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Don’t name Travelers New Orleans a bed-and-breakfast.
For one factor, there’s no breakfast (for now, anyway). For one other, the phrase “conjures images of lace curtains and doilies,” mentioned Ann Williams, who, along with her mate, Chuck Rutledge, and some different companions opened the nine-room, frippery-free inn within the Lower Garden District in April.
Ms. Williams mentioned she most well-liked to name Travelers New Orleans “an artist-run hospitality venture.” The lodging is overseen by resident artists, who dwell on the constructing’s third flooring. In change for his or her work (round 20 hours per week) on front-of-the-house jobs like turning beds and advising friends about native points of interest, they obtain a furnished room, utilities, studio area and an hourly charge that often provides as much as about $800 a month.
They additionally obtain time: to color, write, sculpt, bake or pursue no matter their calling is.
Inspired by the collectively owned and operated 3B, a bed-and-breakfast in Brooklyn, which closed in 2016 following a change within the constructing’s possession, Travelers New Orleans is the second institution Mr. Rutledge and his companions have created with artists operating the present. Their first, additionally known as Travelers, opened two years in the past in Clarksdale, Miss., the place Mr. Rutledge lives and works as a developer.
He noticed good cause for taking the idea to New Orleans. The metropolis has a thriving artistic sector that had grown by 59 % between 2005 and 2016, however its housing is a attain for artists on a restricted revenue.
According to a report released last summer by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average renter in New Orleans makes $16.25 per hour, which is far less than the $20.73 hourly rate required to afford the average two-bedroom home in that city.
For more than a decade, Mr. Rutledge and a partner had been sitting on an empty lot in the Lower Garden District. The spot was ideal for the project. It was just a few blocks from the Mississippi River, in a section of the city left relatively untouched by Katrina flooding thanks to its high ground, and close to attractions like the marshmallow-pink Grace King House.
Designed by OJT, a local architecture office led by Jonathan Tate, the new, three-story building follows certain conventions of the area. Its shape is based on the long, narrow Creole townhouse (though it lacks that style’s steeply pitched roof), and its facade is sand-colored brick, which Mr. Tate praised for its sense of “permanence, but also depth and material richness.” Lap siding made of fiber cement gives a traditional look to the rest of the exterior.
The guest entry is through a side courtyard. It opens to a living room filled with eclectic furnishings like a Craftsman-style sofa and rattan-armed loungers. The reception desk (in name only, as check-in is contactless), was built by an architecture professor at Tulane University and is wrapped in cyanotypes, or blueprintlike photos, of fan palms, a spiky, sunburst-like plant.
In the morning, guests can grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen on the ground floor and read the paper at a jagged-edged communal table. Locals are encouraged to drop by as well, said Mr. Rutledge. “If you need a place to have a card game or you want to hang out and play some music, then come do it.”
In guest rooms, which average $185 per night, there isn’t a lace curtain or doily in sight, but natural fiber rugs, fluffy duvets and Danish lounge chairs. Resident artists at Travelers Hotel Clarksdale fabricated the desks and plywood headboards, which are painted a different color by room — cream, ocher, gray and dark blue.
The design is just a starting point, according to Mr. Tate, who is also a partner in the venture. “I like the idea that the spaces accumulate material,” he said. There is room for improvisation, and if anything needs to be altered, he isn’t far away: His nine-person studio works out of the building’s ground-floor commercial space.
Mr. Tate’s rent and guest room fees will cover Travelers’s projected $200,000 yearly operating expenses, as well as help to repay a $1.8 million loan from a local bank. (They also raised $735,000 in equity from investors.) Mr. Rutledge anticipates that once the hotel is fully operational, the owners will net $80,000 in profit annually.
The property supports up to four resident artists. Eventually all tenants will apply online and undergo several rounds of interviews. For now, the inaugural group includes Walker Babington, who “paints” with instruments like propane torches and fire-spouting weed killers and is Ms. Williams’s cousin. The artists share a living room, kitchen and roof deck, offering views of the Crescent City Connection, the pair of bridges that cross the Mississippi River.
The group was given a budget of about $19,000 to design their own quarters. The furnishings came from thrift stores, estate sales, Facebook Marketplace and Renaissance Interiors, a consignment business in Metairie, La. Mr. Babington added his own art to the living room: a self-portrait rendered in rust on an old Mercedes hood. The furnishings will remain after the residencies have ended, in a year or more.
“Any artist with a bag full of clothes can walk in the door,” said Shana Betz, a filmmaker who is married to Mr. Babington. The couple moved into Travelers with their 3-year-old daughter in March after an itinerant year. Now they and another tenant, Hannah Richter, a writer, are poised to become co-owners of the limited liability company that manages the hotel. The property will remain under the ownership of Mr. Rutledge and his partners.
They hope that Travelers will be a place to help artists reclaim time. Ms. Betz is using hers to work on a television pilot. Mr. Babington said he was looking forward to experimenting with his alarming media in a dedicated studio again.
“Having a big space vastly changes what you’re able to do,” he said. (The owners have leased a property down the street for the artists to use.)
Ms. Richter plans to use her residence to develop a writing portfolio in order to apply to an MFA program. Describing the appeal of Travelers, she went straight to Virginia Woolf: “This is a room of my own where I can live and work without too much distraction.”