In New Orleans, an Artwork Break Lodge

In New Orleans, an Art Break Hotel

This article is part of our latest design special about expanding the possibilities of your home.

Don't call Travelers New Orleans a bed and breakfast.

For one thing, there is no breakfast (at least for the time being). Second, the phrase conjures up “pictures of lace curtains and doilies,” said Ann Williams, who, along with her buddy Chuck Rutledge and a few other partners, opened the nine-room inn in the Lower Garden District in April.

Ms. Williams said she preferred to refer to Travelers New Orleans as "an artist-run hotel company." The property is overseen by resident artists who live on the third floor of the building. In return for their work (around 20 hours per week) in on-site work such as turning beds and advising guests about local attractions, they receive a furnished room, ancillary costs, studio space and an hourly fee that usually adds up to around $ 800 a month.

They also get time: paint, write, sculpt, bake or pursue whatever their calling.

Travelers New Orleans is the second company Mr. Rutledge and his partners formed with artists to run the show. Their first, also known as Travelers, opened two years ago in Clarksdale, Miss., Where Mr. Rutledge lives and works as a developer.

He saw good reasons to bring the concept to New Orleans. The city has a thriving creative sector that grew 59 percent between 2005 and 2016, but its housing space is a reach for artists on limited incomes.

According to a report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition last summer, the average New Orleans renter earns $ 16.25 an hour, which is far less than the $ 20.73 hourly rate required to live To be able to afford the average two bedroom house in this town.

For more than a decade, Mr. Rutledge and a partner sat on empty property in the Lower Garden District. The spot was ideal for the project. It was just a few blocks from the Mississippi, in a part of town relatively untouched by Katrina floods thanks to its high elevation, and near landmarks like the marshmallow-pink Grace King House.

The new three-story building was designed by OJT, a local architectural firm led by Jonathan Tate, and follows certain local conventions. Its shape is based on the long, narrow Creole townhouse (although it lacks the steep roof of that style), and its facade is sand-colored brick, which Mr. Tate praised for its sense of "consistency, but also depth and richness of materials". Overlapping fiber cement siding gives the rest of the exterior a traditional look.

Guest access is through a side courtyard. It opens to a living room with eclectic furniture like a Craftsman-style sofa and lounge chairs with rattan. The front desk (in name only as check-in is contactless) was built by an architecture professor at Tulane University and is wrapped in cyanotypes or blueprint photos of fan palm, a prickly, sunburst-like plant.

In the morning, guests can grab a cup of coffee from the downstairs kitchen and read the newspaper at a jagged communal table. Locals are encouraged to stop by as well, Mr. Rutledge said. "If you need a place for a card game or want to make some music, come and do it."

In guest rooms, which cost an average of US $ 185 a night, there is no lace curtain or doilies in sight, but carpets made of natural fibers, fluffy bedspreads and Danish lounge chairs. The artists based at Travelers Hotel Clarksdale made the desks and plywood headboards, which are a different color depending on the room – cream, ocher, gray, and dark blue.

The design is just a starting point, according to Tate, who is also a partner with the company. "I like the idea that the rooms are accumulating material," he said. There's room for improvisation, and if something needs to be changed, it's not far away: his nine-person studio works in the commercial space on the building's ground floor.

Mr. Tate's rent and guest room fees cover Travelers' planned annual operating expenses of $ 200,000 and repayment of a $ 1.8 million loan from a local bank. (They also raised $ 735,000 in equity from investors.) Mr. Rutledge believes that once the hotel is fully operational, the owners will see an annual profit of $ 80,000.

The property supports up to four resident artists. Ultimately, all tenants will apply online and go through several rounds of interviews. The opening group currently includes Walker Babington, who “paints” with instruments such as propane torches and fire-spraying weed killers and is Ms. Williams' cousin. The artists share a living room, kitchen and rooftop terrace and offer views of the Crescent City Connection, the two bridges that cross the Mississippi.

The group received a budget of around $ 19,000 to design their own quarters. The furniture came from thrift stores, real estate sales, the Facebook marketplace, and Renaissance Interiors, a consignment store in Metairie, La. Mr. Babington added his own art to the living room: a rust self-portrait on an old Mercedes hood. The facility will remain in place for a year or more after the residencies have ended.

"Any artist with a bag of clothes can walk in the door," said Shana Betz, a filmmaker who is married to Mr. Babington. The couple moved to Travelers with their 3-year-old daughter in March after a year of hiking. Now she and another tenant, Hannah Richter, a writer, are ready to become co-owners of the limited liability company that runs the hotel. The property remains the property of Mr. Rutledge and his partners.

They hope travelers will be a place where artists can reclaim time. Ms. Betz uses hers to work on a television pilot. Mr Babington said he looks forward to experimenting with his alarming media again in a special studio.

"When you have a large room, what you can do changes a lot," he said. (The owners rented a piece of land down the street for the artists to use.)

Ms. Richter plans to use her residence to develop a writing portfolio to apply for an MFA program. Describing the attraction of travelers, she went straight to Virginia Woolf: "This is a separate room where I can live and work without too much distraction."


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