International House is a hotel about New Orleans today, a city steeped, marinated, percolated and distilled for nearly 300 years and unlike any other in America. We celebrate seven local rituals each year that still find authentic modern expression, and the Summer Dress ritual offers a particularly visual taste of this PLACE.
Here, culture runs deep. For generations New Orleanians have practiced the domestic tradition of transforming their private homes in response to the high heat and humidity found in this semi-tropical, Caribbean climate. As winter gives way to summer, wool rugs and formal upholstery give way to sisal and sea grass, as well as cotton slipcovers, allowing furnishings to breath and perspiration to steer clear of grandma’s ruined finery.
Likewise, the hotel lobby is completely transformed with white slipcovers, white sheers, banana, palm and native ginger leaves and staff dressed in handsome seersucker. With great visual voice, the decor brings together the European romance, African influences and Caribbean ways that weave their way throughout this legendary port town.
Adds hotel owner Sean Cummings, “With food, music, architecture, culture, climate and cocktails Havana, like Haiti, is island kin. Well-worn by the sea, time and circumstance. Cuba, ‘The Pearl of the Antilles.’ New Orleans, ‘The Creole Queen. Beset by politics and Mother Nature but with passionate people who’ve never lost sight of their excellence or essential capacity to reinvent themselves in a new TIME.”
Like the islands, sultry summer cues the interior design thread here too, and Cummings collaborated with perhaps the nation’s best-kept secret in interior designer, Lisa Marie “LM” Pagano, to make it happen. “The look is light-hearted and fun, like summer should be,” says she, “a lighter, breezier visual with which to welcome our amazing guests.”
Crisp white slipcovers and fresh sisal rugs. With a knowing nod to Caribbean climate, the lobby lushly adorned with banana and palmetto leaves as well as fragrant lilies arranged in hand-cast glass sconces by Studio Inferno’s gifted Mitchell Gaudet. Of course, the ritual includes sartorial expression too. Like clockwork, at Easter folks all over New Orleans shed dark colors and heavy fabrics for blessedly light clothing. In local lock-step, International House staffers then enthusiastically don gauzy white, seersucker, the occasional guayabera and a stylish pair of classic Adidas
Loa, the hotel’s intimate bar, carries on the shared social club tradition, it being the nightly gathering place for an impressive “cabildo” of artists and entrepreneurs collectively fueling the rebirth of New Orleans and forging new ties to Havana and other exciting ports of call. The bar’s fine Rum offerings take on added import this season, really interesting small-batch Rhum agricole from Martinique having just arrived.
This summer, loa’s Spirit Handler Alan Walter, whose own classic 1965 Bonneville looks like it just drove into town from the sea-swept Malecón, has also created a list of definitive Cuban cocktails. Among the inventive drinks: a classic daiquiri dressed with local herbs -- not only an archetypal cocktail, but a supremely balanced drink with precise flavors that are anodyne in all hot, balmy climates. “If seersucker and white Guayabera shirts were drinks, they would taste like this one,” Walter says. By the way, his Cuban Sazerac, made with the firm bite of Haitian Rum, might well displace its more famous rye or cognac based sibling – for the hot months.
All tolled, the spiritual thread laced through summer 2018 is the deep kinship and vibrant cultural tapestry shared by Havana and New Orleans – cities with a strong sense of PLACE, kindred spirits and authentic soul, bound by shared experience. “Both cities’ joie de vivre is admired worldwide,” Cummings says. “Our shared love of family, music, water and leisure fuels a special sense of connectedness and belonging.” Bring on the rum, coffee, dominos, cigars, old cars and new freedoms!
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