I grew up in the slow heat of south Florida. I grew up with fans whirling slowly over my head on an old front porch with a tall iced tea glass held against my neck to cool down. I grew up walking down by the river at nighttime listening to all the crickets talk in the heat.
I grew up with the slow blues of the pirate radio. I grew up with Muddy Waters’ guitar twang in my ear, taping my foot on the wooden piers below the bridge. I grew up among these gnarled Banyan trees…they curve and wind through my being. They are a part of me, of who I am, through the twists and curves of my life. They stand by the side of my path as the Guardians.
The year I turned 14, I found an old picture book of New Orleans on the side of the road by the corner store. I carried it home and poured over the pictures of old wrought iron balconies, hand painted signs, horse drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, old blues musicians playing in backrooms. Oh, New Orleans…..this was the “homeland” the place Papa Celestin sang about, the place Louie Armstrong loved. The place I longed to adventure to.
And the blues called me. Like the blues is apt to do. And my feet found their way there one day years ago. My feet found my way to old Preservation Hall where the old bluesmen congregate and make a sermon with their music. My feet found their way to one of the haunted old rented rooms in the French Quarter at Palace de Armes. The rich colors, the scrolling iron work, the vintage character…I took that feeling home with me and re-created it in my Brooklyn apartment. And I used 5 Big Easy steps to summon up that New Orleans mojo.
Step 1: Establish the Mood with Paint. A coat of paint will work wonders on your room and is the thriftiest way to change a mood of a room entirely. I love my deep crimson red room with gold stars hand-painted on it. Sensual colors plus the whimsy of hand-painted symbols/stars/designs gives it that voodoo vibe.
Step 2: Seduce them with Scents. My Grandma Helen used to put a few drops of rose oil on her sheets and then she would iron the scent in. I love spritzing my perfume on the sheets and pillowcases after I take them out of the dryer. I adore exotic scents to amp the seduction factor. Some provocative scents that remind me of those balmy nights on the bayou are Karma by Lush and Gucci Rush.
Step 3: Mood Lighting. New Orleans is allabout low lighting. Old Christmas light bulbs dangling on a back wall behind the jazz band, vintage lamps with scrolling iron work reflecting shadows on the wall, the old gaslamps of the French Quarter burning up the night with romance.
My beloved vintage lamps low light my bedroom perfectly. I replaced the original white bulbs with red and deep pink bulbs to set that sassy dark New Orleans mood in my bedroom. I found pretty vintage lamp shades that are rich reds, purples and old fashioned creams to set the mix-matched tone.
Step 4: Candle Magic. Ah…the candles burning against Marie LaVeau’s tomb at night, the altars set up with prayer candles for success, abundance, love and luck in old brick pathways down the winding roads of New Orleans. Here’s a photo I took backstage of the voodoo candles at the House of Blues when we performed there.
Nothing changes the feel of a room, like a dozen burning candles lined up. I adore candles, but living in a turn of the century Brooklyn apartment, sometimes I’m leery of having too many going at once. I recently discovered some amazing flameless candles that have timers on them and are made out of real wax. I picked a bunch of them up at Target, and then I took a hair dryer to the tops of them. This made the wax melt over a little bit and made them look even more real. I have them set on a timer for 6 hours and then they are off for 18 hours. So automatically, once nighttime hits, I have dozens of flickering candles in my dark bedroom – instant New Orleans mood!
Step 5: The Enchantment of the Blues. We’ve covered sight, scent and now let’s delve into sound. Once I’ve got the candles going, the dim red lights of my vintage chandeliers on, my exotic perfume ironed into the sheets and the lusty colors of my red walls, now is the time I want to the sound, the very soul of New Orleans permeating my room.
If you’ve ever been to my place, you know I’ve got my favorite music on sizzling up the halls. To experience this, just go to Pandora and type in “Bessie Smith”, “Muddy Waters”, “Ma Rainey”, “Louis Armstrong” – and their voices from the Great Beyond will fill your soul with the blues and take you back to the magic of gaslights in the French Quarter and the swampy bayou nights.
Here’s a favorite of mine – Bessie Smith – singing the St. Louis Blues. She’ll make you cry.
Tell me your secrets of creating mood in your space. I want all the juicy details….