Rick Ellis and Thomas Jayne have long enjoyed participating in Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, so a pied-à-terre to serve as home base for their celebrations was inevitable. They finally found just the right place in an 1836 Creole townhouse in the French Quarter. The inspiration for the decoration of the apartment derived from the early 19th century, particularly examples found in and around New Orleans. The goal was to incorporate these old-fashioned elements into contemporary decoration.
In the main room, Jayne indulged a fascination with scenic wallpapers found in New Orleans and throughout the South, an interest that began with his study of the decorative arts. Henry Francis DuPont’s use of murals at Winterthur (the Baltimore Alcove is a favorite) and the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum made a great impression on him.
Historic examples of scenic papers are typically drawn with the horizon line at one level, so the scene easily continues around the walls of the room. This paper “forces” the perspective of the horizon so that it dramatically shifts around the room, capturing a variety of scenes from along the Mississippi. A vibrant Creole color palette was used in the mural, and then framed with bright blue in the dado and yellow on the trim. These adjacent colors visually support the scenes and highlight the colors of the design.
The living room is simply furnished with a draped center table and light seating. For entertaining, the furniture is pushed to the edges, a tradition from the 18th and early 19th centuries, when formal rooms were similarly organized.
A sitting room beyond the mural room doubles as a guest room. It is painted pink, the only color that looked right after the polychrome that portends it. The mantel has a contemporary mirror which is flanked by a set of Thomas Frye mezzotints. The large timepiece was used as part of a Father Time costume for Mardi Gras.
The sitting room has a great daybed, which was purchased from the Jane Engelhard sale at Christies. It is used as both a sofa for pre-dinner drinks and a bed for overnight guests. Renowned decorator Albert Hadley once shared with Jayne that the bed was used by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during a stay at the home of Engelhard, a client of Hadley’s. The bed is somewhat overscaled for the room, but the other furnishings balance the arrangement, particularly the large wood block prints of German carnival characters.
The bedroom is covered in a reproduction of an 18th century French wallpaper pattern. The flowered wallpaper suits the period of the apartment and has a graphic, contemporary quality. Another interesting juxtaposition is the placement of an Audubon print of a California condor (also known as the California vulture) on the feminine paper. Audubon worked just blocks from the apartment, so it is fitting placement for the print.
The apartment is entered through a shared courtyard space with a fountain. The small entry foyer leads into the living room.