This New Orleans Orphanage-Turned-Hotel Is Full of History and Charm

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The trio responsible for some of Austin's biggest hotspots have brought their talents to New Orleans, transforming a landmark building in the Lower Garden District into the city's newest boutique hotel, Hotel Saint Vincent. Larry McGuire, Tom Moorman, and Liz Lambert saw an opportunity in the storied, but neglected brick building, which began its life as the St. Vincent Infant Asylum in the 1860s.

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McGuire and Lambert gave the interiors an opulent, often moody makeover, channeling '70s style with Murano glass chandeliers, vintage art, and a hot pink velvet and marble bar. Outside, the dreamy pool area and courtyard are dotted with palm trees and fountains, making them feel like an oasis from the city. The 75 guest rooms are outfitted with design details such as vintage lighting, custom beds, and Voutsa marbled wallpaper in the red-and-pink tiled bathrooms.

The hotel was designed to be a destination for travelers and locals alike. One of the restaurants, San Lorenzo, features Italian-inspired fare and a grand atmosphere with Corinthian columns and red chandeliers, while The Paradise Lounge offers a more casual experience in a space decked out with murals by local artist Anne Marie Auricchio. Only hotel guests will have access to The Chapel Club, the sumptuous bar and lounge space marked by a neon-lit entrance.

We spoke to designers Larry McGuire and Liz Lambert about branching out to New Orleans, renovating the historic property, and their favorite design resources in the Crescent City.

Hunker: What made you decide to expand to New Orleans and open Hotel Saint Vincent? How did you choose the space?

Liz Lambert: It means so much to open a hotel in New Orleans — what a city to be part of. New Orleans is real, there is grit and humor, kindness, and southern charm. I couldn't imagine a better place to be a host — to bring people together in respite from the everyday, locals and visitors alike. I am most excited for the hotel to become part of the fabric of the city ...

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The building's origin is what struck me most. It was originally an orphanage that was built from 1861-1865, by an Irish immigrant and philanthropist, Margaret Haughery. It operated as an orphanage until late in the 20th century and then became a budget hostel, "St. Vincent's Guest House." When I first came across the building in 2014, it was really in despair. Structurally it was pretty intact, but it had drop ceilings and layers and layers of carpet, duct tape, grime, and vinyl.

Hunker: What were the inspirations for the design?

LL: Although the orphanage was built during the Civil War in New Orleans, it had remained fairly untouched structurally since it was built, so we approached the building in the spirit of restoration, with the additional intent of layering a new story on top of the historic structure. We needed a full re-imagination of the place. We wanted to create something grand and a little debaucherous.

When you dig into New Orleans, you realize how much there is to draw from — Spanish, Italian, and French, to name a few cultural influences on design. So, we began with classical Western European details and then put on a full overlay of Italian Modernism.

Hunker: This is obviously an incredible building — how did you honor its history in the renovation?

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LL: The original name was St. Vincent's Infant Asylum (which is still inscribed at the top of the building). We always intended to honor the history of the building by keeping the name so it made sense to land on Hotel Saint Vincent.

Hunker: How did you come up with the color scheme?

LL: I love Italian modern style which inspired the palette of grays, corals, reds, and gold. The walls in the guest rooms were painted a shade of gray which we achieved by mixing Farrow & Ball Elephant's Breath with its deeper Mole's Breath. The Lambert McGuire Design team has taken to calling it "Gator's Breath."

Hunker: What are some of the standout design elements that were incorporated into the guest rooms and public spaces?

LL: The chandeliers are Murano blown glass disc chandeliers — a style that became popular in the '70s. We produced them in a custom color and size specifically for the hotel.

We worked with one of our friends, George Venson of Voutsa, to create a psychedelic marbled wallpaper, inspired by the marbled bindings of financial ledgers. We loved it so much we ended up using it in other places, including robes, headboards, and lamp shades.

Hunker: Where did you source the furnishings?

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LM: A lot of the furniture, art, and details are vintage, including chairs in the lobby and throughout the corridors, and many of the coffee tables in the rooms. Lambert McGuire Design also custom designed many of the pieces throughout the property. Liz and I have been living in New Orleans the last few months so we finished out the styling by shopping around the city. We love Sud, Lucullus, and Merchant House just to name a few.

Hunker: How did you create the different environments for the public spaces such as the Paradise Lounge, Chapel Club, and San Lorenzo?

LM: San Lorenzo (named for the patron saint of cooks) is the signature restaurant on property with a coastal Italian menu and an emphasis on Gulf seafood. In the main dining room of San Lorenzo, we added a thick high wainscot with rope and medallion detailing and then put a layer of excitement on top of the classic architecture with painted floors, custom mohair couches, and an open kitchen.

LM: In the Chapel Club, we amped it up with a hot pink velvet bar front, ebonized floors, and insane black-and-white marble countertops, while balancing the newness with gallery-style installations of classic nudes that Liz collected over the last [few] years.

Hunker: How did you incorporate local talents into the hotel experience?

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LL: The hand painted murals in Paradise Lounge by local artist Ann Marie Auricchio are of Birds of Paradise, which are abundant in New Orleans. The tiling is inspired by some original floors in the back kitchen, which we discovered during the restoration process.

Hunker: What is most exciting to you about New Orleans as a destination? What do you hope guests will experience and discover while staying at the Hotel Saint Vincent?

LM: We hope guests discover a side to New Orleans that they haven't experienced before. The Lower Garden District has a more neighborhood feel than places like the French Quarter. And if you never want to leave the property, you could be very well taken care of, very well-fed, and just have a vacation.

​​​Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Elizabeth Stamp is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and CNN Style.