traveling with my best friend, and the fabulous art, antiques, and yummy food certainly don’t hurt!

Michael and Laura Umansky celebrate their 15th anniversary in New Orleans

Why New Orleans?

Traveling to new destinations is one way I’m able to refocus my design perspective. I love seeing new ways to mix colors, materials, and design elements. For me, travel is both relaxing and inspiring.

We chose New Orleans because it’s close to Houston (love a short plane ride) and it’s a place we haven’t really explored yet. I had the chance to spend 24 hours in New Orleans during the Ellisha Alexina pop-up and it seemed like a vibrant, romantic city. What a perfect place to eat, drink, find new artists, and do some antique shopping.

Day 1 – Sampling the Local Fare of New Orleans on Magazine Street

We stayed at Windsor Court, a hotel well-known for their luxurious, French-inspired decor. They had a gorgeous courtyard area and a lobby filled with beautiful antiques and paintings. I wish we had time for tea because their tearoom was sublimely decorated. But we had so much planned for this short weekend. It will just have to wait ’til next time!

We headed over to Shaya, an Israeli restaurant, for lunch. We enjoyed a phenomenal meal (the hummus was delicious!) with a glass of rose. After lunch, we did some antique shopping on Magazine Street.

Magazine Street is around 6 miles of shops, galleries, and restaurants curving around the Mississippi River. Shaya is just one of those restaurants. There are dozens more!

Laura U getting into the romantic mood before dinner at Commander"s Palace.

One of my favorite shops was Mignon Faget, a jewelry boutique. All of their pieces are inspired by New Orleans and handmade.

Going a couple blocks off Magazine, we had dinner at Commander’s Palace where the owner welcomed us. It was such a treat because the Commander’s Palace is a family-owned historic landmark that put Cajun food on the map. Brennan’s, a Houston staple, is the Commander’s Palace sister restaurant (named after the acclaimed Brennan’s family).

Believe me, this menu did not disappoint. From Oysters and Absinthe to Turtle Soup and Gumbo to duck fat with everything, I was feeling very authentically full!

After dinner, we enjoyed drinks at the hotel bar which was decorated with beautiful traditional Christmas decorations for the holidays. The one thing that caught my eye, though, were the gorgeous marble inlays on the tabletops – so chic!

Detailed inlays make this antique table so unique!

Day 2 – Art and Antique Shopping

Michael and I started off our second day in the city wondering through the art galleries on Julia Street. I always come in with an open mind whenever I shop for artwork. Art means something different to everyone and it can be misleading to think about projects while shopping.

One thing I can do, however, is choose a piece that commemorates my anniversary. Michael and I have been slowly collecting art over the years to celebrate our lives with each other. To have these unique souvenirs throughout our home is like sharing a special language. To everyone else, it just looks like great art!

New Orleans is home to dozens of amazing art galleries

If you’re selecting a piece of art, it might feel like you have to select a certain style or size. You might think that you need a specific artist or color. But the great news is that it doesn’t have to be anything specific. The most important thing is that the painting speaks to you! Art is an investment and it’s important to think about the investment you’ll be making.

For our 5th wedding anniversary, we added a Ray Phillips painting to our collection. And we bought a collection of lithograph marsupials for our 10th anniversary. Yes, you read that right! This anniversary we’ve been thinking about purchasing an Arthur Roger Gallery piece.

Michael and I commemorate each anniversary with a piece of art

We spent the rest of the day popping into my favorite antique stores. New Orlean’s rich cultural history ensures some pretty unique finds. My top 4 places to source antiques in New Orleans:

Whether you’ve inherited pieces from your family or want to start a collection, antiques are a beautiful way to sustain memories. When I’m selecting art or antique furnishings I think about the aesthetics, provenance, and functionality.

Beautiful, functional, and great history - yes to all 3 in this hutch

The same goes for adding heirloom pieces to your home. While it would be great to have items that possess all three characteristics (good-looking, culturally significant, and usable), I consider 2 out of the 3 to be a good measure. Some items are just for show!

While we were in New Orleans, we had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour at Antiques de Provence. It’s important to learn about the story behind each piece in order to create that personal connection.

Scalloped details on this antique chair in New Orleans

I'll take an antique mirror any day

For me, I seem to make a personal connection with statement chairs. And while we were antique shopping, a few gorgeous chairs caught my eye. I love the gentle curves and delicate scallop detailing on this chair. It gives it a feminine and sophisticated feel.

Since velvet was a huge trend at High Point Market, this velvet round backed chair caught my eye. I love the air of Old World European elegance it has. As soon as I saw it, I immediately began reimagining it for a client project. Antique or vintage chairs, if they have good bones, are easily updated with new upholstery or a quick trip to the repair shop. They are a wonderful investment and conversation starter.

Re-upholstered, this chair will reclaim its former glorty

We wrapped up our weekend in New Orleans with dinner at August. Located in a historic building, the restaurant features original architectural details representative of the French-Creole style. The interior was elegant and their signature crystal chandeliers were stunning. Plus, the tasting menu we chose with wine pairings was delicious! I would visit August again in a heartbeat. We really enjoyed it, as evidenced by our empty wine glasses below….

Michael and I truly enjoyed our trip - see? Empty glasses.

Michael and I had a fabulous time celebrating our anniversary in New Orleans. We couldn’t commit to the art this time, but we are definitely planning a return trip!