A Home She Desired

Where Tennessee Williams spent his last New Orleans years

An 1803 Empire couch (left), and a 1798 couch from England flank two butler’s tables of different heights in the center of the room. The room reflects the eclectic taste of Adams, a talented interior designer with a flair for the unusual.

CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPHS

Tennessee Williams lived here. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to visualize the venerable man of letters living in the handsome space with walk-through windows leading onto the broad balcony, high ceilings and a narrow winding stairway leading from the courtyard on the ground floor to the second-level apartment.

“I love the idea of walking in Tennessee’s footsteps,” says interior designer Emily Adams. “It’s inspiring to know such a famous author owned this townhouse from 1962 until his death in ’83. She especially likes the quote on the brass literary landmark plaque that was placed on the building by the Friends of Libraries USA in 2006: ‘I hope to die in my sleep in this beautiful big brass bed in my New Orleans apartment, the bed associated with so much love.’

He always considered New Orleans his spiritual home.”

The brass bed is long gone, but it isn’t hard to conjure romantic thoughts when you look at the black lacquered bed, trimmed in 24-karat gold, that Adams designed and then dressed it in black and draped with a tasseled canopy of black linen. “Like Tennessee, the bedroom is my favorite room in the apartment,” she says. “There is a special magic in this room that excites me.

“I painted the walls the color that gives me the emotional response of well-being – terra cotta with an umber-based red. Then I added black and burnished gold, thus providing an insight into the balance and harmony of my creativity.”

Adams chose the room adjoining the balcony for her bedroom to capture the filtered French Quarter light. The walls are chock-a-block with icons that she has collected for decades. “I searched obscure antique and junk shops in my quest to find unique icons and old religious images,” she adds.

The bedroom adjoins the balcony. “It is only steps from my bed to the balcony where I can enjoy sipping a glass of wine at the end of a busy day, or begin my day with a cup of coffee. The space serves as an outdoors room. I consider it my dining room. I love the idea of serving breakfast on the balcony and listening to the sounds of the French Quarter below. For lagniappe there is usually a nice breeze blowing off the river.”

The living room occupies the center room. Here the walls are painted the same bold color as the adjoining bedroom, with the addition of an underlay of gold paint that creates a slight glistening effect. Two long couches flank a pair of butler’s tables of different heights that are filled with more of the talented designer’s finds. Not a surface in the room is left uncovered and the walls are filled with art, mirrors and other treasures. “Everything in this apartment has special meaning to me,” Adams explains. “I enjoy being surrounded by so many memories.

“When I walked into this place for the first time, I instantly knew this was it – this was where I want to be.

Knowing Tennessee’s spirit still inhabits this great apartment comforts me. I believe he would be pleased with how I live and love his former home.”
 

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