Friday, October 3, 2008

CUE Magazine October Issue

Maybe you remember the photo shoot I did while everyone was getting ready to evacuate for Hurricane Gustav HERE and HERE
Well it came out this month in the October issue of CUE Magazine, and it looks great! I would like to thank the editor Kara Nelson, and the photographer Theresa Cassagne for not only doing such a wonderful job, but also for delaying their own evacuation plans to do the photo shoot.
You can go HERE to get the link to see it as it was printed, or you can read it here as I have reprinted it with the photos from the magazine.

Visual Vamp Revamp
By Valorie Hart

When I moved into my “new” home in the Irish Channel, being a decorator, I thought I’d just whip out a paint roller and be done with it. That’s what happened with 95 percent of the walls. But, for some reason, there was one wall color that I thought I had to live with just because it was there.
  My husband Alberto Paz and I bought a proverbial fixer-upper with a unique distinction: It was once a home for wayward girls. Maybe that’s being a tad overdramatic. Our house, along with several others on our block, was owned by The Methodist Home, which had used it as a group home for eight young women.
  It had been empty for a couple of years, but it still had all the trappings of an institution: fire alarms, electric exit signs, overhead factory-style fluorescent lighting, garish paint colors with painted-on Bible sayings — and the pièce de résistance, a sign over the door frame that read “No Firearms Permitted On These Premises.”
  My husband and the real estate agent thought I had lost my mind. I found this house on the Internet. I saw the potential; it just needed a good cosmetic makeover. Best of all, this lovely old house was in our price range.
  The exterior was attractive, yet looked every bit its century age, give or take a decade. But walk in the door, and you found a jumble of well-intentioned but botched face-lifts. The bones were good, but the lady was showing her age.
  So we cleaned and scrubbed, took down one teensy wall and decorated. We renovated a bathroom, fixed up the kitchen and planted an old-fashioned garden.
  Alberto put his skills as an electrical engineer to good use getting rid of all those exit signs, alarms and fluorescent lights and replacing them with my collection of cute chandeliers.
  We love color and painted every room in the house except for the living room. It was the last room to be done, having been used for storage and a staging area as we worked on the rest of the house. The walls were a cheery shade of yellow, and the paint was clean and in pretty good shape. We were exhausted, so we left it, thinking we’d get back to it later.
  Four years later, the room was still yellow. I had built more than one decor scheme around that yellow. I did pink and yellow, orange and yellow, turquoise and yellow. Slipcovers went from white to a black-and-white toile print, which I then over-dyed in pink. Throw pillows and lamps came and went in revolving-door fashion. Curtain panels hit the dye bath, too. I kept eBay sellers happy as I tried to dress the room younger in Hollywood-Regency, last-century cute. I think I bought and resold every iconic mid-century chair out there. I kept moving furniture around and around. Ditto for the art on the walls. I did anything and everything to make this room work — everything but paint the dreaded walls.
  There was nothing really wrong with the yellow; it was actually very pretty in the morning light. But there was nothing really right about it either.
  I hemmed and hawed about choosing a new color for this living room. (We have two living rooms, something quite common for a double-shotgun house that’s been converted to a single family home.) We use the other, adjoining living room as a dance parlor. Yes, that’s right, a dance parlor. Alberto and I are Argentine tango teachers; we wrote a book about it called Gotta Tango. We met 15 years ago. I was a New Yorker and he an Argentine gentleman from California. I was taking tango lessons for fun in New York (where I had my business, Valorie Hart Designs), and he was teaching tango in San Francisco (part time, as he was also an engineer working in Silicon Valley). We met at a one-week tango workshop at Stanford University.
  It was something akin to what the French call coup de foudre: a clap of thunder, love at first sight. I left New York to be with my tango man. We put our careers on hold and became teachers together, produced 10 tango festivals and a multitude of events, traveled all over the world teaching workshops and published a magazine about Argentine tango. We moved to New Orleans in 2000, where we teach tango (and I continue to take on decorating projects). Our book, about the structure of tango dancing, was published this year by Human Kinetics.
  But I digress.
  I like color. I am not afraid of color. Paint and a little box of hair color are cheap and can be changed. Still I couldn’t make up my mind. I was seduced by all the beiges, grays and whites I see at the beautiful Villa Vici shop on Magazine Street. I had almost settled on a color called “studio beige,” but I wasn’t swinging a paint brush yet. I loved the colors at Juliet and Hazelnut, also on Magazine Street. And I could just move into and live in my favorite shop of them all, Perch. What color to choose?
  And then Interior Design 101 came out of the recesses of my pea brain (I am a Parsons school of Design graduate, for goodness sake), reminding me that adjoining rooms look larger when they share the same paint color. Duh. We had already painted the dance parlor a sexy shade of brown, what I call “Billy Baldwin brown,” and we just love it. Voila! I had my color.
  One night I decided to paint just a little swatch on the wall and to live with it for a couple of days, check it out in different light. But then I just kept going, and by four in the morning, the room was nearly finished. My husband was impressed but not surprised.
  From there the makeover was a breeze. We wanted to get a new couch, but every couch we looked at in a price range we could afford was ugly, ugly, ugly. So I decided to keep our vintage camelback with the Chippendale legs and have it reupholstered in faux white leather with nailhead trim. It’s the right scale. It’s comfy. And now it looks great. Leonel’s Upholstery in Kenner did it.
  Problem two was furniture placement. It’s a small room with either doors or windows on each of its four walls. I wanted to place the couch in front of the inconsequential window, the one that faces the side of the house, but it’s off-center and makes everything you put in front of it look unbalanced.
  What to do? In my best Lucy-Ricardo scheming way, I tried to figure out how to stretch the grocery money to buy an 8-foot-high, 9-foot-long Chinese Coromandel screen to put behind the couch. Then I remembered some old shutters we had taken off the house, and there was my foil for the unbalanced room. I cleaned them up, keeping them just tattered enough, and then convinced Alberto to hang them. He thought I was nuts, but he went along with it and, of course, bowed down to my design genius when we viewed the result, ooh-ing and ahh-ing.
  A mix of things I already had — a Philippe Starck Ghost chair, a vintage 9-foot-long Baker credenza, two sweet little tables, a rusty antique drinks cart, a distressed mirror dragged in from the garden, rescued lamps from a trash pile on St. Charles Avenue, a vintage Eames chair and a gold wheat sheaf table — all looked new again, and perfect.
Next to an Italian gold-leaf wheat sheaf base table circa 1970
is a vintage leather Eames chair and ottoman
that my mother bought about 40 years ago

I added a new, over-size lantern to replace a petite chandelier, and a fab black-and-white cotton Dhurrie rug from Pottery Barn. (I swear it looks just like a Madeline Weinrib rug.) I splurged on a pair of spectacular custom-made Ikat pillows from Perch on Magazine Street.
  The inside of the house is finally done (except for an ongoing bathroom renovation), and now I spend a good deal of time on my decor blog, Visual Vamp ( I started the blog as a way to combine my expertise in design and decor with the daily discipline of writing. I once thought blogging was for nerds and geeks, but I have come to discover that there are a lot of great blogs out there with posts by a slew of talented editors, designers and writers.

Planet Tango (875-0526;
hosts tango night every Wednesday at
LePhare (523 Gravier St.)
Beginners class 7 PM; Intermediate class 8 PM; Tango Dancing 9 p.m. to Midnight
For more information about the Visual Vamp blog (
or about Valorie Hart Designs, call 289-8970 or email

Valorie’s Tips

A few tips to help you stay within your budget and still give your old girl a good makeover.
  • Look to decor books, magazines and blogs to get an idea of what you want.
  • Use flat paint; it hides complexion flaws.
  • Don’t be afraid of color, especially deep, sexy color. (Color does not make a room smaller. If a room is small, it’s small.)
  • Use what you have. Rotate it, that is, put some stuff away to use another time, or in another room. Reupholster. Dye slipcovers. Everybody’s going green, and using your old stuff in new ways is as classically green as it gets.
  • Edit without fear! It’s like putting on all your accessories when you get dressed, looking in the mirror and then taking at least one or two off.
  • Paint a piece of furniture with the same color you used on the walls. (This is an old Dorothy Draper trick.)
  • If you can afford to buy the best, do it. If not, don’t freak out. There are so many good things at great prices out there. Talk to local shop owners. They are often willing to work with your budget. Shop on-line, too. You can find great deals, many with free shipping, and often with no state sales tax .
  • Splurge on a couple of luxury items.
  • Save money by making your own curtains. The windows in old houses are so big that no off-the-rack curtains ever fit. Use iron-on Stitch Witch to make rod pockets.
  • Make sure your area rug is not too small. An 8-by-10 usually works for most rooms. Skip the 5-by-7 size; it always looks dinky.
  • Use what you really love, and ditch anything and everything that you hate.
  • Think outside the box. Get Lucy with it, and you’ll come up with at least one truly unique-to-you piece.
I think everybody makes little altars in their homes,
whether they know it or not.

Dresser tops and mantles become a catch-all for favorite things,
and before you know it you have a little altar dedicated to your life.
Mine started out with just a few things
on the antique corner table from Mexico.

Since this is a century-old house, there are no closets.
So we turned an extra room next to our bedroom
into a walk-in closet and dressing room.
There's space for everything,
including our growing collection of Carnival wear.
Our dog Cholo is sitting on a Dolce and Gabanna leopard-pring chair from Perch.
The painting of Marilynn is by New Orleans Artisit Mario Ortiz.
You can see a better photo HERE

I created an accent wall in our bedroom by padding
and covering it with natural burlap
and trimming it with rope from the hardware store.

The headboard is made from two parts
of an 18th century directoire day bed.

The mid-20th century painting above the bed
is by the artist known as Carlo Of Hollywood.

Favorite things:
A platter made especially for me
by master potters Philip Maberry and Scott Walker

The book my husband and I just published comes with an instructional DVD.

Turquoise satin concealed platform peep toe sling backs, my dance shoes du jour
Large antique majolica pitcher
and my favorite perfume, Todd by Todd Oldham.


  1. Congrats ,,, I totally loved what you have done to the house .. the tones .. & everything is just cozy aaah !
    the bedroom is pretty n elegant ..
    yr tips .. liked them ;)

  2. Fab!!!!I am tagging you for a quirky game of tag. You can get the details on my blog.

  3. Congratulations! Love this post...LOVE the bedroom even more! The accent wall treatment is fab.

  4. GREAT spread! I love your house...and reason I do is because it says so much about you! That is simply the best kind of home to have. It makes it uniquely much more interesting than the house which might be decorated in a very pretty way, but is somewhat vacant.Bravo!

  5. Hey, hey, hey Miss Katie, are you saying my unique home is not pretty LOL? You just get over here, and see how pretty it is, ans how pretty it will make you feel :-)
    Seriously, thanks for reading and understanding my decor point of view.
    xo xo xo

  6. Thanks for sharing...I loved it. I also love your blog and read it daily. Your wit and artistic abilities are addicting. LOL

  7. How wonderful! Many congratulations, a magazine piece so very well deserved! Best, Cat

  8. Why should I not be the least bit surprised! If you have got it, then flaunt it. I love the list of tips.
    All wise indeed. Well deserved... applause... encore!

  9. Kudos to you, Valorie! Your house looks great and so do you!