about the saint hotel new orleans
Our 110-year-old building rises eight stories into the air, still crowned by its original beaux arts stone scrollwork. Inside the soaring lobby, the look is anything but period. Clear “Ghost” chairs go toe-to-toe with baroque banquets and mod chandeliers. A niche above the front doors houses a mirror-mosaic mannequin, hands on hips, that owner Mark Wyant bought as-is at Dallas Market Center. (In rustic contrast, a pair of carved-wood angels above the reception desk was a flea-market find in Forney, Texas.) The voluminous entry hall feels ethereal with sheer white drapes dangling 22 feet from ceiling to floor.
Everything fell into place for The Saint Hotel to take form in 2010 when bad weather forced Mark to cut a family vacation short and land his private plane in New Orleans for a layover.
Mark went for a walk with his wife, Lorenda, and stumbled onto the historic Audubon Building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy. It happened to be for sale. Built in 1909, the property had mostly served as an office building. Investors once tried to convert it into a Hilton, but Hurricane Katrina put a stop to that in 2005 and it had sat abandoned since. Poking around out front, Mark saw plywood covering the doorways and broken glass everywhere, but the proverbial bones were intact.
The Wyant’s spent a year and a staggering $40 million-plus on renovations. Mark hired architects for the heavy lifting — former offices were reconfigured into guest rooms; bathrooms had to be built into each one — but tackled all of the finish-out and interior design himself. (And talk about a family affair: Mark’s wife painted most of the pressed-tin tiles underneath the building’s reconstructed iron awning.) The hotel’s 171 rooms are now furnished with sleek, white-lacquered furniture and jumbo-graphic-print carpets. The ceilings are adorned in indigo paint because, as a pilot, Mark says you should “keep the blue side up and the brown side down.” Many of the rooms also have original exposed-brick walls. Every bathroom is stocked with lotions, potions and spa robes by Dallas scent prince Niven Morgan. (Morgan was a natural choice since he’s also a Louisiana native.)
The hallways of the hotel’s eighth floor have been adorned with historic photos of Dallas and John F. Kennedy from 1963.The reason? Mark discovered while researching the building with the Library of Congress that Lee Harvey Oswald was once interviewed on the eighth floor by an anti-communist group that officed there. In fact, the property is even named in the legendary Warren Report.
The Saint’s signature restaurant Tempt, near the main entrance, offers a modern take on southern classics. (If you’re with a group, try to snag the marble banquette table in the front window for the best people-watching.) Across the lobby is a cozy space dressed in scarlet Venetian chandeliers, dubbed the Burgundy Bar (pronounce it like a local: bur-GUN-dee), which serves up cocktails inspired by the “Seven Deadly Sins.”
“The whole idea is the saint and sinner. Good and evil. Naughty and nice,” says Mark. “We’re trying to present a playful atmosphere that relates back to the city. The food is excellent and rich, maybe a little more than you should eat. And, of course, everyone knows about Bourbon Street.”
Mark even tried to infuse that NOLA atmosphere into the music. He created a hotel playlist that, from 6AM to 3PM each day, is composed of vintage jazz tunes by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, who grew up two blocks away. Later at night, expect to hear more eclectic tracks. According to Mark, a hotel is theater. “Like a Broadway play, all of the pieces have to be in place: music, sound, smell, sight. This is about having an experience.”
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