There are certain people who walk into your life at some unexpected junction in time and they just never leave, for better or for worse. If you are fortunate enough to know what I'm talking about, then you are one among the few who recognize an amazing, magical moment in life and hold on to that connection.
Such was the case for me when I met Sean Cummings some #$*#%$$-teen years ago. Sean, a cutting-edge developer who has created some of New Orleans' hippest hotels and condos, came into my life on a very ordinary day while I was out celebrating my engagement with the girls at his newly opened boutique hotel in New Orleans, International House. Originally the first World Trade Center in the world, International House is a sophisticated sanctuary, a mecca of sorts for the forward-looking artisans, entrepreneurs and visitors who are reinventing the great city of New Orleans.
International House Hotel
221 Camp Street New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
To make a long story short, my engagement didn't last -- but my friendship with Sean did. And in all of the time since our first meeting, he has been a constant source of inspiration, encouragement, support, understanding, love and motivation.
And Sean never ceases to amaze me. Dedicating his life and vision to the regrowth and development (culturally, economically and artistically) of New Orleans, Sean has and continues to do good by it -- revitalizing forgotten areas of this city and attracting major players from other parts of the world to invest in the rebirth of the Crescent City. One such project was the Make it Right Foundation made famous by New Orleans' adopted couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I will never forget that other magical moment in my life when Sean introduced me to Brad Pitt in the flesh who seemed just like any other gorgeous demigod in the room wearing blue jeans and drinking a Heineken. But that's another story for another post.....
Now back to Sean ....
Sean's most recent accomplishment has been the renovation and opening of the Rice Mill Lofts in one of New Orleans' most creative and picturesque neighborhoods, the Bywater.
Dedicated to the artisans and entrepreneurs of this great City of ours, the Rice Mill is a building of breathtaking originality. One with captivating river views, inspired street art, sublime open space, architectural artifacts and hospitality services.
This radiant building marks the gateway to the Bywater, a new Bohemia and its new riverfront. And, it does so with a purpose described well by Ann Cutler, "One- hundred percent quality, real service, unique design and style – these are the product values that deliver human values which never change: love, pride, joy, the family and self esteem."
Patinaed brick walls, inspired street art, polished concrete floors, expansive windows revealing captivating views of the Mississippi River and skyline, soaring structural columns and exposed wood beams, are but a few of the organic elements that make the Rice Mill come alive with the soul of New Orleans. 41 wide-open SoHo style lofts,21 live-work artist studios, and 7 two-story river-view townhouses, the Rice Mill has quickly become home to a wide range of amazing talents and soulful, hip trendsetters.
Homes ranging from 750 - 2100 square feet with one – three bedrooms
That Christian Liaigre chair has my name all over it!
The rooftop of the Rice Mill Lofts
But the most amazing story to come out of the Rice Mill Lofts and most recently captured by the New York Times in its June 6, 2012 feature, "Where the Walls Do Talk," is the building's most coveted and highly protected artistic component -- graffiti left over from its derelict days. It took a person like Sean to see the beauty of this historical landmark. If you have not read the article, do yourself the favor and click here.
Taken by the amazing New Orleans photographer Sara Essex Bradley for the New York Times (who, incidentally, also took the photos of my home for my own feature in the NYTimes), these photos capture the beauty of Sean's vision.
Rice Mill Lofts, an 1892 structure in New Orleans that was once home to a rice processor, has been converted into housing with an unusual amenity: graffiti left over from its derelict days. (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)
An 8-foot resin Buddha presides over the lap pool behind the building, with a segment of a Mississippi River flood wall as a backdrop. (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)
Lauren Kolb decorated her three-bedroom apartment with pieces like a French trumeau mirror from her childhood home. It is propped against the wall because she isn’t allowed to hang it near the graffiti. (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)
On the brick wall in Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom’s apartment is a birdlike figure with the words “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” spray-painted next to it. They are not allowed to tamper with the graffiti. (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)
Sean's space is furnished with a Christian Liaigre Basse Terre sofa, a Senegalese drum table and two Simplice chairs by Maxalto. The rug is a throw by Marcel Wanders. (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)
Sean Cummings (photo: Sara Essex Bradley)