Interior Design

A Tour of Joy the Baker's New Orleans Home + 5 Ways Her Designer Made it Great

October 27, 2016

"The beignets are calling. The music is summoning. The life to be lived is just there!" Joy Wilson, known to her myriad fans as Joy the Baker, wrote in a 2014 blog post. The place in question, of course, was New Orleans—this post served as her official announcement that she was picking up from Los Angeles and moving there. Bustling and colorful, the city was destined to be a perfect fit for the genuine, bright personality that has made Joy so widely loved.

Joy's home sweet home in New Orleans. Photo by Sean Robertson

Two years after the move, Joy bought a house, right around the same time we were talking to our friends at Laurel & Wolf, an online interior design service, about partnering on a home makeover. They jumped at the chance to work with Joy (who was delighted to hear it), and we shipped a few favorites from our Shop to christen her home once it was finished.

Before: Furniture in place, but waiting for the cherry on top.

With tall ceilings, tons of light, and a camera-ready marble-clad kitchen, the home didn't need major renovations; Joy had even brought furniture with her from Los Angeles. She just wasn't quite sure what to do with it all.

What the space needed was an up-do—someone to help Joy refine her personal style and weave together the pieces she already owned, filling in any gaps along the way. Easier said than done, of course. "In my mind, having an interior designer is a kind of unapproachable thing," Joy admitted to me over the phone this week. (And who hasn't felt that way?)

But as she tells it, getting started with Laurel & Wolf was as easy as uploading some pictures of the room and explaining what pieces she owned and wanted to keep. "It’s not someone coming to your house and coming to judge all your stuff!"

Joy, her new stoop, and her co-conspirator Tron in the kitchen. Photo by Sean Robertson

Next, their online system paired Joy with interior designer James Tabb, of James Tabb Design, who honed quickly in on her love for collecting and helped her channel it into a cohesive look. These are five ways James worked with Joy to bring together the space, without losing sight of her personal style.

Some pieces we sent Joy in celebration of her new home (you might spot them in a picture or two).

Adding greenery—in a home with a nibbly cat

A plant-eater, Joy's cat Tron had always kept her from adopting house plants—but James found a solution: tucking easy-to-care-for air plants into the wine bottle slots in three riddling racks, and then hanging them above the couch. (Out of Tron's reach!) He also wove in some Spanish moss, a nod to the native trees of New Orleans.

Spanish moss and peony-colored pillows, for softness. Photo by Sean Robertson

Softening the space through accessories

"It has the feeling of a masculine space, which is my look," Joy said of the room before James started helping her with it, "but I wanted it to feel brighter and feminine."

Besides adding greenery, James softened up the look of the living room in other ways: A clean-lined brass floor lamp perks up a brown leather couch; sheepskin spill across the two navy chairs that Joy calls "country" in style (despite James wishing she would not call them that); pastel pillows and soft linens lighten the feel of a rustic bookshelf.

The kitchen island, complete with bar stools, connects the living room with the dining room. Photo by Sean Robertson

"Buy twice as many pillows as you need to be sure you get the right ones," James advises, since they always look different in person and can be the key to a perfect finishing touch.

Finding a home for lots of small collected art

James described Joy's style as "very eclectic," pointing to her collection of art as an example. "She had a bunch of little art and the home had 12-foot ceilings," he laughs—so they put together a gallery wall to give the collection more impact.

Photo by Sean Robertson

To balance out that scale, James also helped her source one large piece of art to hang across from the kitchen: an abstracted watercolor of an oyster. Joy admits to having been a little nervous about it—"it's right across from the kitchen, so that's where I'm looking all the time!"—but loves how it grounds the plant and gallery wall.

Bringing in the right lights—for the right price

James says they scoured all his go-to vendors to find the perfect pieces for Joy's space. In the case of Joy's hanging pendant lights, they scored an unexpectedly quality set of reproduction vintage shades through the retailer Hayneedle.

"For finding something online, where things can be very mass-marketed and produced, they were a pleasant surprise," James says, "hand-patina-ed, and some are crooked, so they don’t look so machine made." They were $100 each ("At a local store," he says, "they'd be more!").

Photo by Sean Robertson

Making lots of colors feel cohesive

"You can have as much [color] as you want," James says, "as long as you keep it in the same tone—all vibrant, or all warm, or all cool, or all muted."

Joy's favorite seat in the house. Photo by Sean Robertson

To keep Joy's dark navy chairs looking at home in the same room as a bright pink rug, for example, he added touches of other inky accents throughout the room (think floor lamps, picture frames, pendant lamps, a chalk board on the island). The effect is contrast in all the right places, but nothing too dark.

Speaking to both James and Joy, I can tell the overall experience was that of a fast friendship (even though they first met through the online platform), with design challenges turning rapidly into big wins. "I didn’t realize how picky I was," Joy said, laughing, as an example of what she learned through the process, "and how unable I was to articulate whatever I wanted."

But James took it in stride, describing her style as "earthy, easygoing, not too fussy or over the top." We'd have to agree!

Have you ever started a collection? Tell us how you display it, in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


cosmiccook October 29, 2016
Really beignets? Of all of our local cuisine, people just have to pick up on that. I would have been impressed if Calais was "waiting". Well at least the article didn't say "NOLA". I recommend anyone who says or prints that be fed to the sharks at the aquarium and charge admission. Ya hear me NCIS New Orleans?
cosmiccook October 29, 2016
Lost the last letter--should be Ya heard me NCIS New Orleans?