N+O: I've Opened a Fabulous New Shop and Interior Design Studio with my Friend, Shawn O'Brien!

Read all about it here.

From the WISH section of the Times-Picayune.

By Susan Langenhennig

Julie Neill and Shawn O'Brien


Lighting designer Julie Neill, right, and interior designer Shawn O'Brien  teamed up to open N+O design studio on Magazine Street.

N+O - Neill and O’Brien

3822 Magazine St., 504.309.4462

"Lighting designer Julie Neill and interior designer Shawn O’Brien should have named their new endeavor yin and yang. That’s the feel of the place — natural dualities coalescing into a chic, inimitable whole. Neill is known for her custom chandeliers, sconces, coffee tables and consoles. O’Brien is known for her fresh interiors and for amassing a library-sized collection of gorgeous, to-the-trade-only fabrics. Their new combined studio is a double-parlor-sized space filled with metal and hand-blown glass lighting, furniture and art. Upstairs features an amazingly organized room bursting with an estimated 50,000 fabric swatches, available by appointment to retail customers as well as other designers. Since everything here springs from the minds of these crafty women, expect to see some whimsical and wonderful experiments. Their latest? Slender metal wall sconces embellished with jewelry made by local artist Madilynn Nelson. "

It all began when my good friend, the very talented interior designer Shawn O'Brien commissioned me to create a coffee table for one of her clients.

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The project was a total renovation of a New Orleans "shotgun" house in the Garden District. Shawn's client, an avid art collector had worked closely with her to create a sophisticated yet fun, modern interpretation of  this traditional New Orleans style home.

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They needed a coffee table that would be completely unique. It would need to express the personality of the owner and sit comfortably among the other art pieces in the room. It would need to be a focal point but be light and in keeping with the easy-going feel of the space.

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Lightness and whiteness are the backdrop for the art and furnishings and I needed to address this.

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Amazing art is everywhere, so the coffee table had to carry it's own weight, and be a welcome part of the greater whole. And as you can see, it needed to be sophisticated as well as fun.

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Working closely with Shawn, I developed a design for a rectangular table with a steel base and a top made of 3/4" glass. Within the base of the table is an oval frame which holds a glass shelf containing 4 blown glass nude acrobatic figures. At the bottom of each leg is a crystal ball which gives the impression that the table is floating above the ground.

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It is playful and beautiful and the client was thrilled!

Shawn and I had so much fun working together that we decided to create a new business together. We opened a small showroom in front of Julie Neill Designs production shop at 3822 Magazine Street. It is our studio where we offer full service interior design services as well as custom furniture and lighting design.

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We are developing some products which are clean, modern, sophisticated and a little bit unexpected. So stop by if you're in the neighborhood. Or call us at 504-309-4462 to make an appointment. We're working on a website and I'll let you know when it goes up.

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Katie Rafferty's "Street Vernacular" is now showing at Cole Pratt Gallery!



I am quite enthralled by the work of one of New Orleans' brightest art stars, Katie Rafferty, who is showing this month at Cole Pratt Gallery.

Katie is a unique individual whose personal vibrancy, sense of humor and sensitivity reflect intensely in her artwork. She is a good friend of mine and a wild woman who provides me with a great amount of inspiration and an overwhelming sense of fun.

She has an amazing breadth of knowledge of Art History and artists, a huge  library of art books, and an active and inquiring mind on all subjects. She is a great conversationalist and definitely lives "outside the box." All of these qualities inform her art and her life which reflects in her wonderful art.

Katie's work is a richly detailed  tapestry of color,collage , printmaking and brushwork which both portrays her inner and outer experience of living life in her beloved New Orleans.

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Inspired by details of the daily walk from her home in the Garden District to her studio just off Magazine Street, Katie decided to prepare for her show by doing a wordless essay of “the street”. 

In her Artist Statement, describes her daily journey as follows:

"Fortunately, the walk from home to the studio is A) short B) entertaining and C) provides enough inspiration for a lifetime of artwork. "

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An accomplished printmaker, Katie set a goal for herself to produce 100 monotypes based on photographs she took along this route. It is a fascinating body of work, which expresses in a very personal way the artist's love for and immersion  in the delights of  living in this city, which she sees as layered with the intense and exotic, the tropical  and historic, the refined and the wild. And like so many of us, she is enthralled by our amazing architecture, hence the title of her show: Street Vernacular.


She describes her process in her own words:

"In order to convey the sense of layers I make my printing plates out of encaustic materials.  The encaustic (wax) layered cardboard is then incised, embedded with texture and built up layer by layer with relief materials."


"Once the plate is made I paint it with oil paints using a variety of tools (often my fingers) to achieve different effects."


"After the monotype is pulled from the press I continue to add layers of pencil and pastel and often collage."

These prints are so finely detailed and sensual in the way the paint reacts with the layers of wax and relief as they pass through the press. The final addition of drawing and collage elements makes them even more personal.


As she progressed through the process of making 100 prints, Katie's work became more whimsical, lyrical and free. Her sense of delight in both the use of materials and the way it relates to her subject matter is  abundantly evident.


Upon completion of her series of monotypes, Katie set about the adventure of  concocting her large works on canvas.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit Katie several times in her studio and watch as her work developed. I must say that this was one of the most magical of experiences. Each time I visited, there was more to excite my eyes as well as my soul.

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Katie works with intensity. She draws inspiration from various sources. At times she reminds me of a cyclone, and her studio often looks like one has passed through!

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I loved seeing her develop each painting as a narrative work. Each tells a story about Katie's emotions and experiences of "the street" within a context of the town-in this case New Orleans.

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As a person who is fascinated with artists and their creative  process, it was amazing to watch Katie express herself  and develop her "story" in paint and collage.

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Katie says that there is a visual "trip" through each painting. There is a flow for the eye to follow, movement is implied, and refers back to her original inspiration to depict and comment on her daily journey from home to studio.

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She carefully and lovingly creates many intriguing "stops" on this  personal journey. The visual trip through each painting is an artistic adventure.

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The artist's touch is both delicate and sure. She clearly enjoys her work!  I think this translates to the viewer.


The final painting is the completion of the journey on many levels: the artist's journey from start of the work to finish, the story of Katie's daily journey to her studio, the viewer's visual journey through the work itself, and finally the journey of the painting from studio to gallery.

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Katie's show at Cole Pratt Gallery is not to be missed. Shown together, this current collection of Katie's work gives an even greater feeling of the neighborhood she seeks to portray, yet each individual pieces shines on its own.

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On a recent visit to the gallery, Erika Olinger and her associate Margie said they were thrilled with the response to this wonderful show.  Although many pieces were sold at the opening reception, there are still a few available. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the neighborhood, you should treat yourself  to a visit with these two fun and knowledgeable girls and see the fabulous work of the very talented and accomplished Katie Rafferty!

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The gallery is located at 3800 Magazine Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 5. If you are in the neighborhood, stroll on down the block and visit my shop, Julie Neill  at 3908 Magazine.

Susan Sully: The Southern Cosmopolitan

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I recently had the good fortune to meet the very charming and erudite Susan Sully, at a book signing given by my friend Ann Koerner in her fabulous Magazine Street antique shop. It was an experience I'll not soon forget because Susan was so delightful and fun and we became instant friends.

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Susan, a Southerner who has a degree in art history from Yale has made an outstanding addition to her body of work with her latest  book, The Southern Cosmopolitan: Sophisticated Southern Style. Both written and photographed by the author, the book presents sixteen exquisite homes which embody the term.

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I was delighted to find out that Susan was familiar with my blog and even more touched by the inscription she placed in my copy of her book!


I have been a long time admirer of Ann Koerner's personal style, and was thrilled to see that her beautiful home was included in the book.


Viewed within the context of the book's title, Ann's house embraces what Susan terms " the wonderfully fluid relationship between the past and the present in the South."  Ann has an innate eye and the talent of  mixing  farflung objects and furnishings in a unique and sophisticated way.


In her dining room, she mixes a simple English table set with gilded Fornasetti plates, a painted Diego Giacometti chandelier and colorful Venetian glass pieces. In addition, she creates a simple heartfelt composition on her mantelpiece with a gilded 1820 mirror, a serious self portrait and a handmade vase by her late friend, the wonderful Gail Keenan.

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Ann's talent for composition and combining is further evidenced in the picture above where she hangs a George Dureau painting over a rustic Swedish cabinet containing an African figure. a small plaster bust and two lamps which work as a pair.


So just how does Ms. Sully characterize the Southern Cosmopolitan? Simply put, as a style that "contains the past, present and future all at once."

To illustrate, she divides the book into three sections;

The first, entitled "Presence of the Past" looks at decoration in the present South as a natural outgrowth of the region's rich decorative past. Today's Southern Cosmopolitan interior whether traditionally decorated or contemporary, always gives a nod to the past in some way.

Collecting antiques or cherishing family heirlooms, creating new pieces  which call out to bygone times, and arranging pieces in traditional ways are all avenues through which this is achieved.pop 1

Southern Cosmopolitans treasure the past with inherited antique pieces such as the huntboard in this New Orleans dining room which stands in front of hand blocked wallpaper, circa 1790. The scenic paper contains scenes from Pompeii and Herculaneum and includes collaged elements such as the smoke which rises from incense burners.


An example of using new pieces which recall the past is Thomas Jayne's French Quarter dining room in which he chose to design new scenic wallpaper,which he had  handpainted in China that depicts scenes of the Mississippi from a childhood book Thomas received from his grandparents. A fresh take on traditional decorating ideas is very much part of the Southern Cosmopolitan style.


Reverence for the past is shown in the antique French urn decorated with scenes from classical mythology in an Atlanta terrace.


In New Orleans, Quinn Peeper has commissioned his armorial porcelain  service and silver with his crest, which is set against the backdrop of a dining room designed to entertain in the home he shares with Michael Harold-another contemporary take on deep traditions.


Throughout the book, I was drawn to Susan's beautiful detail photographs, such as this one of Quinn's porcelain with his crest which illustrates a definite "presence of the past."


Or this one showing a tablescape combining an English midlands pottery figure of Fortitude with old woven straw fans and a collection of bud vases.


More examples of Susan's fascinating photography demonstrating the presence of the past in today's Southern style include the entry of Hal Williamson and Dale LeBlanc's Natchez hurricane getaway house.

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A detail of an ornate rococo bed with custom- loomed gold French bed-hangings in the Dunbar's New Orleans house,


One of a pair of Louis XV paintings of Chinese figures hung on custom handpainted wallpaper by Gracey and Company,also in the Dunbar home.

The second section of the book, entitled Allure of the Exotic is based on Susan's definition of the word "cosmopolitan" itself, meaning "people of the cosmos."  Sophisticated Southerners show are drawn to objects and ideas from afar, and in many cases are quite passionate about collecting things  from all over the world and displaying them in unique and interesting ways.


A tabletop collection in Quinn Peeper's bedroom shows a costume hat from the Ballets Russe, turquoise worry beads from Greece and classical busts.United by color and rich pattern, they lend a definite air of the exotic.


On a commode in Amelia Handegan's dining room is  a piece of coral interlaced within some Thai bowls which was excavated from a  British shipwreck in the nineteenth century. Against the backdrop of  deep pink walls on which hangs an Italian folk painting, the allure of the exotic is richly illustrated.


Tom Leddy's Savannah garden room/library makes the point of the allure of the exotic in an over-the-top array of such elements as hand hewn beams with sky blue plaster, a Venetian chandelier, a shell-encrusted classical bust and large shells decorated with silver on pedestals which were used in Indian prayer rituals.


Again Susan delights the reader with a detailed close up. It doesn't get more exotic than this!

In the last section, Love of the New, Susan depicts the New South and its decorative style as deeply informed by the traditions from which it sprung.

She states that contemporary designers such as Hal Williamson , Nancy Braithwaite, and Ken Tate create contemporary spaces which both grow out of and respect the past.


Hal Williamson's deft combination of a lucite table and contemporary painting with antique French furnishings and silk ballgown drapery shows the ease with which the Southern Cosmopolitan travels back and forth in time.


The silk screen portrait of New Orleans jazz legend Mahalia Jackson creates a sense of place and provides a modern dramatic foil for the Swedish dining table set with a gilt edged pot-de-creme set.


In this entry designed by Nancy Braithwaite, traditional elements such as an overscaled classical urn on a pedestal and a skirted table balance the more contemporary artwork by Willem de Kooning and Gaston Lachaise creating a space that is both timely and timeless.


This Gulf Coast stair hall, created by Ken Tate is, in Susan's words, "a modern interpretation of the Old World tradition of grand spiral staircases." Minimalist architecture  is a great foil for the opulent furnishings.


I love this detail photograph of a composition of three contemporary Italian chairs, each containing a small painting, under a pair of Giacometti inspired sconces.



In my opinion, Susan's dedication sets the tone for the entire book much as the early Southern Cosmopolitans set the tone of a lifestyle credo which continues today:

"To the first Southern Cosmopolitans who, despite all the challenges of seventeenth and eighteenth century living, created a tradition of extraordinary style."

Each and every photograph in this beautiful book attests to the fact that this tradition continues in full force today.


Gorgeous compositions of treasured objects.



Opulent furnishings, newly created with inspiration from the past.



Antique furnishings, family heirlooms, new treatments informed by the past. Focus on global decoration with emphasis  on the exotic.


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Bold, rich colors and ornamental details. Creating backgrounds which display treasured collections.

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Comfortable elegance, gracious nods to antiquity placed in new homes.


Pairing fine and family antiques with exotic and newly created pieces.


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Carefully chosen decorations artfully arranged.


Unique personal collections, calling to antiquity, creating a feeling of a flow between the past and present.


Contemporary spaces with traditional proportions. Antique furnishings within newly constructed homes.

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Juxtaposition of the elaborate and the plain, the refined and the natural, displayed in individual ways.


Love of details and treasures from afar.


New homes, classical in form and composition, furnished with beautiful antique pieces.

There are so many wonderful things to look at in this book that it was quite difficult to edit and narrow down which to include in this post.


Last week,I had the opportunity to attend another book signing by this talented author. My friend Amanda Talley and I joined a lively group at Nadine Blake on Royal Street  where we shared a wonderful evening with Susan, her husband, Tom, who is an accomplished painter, Eric Mueller,the graphic designer for the book, , Nadine and Simon Blake and many others who were lucky to have Susan inscribe their books!

The Southern Cosmopolitan is as informative as it is beautiful. A reflection of the delightful author who created it, this book is not to be missed. It will be a cherished addition to  any library, and I'm very glad it has found a place in mine.

I am the owner of Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans where we create beautiful custom lighting. This blog is my love letter to the unique people, places and happenings which make New Orleans the amazing place it is.

Please visit my website to learn more about my lighting and our fabulous shop on Magazine Street.


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