Dabito Took A Plain New Orleans Home And Turned It Into This
Inside his charming New Orleans home.
Published Aug 29, 2023 1:59 AM
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In Dabito’s new book, Old Brand New, the interior designer and content creator explores nine different spaces—from his Los Angeles abode to his aunt’s Denver builder-grade home—and points out the old (original details that need to change), the brand (how a space speaks to the owner’s personality), and the new (aka how to Dabify). In the last chapter, he puts the spotlight on his own New Orleans cottage, which he bought as a “bright, white empty box” before adding his colorful touch. In this excerpt, he explains how he pulled it off.
My husband, Ryan, and I spent a few years living together in Los Angeles, and when we got engaged, we decided to buy a cottage together in New Orleans. You can take the boy out of New Orleans, but you can’t take New Orleans out of the boy. The vibrant energy of NOLA is intoxicating. There is something special in this laid-back, free-spirited, bohemian city that pulls people (like us!) back to it. The two-bedroom cottage in the Seventh Ward is a brand-new build. On one hand, I’m glad it didn’t need any renovations. But on the other hand, it had zero character.
Sometimes the brand new needs a touch of “old” to give it some soul. When we bought the home, it had all-white subway tile, flat white walls, and nondescript white cabinets. Luckily the outside had blush-colored siding, navy shutters, and a sage green door for that touch of quintessential New Orleans charm. All we needed to do was bring that charm inside.
Since my husband and I bought this home together, we wanted it to truly embody both of our styles. But blending another person’s style with yours can take a bit of time to master. First, not only did we start a joint savings account, we created a joint Pinterest board where we shared interiors that we go for. And then we talked about the common styles we like and absolutely dislike. As his pins show, Ryan loves antiques and things that have a lot of character and patina.
While I’m a vintage vulture, my style tends to be more modern with cleaner lines. Luckily I love a lot of styles, and it’s great to mix in his more intricate details with my sculptural pieces. When we decide on picking furniture, maybe I’ll let him buy the furniture pieces while I select the color so it truly feels collaborative. It’s the balance. He’s the yin to my yang. That really adds an even more playful and interesting layer to the whole space.
The new vibe is to invite character and charm into this boring space. Our must-haves were adding focal points, wall treatments, color, light fixtures, and, above all else, a cute backyard to entertain our New Orleans friends during Mardi Gras and all the fabulous festivals. Plus Ryan loves going outside to soak in the humidity—it keeps the skin looking fresh and dewy!
As with most new builds, the living room was a bright, empty white box with infinite potential. It was fall when we got this house, so autumn colors were on our minds. We first chose a rich rust-colored sofa and paired it with a lighter candy-yam accent wall (Behr’s Shiny Kettle). To balance the warm colors, we went with blue accent pillows, vases, an ottoman, and an antique Chinese rug with a blue border. After a trip to Paris, my boo and I added dentil crown molding and wall trims inspired by the Paris hotel we stayed in. We hired a contractor to help us install the molding we’d found at a local hardware store in all the rooms of the home. Voilà!
It instantly gave the space more depth, character, and elegance. This new build now feels like it’s been in New Orleans for 100 years.
The sunny eating nook was inspired by our favorite turmeric gin and tonic cocktail. The small cottage doesn’t have a designated dining space, so we had the idea to squeeze a cozy area to eat in between the kitchen and living room. A small banquette against the wall gives us enough room to sit. We chose a round pedestal table because round tables are ideal for small spaces: They don’t have space-hogging legs, and they’re easier to navigate around. A small yellow-striped banquette was chosen to add pattern to the space since it sat directly across from the solid rust-colored sectional.
I love designing guest bedrooms because you can flex your designs a bit to create a bolder space that you might be hesitant to do for a primary bedroom. After looking around the house and seeing mostly white, I wanted to give the bedroom a moody, floral, romantic feeling with vintage accents like chinoiserie, Asian art, and other handcrafted pieces. Since I’d been using many bright, vibrant colors in other spaces, I wanted to create a darker room. I picked out a navy blue/teal (Behr’s Juniper Berries in a matte finish) for the walls, and painted the ceiling green (Behr’s Royal Orchard) for a subtle but unexpected accent. For styling touches, I added in vintage throw pillows from Gujarat, India. A good tip to remember is that you can paint baseboards, crown molding, and doors as well. People so often just stick with the walls when it comes to paint, but the trim, doors, and more are invisible lines we don’t need to stop at. Painting outside the box is an approach that ends up giving your entire room a bolder, more elevated, and dramatic vibe. Tip: Create a mirrored color story by matching your rug to the ceiling color, like this Art Deco Chinese green rug and the green ceiling.
Both of the bathrooms were the perfect blank canvases to add just a touch of drama. A really easy way to accentuate the height of a space is to hang your shower curtains close to the ceiling. The ceilings in our bathroom are 10 feet. It is quite difficult to find shower curtains longer than 72 inches, and typically they are only a single panel. You can treat this like it’s a window. I found regular curtains that are 108 inches long. And if windows can have two panels, I don’t see why showers can’t. Don’t forget to add a shower liner in combination with the curtain to repel water (which you can find easily with a quick online search). The rust accents in the towels and accessories play off the stripes on the curtain.
Old Brand New. Copyright © 2023 by Dabito. Photographs copyright © 2023 by Dabito. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.