Senior editor Phyllis Fine stayed at the International House in
New Orleans. Here is her report:
NEW ORLEANS -- In a city where big, impersonal convention hotels
seem to be popping up overnight, the International House stands out
for its minimalist yet elegant approach to hospitality.
Here, the 119 guest rooms are decorated in soothing neutral
tones, a color scheme repeated in the lobby and even carried
through in what the friendly staff members wear -- in warm weather
months, a uniform consisting of a beige seersucker suit and a black
Many of the pieces that decorate the rooms and public spaces
were created by local artisans copying designs from New Orleans'
history, such as the three chandeliers hanging in the lobby, based
on typical 19th century fixtures. The armoires in each room were
inspired by cabinets created by a noted 18th century craftsman.
In-room vases holding Louisiana wildflowers are copies of 1860
mineral water bottles created by a local bottler, S. Pablo &
For me, though, the favorite design element in my suite was the
headboard, which was made of velvet and attached to the wall. The
headboard was high enough that I could rest my head against it and
read. It was the most comfortable headboard I've ever
I also appreciated the other touches in the room, such as the
Aveda toiletries and the stereo/CD player, which comes with two CDs
by local artists. The radio was tuned to New Orleans' jazz and
blues station, WWOZ, when I first walked in. I played one of the
CDs -- "Loved Ones," a mellow mix of love songs performed by
Branford Marsalis and his father, Ellis -- over and over again.
Another nice touch is the excellent guidebook, Randolph
Delehanty's "Ultimate Guide to New Orleans," which can be found in
There is also a ceiling fan and a two-line speaker phone with
data ports. And instead of typical generic hotel paintings, rooms
and public spaces are decorated with original black-and-white
photographs of local jazz greats.
Form wins out over function, though, when it comes to storage
space. There are only three small drawers in the room -- probably
enough for someone traveling alone on a short business trip, since
most business attire would be hung in a closet, but too little for
two people on a longer vacation.
For travelers who are in the graphic arts field and pride
themselves on being "hipper than thou," this is the perfect place.
They will appreciate the property's understated, modern style as
well as such touches as the "do not disturb/please clean up the
room" sign, whose two sides read "later" and "now."
The television offers such artsy cable offerings as Bravo and
the Independent Film Channel.
Trendoids should also enjoy the hotel's restaurant -- now under
construction -- an outpost of the French/Vietnamese Lemon Grass
Cafe, open elsewhere in the city, as well as the atmosphere in the
bar, Loa, lighted only by candles at night. A free continental
breakfast is served in Loa every morning (with great orange muffins
on the weekend). Loa means divine spirit in the voodoo world, and
for those interested in this mystical religion, the property offers
a Sanctuary of Love package.
For $249 per night, per couple, guests receive a spell basket
filled with ingredients for a lovers' special ceremony: a sugarcane
stalk, a statuette, a feather and gris-gris, which is a voodoo
charm. For an additional charge, a voodoo priestess will restyle
the guest room with special objects, create a personal voodoo altar
and perform a special ceremony.
The International House, which opened last year, bills itself as
the first boutique hotel in the city and also has a prime location.
It is in the central business district, just off Canal Street, the
main thoroughfare, and a few blocks from the French Quarter and the
trendy warehouse district.
I stayed at the property during the first weekend of the New
Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year and found another
convenient benefit to the location: It is just a block away from
where Jazzfest buses load.
Room rates range from $189 to $289 for singles and doubles, $439
to $539 for penthouse suites. A summer special rate of $119 is
available through Labor Day. The price includes two free tickets to
Tipitina's, one of the city's best-known live music clubs.
221 Camp St., New Orleans 70130
Phone: (800) 633-5770 or (504) 553-9550