Olesya’s New Orleans Studio in a Converted Rice Mill

published Mar 18, 2016
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Name: Olesya Ianovitch
Location: Bywater; New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 785 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year; Rented

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You Are Beautiful. These are the words boldly painted in white on the side of a century-old industrial converted rice mill in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. The upbeat message, rumored to be the work of Banksy, mirrors Olesya Ivanovich’s approach to life. The Russian-born artist, who began painting at age three, bubbles with an infectious sense of optimism and excitement. She describes her whimsical pop art imagery like this: “Close your eyes… Imagine falling in love and indulging on the never-ending kiss, and a life full of true moments of happiness. My paintings speak a romantic language of love…” She views her art, which is heavily influenced by her world travels, as a way to add beauty and cheer to the everyday.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)
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Olesya’s one-bedroom live/work studio is located in a century-old industrial rice mill in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. (Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Olesya’s wanderlust began when she was a child. Her family’s extensive travels prepared her to leave home at 14 to attend a Waldorf school in New York. “I was like this gypsy child. I don’t have that fear to go somewhere, and that’s what brought me here.” The arts-rich Waldorf curriculum nurtured her creative instincts. She went on to Stony Brook University, where she played Division I tennis and studied fine arts with a focus on graphic design and painting.

Olesya jumped right into a career in graphic design and art direction after school. She created advertising images for HBO, retouched covers for Hearst magazines, designed footwear ad campaigns for Under Armour, and styled stores and look books for Abercrombie & Fitch. She became fascinated by the intersection of art and commerce.

Love brought Olesya to New Orleans. When she moved to the Crescent City two years ago with a boyfriend, she shifted her focus to painting. Although the relationship didn’t last, her life-long dream of working as an artist came to fruition and her feelings for the city grew. “I fell in love with New Orleans. This city is incredible. It’s so receptive of arts. It’s a nice base for a creative to have. Plus, it’s super fun!”

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Olesya’s one-bedroom studio is located in a century-old industrial rice mill in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. She doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration. Two large windows offer views of her booming neighborhood to the left and the Mississippi River to the right. The building has soaring structural columns, masonry brick walls, exposed wood beams, and graffiti preserved from the riverside building’s derelict days. Bold textiles add color to her wide-open personal space, which gleams with polished concrete floors and white walls, appliances, and cabinets. Soft rugs and throws add comfort and tactile warmth.

Luscious red lips, bursting with flowers and butterflies, are everywhere you look. The repeating motif is a central part of “Candyland,” Olesya’s most recent body of work. The idea for the collection—a brand collaboration with Sugarpova, the candy line of Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova—came to her when a friend described her artwork as “edible.” She explains: “When he saw my paintings, he said. ‘I want to eat them. They’re like candy.'” Olesya’s experience working as an art director for ad campaigns gave her the idea to pitch a brand collaboration to Sharapova, someone she has long admired. Seeing her varied interests and skills—as a former art director and brand developer, painter, and serious tennis player—converge in one project leaves no doubt that Olesya’s life in New Orleans is unfolding exactly as it should. “I think people bring you to places for reasons,” she says, “This is a dream come true.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, world traveler, bohemian, at times minimalist.

Inspiration: Homes in Spain (especially Ibiza) with warm accents, lounge laid-back home decor and flower gardens

Favorite Elements: 1.) Russian Tea set; it is hand-painted and custom-ordered from Russia. It took 3 months to complete the painting. It’s truly beautiful. 2.) Over 20-foot-tall ceilings! 3.) View of the downtown New Orleans through larger-than-life windows.

Biggest Challenge: It is so cozy and colorful that I never want to leave.

What Friends Say: “Wow, so much color; makes me so happy to be here; such good energy.”

Biggest Embarrassment: Laundry room

Proudest DIY: As a professional artist, I am proud to have my artwork all over my apartment.

Biggest Indulgence: My ever-growing travel collection of all the artifacts I am able to bring back home from my extensive travels. All the Turkish towels, my caftan, French cups, Moroccan silverware. Colorful Savon De Marseilles collection, Russian dolls, tapestry, the list goes on…
These pieces carry a story of their own; the way I found them; the people I met when looking for them. They have become the history of my life, and hold inspiration, discovery, and new lessons learned.

Best Advice: I believe artwork is key to making a place feel like home. Cozy, inviting, colorful, and happy. Just try to hang a colorful painting on a wall, and take it down in a couple of days, it’s the saddest feeling for the whole place. So fill those empty walls with colorful art. Be daring, fun, and adventurous while doing it! At the end, trust me, you will keep smiling even on a rainy, gloomy day!

Dream Sources: Couch and bedroom from Restoration Hardware



  • Paint: custom by Rice Mill Lofts
  • Exposed brick: part of the old rice mill factory
  • Graffiti on walls and columns: part of the old rice mill factory



  • Sofa/daybed: World Market
  • Floral throws on sofa: a hippie market in Ibiza, Spain
  • Wooden bench: gift from a dear friend
  • Throw on bench: hand-embroidered tapestry by my Ukranian grandmother, part of proud family collection
  • Table: World Market
  • Bookshelf: Crate & Barrel
  • Mirrors: my neighborhood antique store in Bywater
  • Grey chairs: AllModern
  • Yellow porcelain stool: Joss & Main
  • Floor lamp: World Market
  • Large floor lantern: World Market
  • Sheepskin rug: Costco.com
  • Cowhide rug: Amazon.com
  • Two retro chairs: my neighborhood Antique store in Bywater
  • White knitted stool: AllModern
  • Slide-in side table: World Market
  • Candles: the best-smelling scents and super long-lasting candles from NEST Fragrances and NEOM Organics. The neon candles have real platinum flakes in them!
  • Paintings: Olesya Ianovitch


  • Cabinets: custom-made for Rice Mill Lofts
  • Appliances: Bosch
  • Russian tea set: custom-ordered from North of Russia—each piece is handmade, hand-painted, and signed by the artist.
  • Moroccan teapot: Lasuk market in Marakkesh
  • Gilded Champagne flutes: gift from family, purchased at the Bohemia Crystal factory in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Mini espresso cups: I collect them when I travel to France. Revol is the maker. Their once “factory defect,” a wrinkle in a cup, became their fame. I am obsessed with their colors. I am the only person in the world who owns a chrome and gold version!
  • Russian nesting doll sets: they are my little Matrioshkas, all custom-painted while I was in Russia.


  • Bed: AllModern
  • Chanel Bottles painting: Olesya Ianovitch


  • Towels: Turkish towels I found during my travels in Bodrum and Gocek
  • Bench: antique store in my neighborhood
  • Painting: Olesya Ianovitch

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Thanks, Olesya!