Kate & Todd’s Colorful French Quarter Escape

published Feb 28, 2016
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(Image credit: Paul Zansler)

Name: Todd and Kate Novak
Location: French Quarter — New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 675 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Owned

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New Orleans is known as a city that loves color, and Kate and Todd Novak embraced that notion with a touch of “understated” bordello in their French Quarter getaway. Though they call Marin County, California, home, Kate and Todd’s love of New Orleans stems from their time at Tulane University. When Todd left his hometown of Greenville, MS for school, Kate followed. In recent years, the couple found that they were spending increasing amounts of time in New Orleans and eventually decided to purchase a second home there. They found a small one-bedroom condo on the parlor floor of an 1833 French Quarter townhouse that would allow them to extend their NOLA respites.

(Image credit: Paul Zansler)

While Todd and Kate’s children are at camp in the summer, Todd and Kate come to their sanctuary in New Orleans; a dream come true which they hope to pass on to their children since the couple has many ties to New Orleans. Kate especially loves the French Quarter in the summer, when there are no tourists. “It feels like another time when I am in this historic building like I could live in any time period. I love walking the streets of the French Quarter. I love our morning walks to Croissant d’Or and stoping to take photographs along the way.”

The interiors, vibrantly appointed by Kate, reflect the couple’s exuberant attitude. Set off by the deep chocolate gloss of the fireplace wall, a rich blue velvet Chesterfield from COCOCO—selected with the help local stylist Sam Mercer—anchors the living room. Kate had a Victorian chair reupholstered by Aguliar’s Upholstery in rich purple velvet and festive multi-colored stripes. The painting above the fireplace has been in Kate’s family for five generations. Likewise, many of the books and accessories are family heirlooms. Interspersed amongst the books are some of Kate’s own photographs. This charming room is crowned by two crystal chandeliers left by the previous occupants.

The master bedroom is sparsely but grandly furnished, in the only way that could properly befit such a condo. An imposing armoire is the first piece that greets guests, its large mirrored doors reflecting back the chandeliers in the front parlor. A tall headboard, also fabricated by Aguliar’s, is covered in New Orleans Toile by Hazelnut, while a pair of alabaster lamps with heavily fringed bell shades adds a dramatically feminine statement to the bedroom.

The small condo is a bit of a lab for Kate, a children’s educational therapist by profession, has also expanded into photography and interior design as creative outlets. On the first visit, the condo was still being touched up and prepped for a summer jazz cocktail party. When she heard the post was coming up, she said, “It’s totally changed! Come back!” Just as the couple is always active and evolving, so is their sanctuary. It will be fascinating to see the next evolution of their French Quarter gem.

(Image credit: Paul Zansler)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We like to mix our family heirlooms with comfortable, traditional furniture. We love rich, dramatic colors. Vintage items add a bohemian twist such as using Indian Kantha quilts as tablecloths.

Inspiration: The historic French Quarter and the existing elements in our 1833 building. Moody music is also an inspiration such as traditional jazz on WWOZ. Listening to Bessie Smith or Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns can make one feel as if we are able to time travel to earlier days.

Favorite Element: The bookshelves were built by a friend, Jordan Fitzpatrick. When people walk in they ask if they were original to the building. They were designed to suit.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was to listen to our hearts and design our space in our own taste. We had fun looking in consignment and junk shops for interesting items. There was input and criticism at times that made me doubt my ability to pull off the mood I was going for. I thank Todd for the encouragement of my unique design style and resourcefulness.

What Friends Say: Most love it! They feel it is cozy and comfortable and come over often to relax on the cobalt sofa with a cocktail or take a dip in the pool. We have some great parties on the patio with our cousin’s jazz band.

Biggest Embarrassment: My vintage Playboy magazines.

Proudest DIY: I love that Todd arranged the bookshelves. I love his organizational style and use of our vintage camera collection as bookends. I also love the chair in the living room. It was a gift and before I recovered it, visitors tried to get me to move it or get rid of it. I covered it with a purple velvet and velvet stripe on the back.

Biggest Indulgence: The John James Audubon prints in the living room. I found them at a vintage watch shop in the French Quarter on Chartres Street. They were tucked away and I had to make a promise to the older gentleman who sold them to me that I would come back to the store so he could teach me the tango. He gave me a great deal. I love John James Audubon, especially the Roseate spoonbill that can sometimes be seen in Audubon Park. Audubon’s Bird’s of America was completed in New Orleans, so we had to have some vintage prints in the apartment.

Best Advice: The best advice I got, besides my husband, was from William Shoop, a wonderful designer and close friend. William had wonderful visions for a more elegant apartment but as a close friend would, he saw my interest in making creative decisions. Encouraging my own style, William gave me many ideas and artfully fine-tuned my own. He personally saw to my doors being painted a high-gloss black as smooth as nail polish. This was not an easy task with antique doors.

Dream Sources: The Curtain Exchange on Magazine St. The consignment purple taffeta curtains are one of my favorite things about the apartment. Todd agrees that they were a showstopper, reminding him of a dress I wore when he escorted me to a San Francisco Cotillion party when I was a deb back in 1989. We were told that that taffeta curtains that “puddle” were terribly out of fashion… luckily that person doesn’t have to live with us!


(Image credit: Paul Zansler)


  • Chesterfield sofa: COCOCO
  • Chair: reupholstered by Aguliar’s Upholstery
  • Drapes: The Curtain Exchange
  • Vintage Playboy issues: thrift store
  • Glasses: vintage Galatoire’s glasses
  • Bookshelves: built by Jordan Fitzpatrick
  • Books: Kate’s father
  • Audubon prints: local vintage watch shop
  • Fish Plates: Limoges pieces in Kate’s family for 6 generations
  • Painting of Woman: In Kate’s family for 5 generations
  • Photos in Frames: Kate Novak
(Image credit: Paul Zansler)


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The Novaks’ small condo feels much more sweeping and dramatic with the parlor’s dramatic ceiling height and more formal architectural detailing. (Image credit: Paul Zansler)

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Thanks, Kate & Todd!