There’s just no city like New Orleans in the rest of the country… or the rest of the world, for that matter. Cultural hub, dining destination, birthplace of entire art forms — New Orleans is a must-visit without a doubt, and one of our favorite places to be inspired, bar none. But finding your way to the good stuff in a city that takes pride in being mysterious and where things don’t always keep to a strict schedule can be a challenge for even the most determined newcomers.

For help in finding our path through the Big Easy — which, forgive the joke, is not always easy — we asked three designers who live and work in the city for their tips on enjoying the best in town. Chad Graci of Graci Interiors, Penny Francis of Eclectic Home New Orleans, and Maureen Stevens of Maureen Stevens Design were kind enough to offer their favorites, from super-chic hotels to vintage shops and (maybe most importantly these days) lush indoor-outdoor bars. Read on for all their picks, and be sure to shop our all-new curation of New Orleans vintage and antique faves.


Chad Grace of Grace Interiors, Penny Francis of Eclectic Home New Orleans, and Maureen Stevens of Maureen Stevens Designs.
Our New Orleans designer experts… from left to right: Chad Graci of Graci Interiors; Penny Francis of Eclectic Home New Orleans; and Maureen Stevens of Maureen Stevens Design
Sleek hotel room featuring blue velvet headboard and modern white chandelier at the Maison de la Luz.
Maison de la Luz. Courtesy of Maison de la Luz.

Where to Stay

Maison de la Luz. My husband and I had a staycation here and I fell in love with the design.  This amazing boutique hotel in the former Adam and Reese law firm has an amazing interior and chic bar, Bar Marilou, the newest hotspot for after-hours drinks. Fabulous ambiance and craft cocktails.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

“Located in the French Quarter, the Saint Hotel encourages their guests to ‘play naughtily but sleep saintly.’ It is stylish and hip, and they offer just the right mix of crushed velvet, retro furniture, and eclectic artwork. They also have the Burgundy Bar, where you can listen to live New Orleans jazz music.” — Maureen Stevens

“For discreet luxury and impeccable service, stay at the Soniat House on the quiet end of the Quarter or the Windsor Court Hotel downtown. Both are jumping off points for the perfect New Orleans experience.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

Patio seating at Columns is surrounded by lush greenery and green table umbrellas.
Columns. Photo: Arnaud Montagard.

Where to Eat & Drink

“I’ve been fully enjoying the newly revamped and refreshed Columns. With its gracious porches and lush grounds, not to mention historic interiors, it’s the perfect mix of indoor/outdoor dining that we’ve all been craving as of late.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

GW Fins. Chefs select the freshest local seafood from the Gulf every day, which determines the menu for the evening. Using seasonal ingredients, the dishes are always incredible and the plates perfectly presented. For drinks, try Arnaud’s French 75 Cocktail Bar or The Polo Club at the Windsor Court Hotel for the best cocktails, especially on Fridays when they feature local songstress Robin Barnes.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

“Eat at Brennans if you are looking for authentic New Orleans Creole cuisine. Their food is amazing and they have French tableside service… flambé, as the French say! However, their decor is my favorite (I am an interior designer… what did you expect?!). They have eight dining rooms, each with their own theme but sharing the same grandiosity (lavish, borderline kitschy decor with crushed velvet seating). It is something you must experience for yourself if you are in New Orleans!

Drink at The Sazerac Bar. It’s in the Roosevelt Hotel and is one of the oldest bars in New Orleans. It was established in 1853 but moved to the Roosevelt in 1949. It serves New Orleans’ signature drink, the Sazerac (which is also America’s first cocktail). Chandeliers and wall-length murals by 1930’s artist Paul Ninas fill the bar. One Sazerac in this elegant bar will have you feeling like you are New Orleans 1920’s high society!” — Maureen Stevens

A beige mid-century womb chair and matching ottoman for sale with other mid-century pieces at Merchant House in New Orleans.
Merchant House. Courtesy of Merchant House.

Where to Go for Vintage Goodies

Merchant House is my new favorite place to find anything from antiques, vintage mid-century and postmodern furniture, to accessories and oddities. Neal Auction House is also a great resource for one-of-a-kind pieces. Anything from artwork and antiques to sculpture and jewelry.  It’s always worth your time to take a peek.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

“With a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, you are bound to find something you love at DOP Antiques.The owner imports antiques and architecturals from Europe to New Orleans every month. I never leave there empty handed!” — Maureen Stevens

“I’d head straight to Magazine Street with its range of art galleries, vintage and consignment shops alongside high-end antique shops. Whatever your budget, you’ll be able to find the perfect mix of high and low treasures.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

A stone, ivy-covered bridge in Audubon Park in New Orleans.
Audubon Park. Courtesy of the Audubon Nature Institute.

Where to People Watch

“Spend an afternoon exploring Audubon Park to watch locals at play and on display under the century-old oak trees. The park, designed by James Charles Olmsted, is steeped in local history and famed for its natural beauty, running trails, and golf course.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

“There is always street music playing, local artists selling art, and so many restaurants with outdoor seating at Jackson Square. It faces the Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings, including one of my favorites, the St. Louis Cathedral.” — Maureen Stevens

“New Orleans is all about interesting people. Sitting on a balcony in the French Quarter or enjoying a café au lait at Café Du Monde is a great way to sit back, relax, and catch all the sights.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

Exterior of Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans featuring a starburst outdoor sculpture.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Where to Get Your Culture Fix

“The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The Museum has an unmatched collection of Southern art, lectures, film screenings, educational events, and concerts, all celebrating and appreciating the unique talent of our Southern artists.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

“Try the Ogden Museum for a vast array of Southern artists all under one architecturally significant roof.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

“You can get a crash course in the rich history of Carnival at the Backstreet Cultural Museum. They have an amazing assortment of memorabilia indigenous to Mardi Gras, jazz funerals, and other traditions only found in New Orleans!” — Maureen Stevens

Exterior of Longue Vue House & Gardens with lush gardens and large stone planters.
Longue Vue House & Gardens. Courtesy of Longue Vue House & Gardens.

Where to Get Inspired

Longue Vue House and Gardens has it all. Stunning architecture, a wonderful art collection, and lush, year-round gardens.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

“I love the New Orleans Architecture Tours. You can see the city’s incredible architecture and learn more about the history of New Orleans all through the lens of some of the oldest, most treasured buildings in the city.” — Maureen Stevens

Outdoor eating at Cafe du Monde under a green awning in New Orleans.
Cafe du Monde. Courtesy of Cafe du Monde.

Don’t Leave Home Without…

“Trying Café Du Monde‘s famous beignets and café au lait. Established in 1862, Cafe Du Monde is an iconic staple in New Orleans. Fun fact: When Kim Kardashian was pregnant, she would fly to New Orleans just to eat the beignets and then fly home. One bite of these delicious treats and you’ll see why.” — Maureen Stevens

“Having raw oysters shucked before your eyes from the stand-up oyster bar at the New Orleans classic, Pascal Manale’s. The oysters pair well with their legendary martinis.” — Chad Graci, Graci Interiors

“Touring the Garden District; riding the streetcar; taking a drive down St. Charles Avenue; visiting Audubon and City Park. And of course, don’t leave without eating at least one beignet.” — Penny Francis, Eclectic Home New Orleans

April 9, 2021

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.