Southern Hotel is also home to impressive art collection

5 June 2014 featured the ribbon cutting ceremony and art collection of the newly renovated Southern Hotel with a great photo gallery included!

Southern Hotel's public spaces feature an array of north shore artistic talent

5 June 2014

By Sarah Bonnette

When it came to choosing art for the Southern Hotel, co-owner Lisa Condrey Ward followed her heart.

She knew she wanted to decorate the space with local artists’ work as much as possible. And she knew she wanted that artwork to convey a sense of Covington’s caliber as an arts community and its place in history.

The result is a building filled with pieces that give a nod to the area’s past and its features, while also showcasing its forward-thinking attitudes. Most of the original art pieces come from artists who live on the north shore or have a connection to it.

“Part of the whole hotel idea is that we want people to understand where they are when they come here,” said Ward, who handpicked the art and furnishings. “If they’re looking to experience a different community and learn something about the place where they are, then they need to understand we’re an artist community. And see the caliber of art that we have.”

Ward and her family members purchased the property, which operated as a hotel and retreat from 1907 until the 1960s, for $1.75 million in 2011. Ward spearheaded much of the building’s two-year renovation.

Choosing the artwork didn’t take a specific path, she said. “It wasn’t a real methodical kind of thing. It was more an emotional thing and an aesthetic thing.

“My biggest regret is that I have so many windows, and I don’t have room for more pieces. There are (artists) that I’d love to have in here and don’t.”

As visitors enter the lobby from Boston Street, they’ll see contemporary pieces. There’s a mixed-media painting that incorporates sculpture by well-known artist Bernard Mattox, who has a studio in Covington, above a conversation area.

Above the fireplace, uncovered during the renovation, sits a group of houses on metal stilts amid tangled wire. The sculpture is by Maggie McConnell, a member of the St. Tammany Art Association.

There are also three paintings by Rebecca Rebouché, whose studio is in Covington. The two smaller pieces above the check-in desk feature a bird and swarm of butterflies, while the larger painting shows a mass of swallows almost taking the shape of a kite.

Ward said she chose the pieces, all of which are from Rebouché‘s “The Unlikely Naturalist” series, because of their connection to nature.

“Given the history of St. Tammany and where we are,” she said, “people came here because it was the country. And it was relaxed, and it was about nature and just being on the rivers. All of her pieces are very earth-centric.”

Rebouché, whose paintings and drawings are featured on products for Anthropologie, said she “often uses nature to tell stories in my work.”

“To be represented there is a great honor,” she said.

Another concentration of artwork hangs in the red library and entrance at the side of the building. Visitors first will see a large-scale equestrian-themed painting by Memphis artist Emily Ozier, who goes by the name emyo. Ward said it was the first piece she purchased for the hotel – at a gallery in Seaside, Fla. — and was a jumping off point for many of the space’s colors.

The colors play well against “Hopscotch,” an abstract painting by Covington artist Linda Dautreuil, which hangs in the hallway leading to the Olympia room, a meeting and event space named after Covington’s Mardi Gras krewe. The space contains a commissioned painting by Covington artist Leslie Dudley, depicting the krewe during a Mardi Gras parade.

The library also contains paintings by Donna Duffy, co-owner of Tripolo Gallery in Covington, and by Austin, Texas, artist Scott Ewen, who was born in New Orleans and spent his summers as a child in St. Tammany Parish with his uncle, artist and sculptor Bill Binnings.

Binnings’ two-dimensional study for a sculpture relating to Covington’s historic ox lots hangs near what will be the entrance to Oxlot 9, the hotel’s upscale restaurant.

“This is something I want to work on next,” Ward said. “I want to try to raise some money for (the sculpture) because it’s just such a great Covington piece.”

The hotel’s largest painting – of a white horse, completed by Ewen last summer – hangs just off the Camellia Sunroom. “We have a huge wall that it was just perfect for,” Ward said of the 7-by-10-foot piece.

Covington’s history is shown in the murals in the Cypress Bar. Copied from hand-tinted postcards, the scenes were painted by world-renown mural artist Grahame Menage in a period of about eight days, Ward said. The bar also features a glass top created by Dependable Glass of Covington and chandeliers from Venice.

Reproductions of historic Covington photographs line the public hallways and those leading to the 40 guest rooms and the two suites, named after famed author Walker Percy and renowned architect Thomas Sully. Both have ties to St. Tammany Parish.

The suites contain Creole pencil post beds, crafted out of cypress by Covington furniture maker Greg Arceneaux. “I’m thrilled that they wanted to use local artisans,” he said.

The suites’ bathrooms feature photographs by Covington photographer Harriet Blum. The watery scenes — one taken of the Little Bogue Falaya River and other near Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville — were enlarged and printed on a waterproof acrylic, then mounted to the subway-tiled walls above the bathtubs.

“I’m thrilled to see my work on a new surface,” Blum said.

Choosing original art was one of the fun parts of the two-year renovation, said Ward. She added that she’ll seek out more local pieces for the hotel’s second phase – a cooking school at a property neighboring the hotel — although no time frame has been set for its completion.

“I really like large pieces,” she said. “I think if you find something you love, at the end of the day you’ll find a place for it, and it will work.”

The Southern Hotel is located at 428 E. Boston St. It is accepting reservations for accommodations starting June 15; Oxlot 9 is expected to open later this summer. The Cypress Bar is open for business. For more information, call 844.866.1907, e-mail, visit or like

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