1st Lake Blog

Local Designer Talks DIY and the Best Decor Stores

We recently spoke with local interior designer Whitney Jones about how to create a space – even when you’re renting! – that truly feels like home. Jones believes that a beautiful apartment isn’t just attainable; it’s also affordable. How? Three simple letters: D I Y. Check out our conversation with Jones below.

1LP: Your blog features a lot of DIY projects, and it seems like something you’re very passionate about. Why is it so important?

DIY orange vinyl chairs. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

DIY orange vinyl chairs. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

WJ: In my apartment, I actually pretty much did everything custom, which really can be code for DIY. You don’t want to go into your friend’s house or post a picture online and have someone say, “I have that! And I have that!”

If you try to do custom, you always have a unique space that will get you compliments. When you love décor and love for your home to look good, it feels good for someone to feel welcomed into a really nice space.

1LP: Can you recommend some examples of DIY projects?

WJ: Of course! I have some chairs I purchased at Target for $26 on clearance. They’re metal chairs with gray and teal upholstered fabric – they didn’t match, but I bought them anyway because I knew they had potential. I went to a fabric store and purchased some orange vinyl, and I upholstered both of them in the vinyl [using a staple gun]. They look like a totally custom chair for under $75.

Then, there are my curtains that I purchased from Pier 1. I bought two matching curtains and then a third in a contrasting color and fabric. Then, I used parts of the third curtain to add to the bottom of the matching pair to create a custom look. It also added length, which meant I could suspend them from higher on my ceiling – that’s a great trick to add a feeling of height to a space. I also make pillows and sell them on my website.

I also DIY’d a wood bench I purchased at a flea market. I painted the bench white and recovered with faux fur that I purchased at a fabric store. There are so many different options!

DIY faux fur bench. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

DIY faux fur bench. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: What, in your opinion, is the easiest kind of DIY?

WJ: Before you purchase or do anything else, I suggest going with pillows first. They shape your sofa, they can even reinvent your sofa, and they’re your source of inspiration for the rest of the room. If you decide to make DIY pillows, you have hundreds of different selections that inspire you that you can use to have as a jumpstart for the rest of the room. They’re really easy to make – just search for a tutorial whether you prefer to hand sew, use a sewing machine, or even use hot glue!

I also love DIY art because it’s easy and affordable. I have a DIY canvas board with some song lyrics that I painted – really simple.

diy art board

DIY canvas with song lyrics. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: What if someone is feeling stuck once they start decorating? Or maybe they’re too overwhelmed to even get started! What advice do you have?

WJ: ALWAYS PLAN before you do anything. Don’t start buying stuff without a plan. You have to pick something that’s your starting point. If you find something you love or just have to have, make it your jumping point so you can plan your room around it. If you choose art, choose a color out of your artwork that you can use in your pillows; another color can be your curtains; another color can inform your accessories.

My other best piece of advice is to start with the room where you spend the most time. People see pictures of my living room and they think I have it going on. And then you look to the right and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a disaster over there!’ My dining room functions as my office! I had so much energy to do my living room and then I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start on something else. For me, I started with the room that I spend the most time in; the room that means the most to me. If your bedroom is your sanctuary or if you want to feel more comfortable there, that’s where you should start. If you cook a lot, you should start in the kitchen. Because if you start somewhere where you don’t spend a lot of time, you’ll get burned out fast. You’ll have the energy and the spirit to start in other rooms if you begin a project in a room you enjoy being in the most. It’ll have a domino effect.

1LP: Where are some of your favorite places to find furniture and accessories in New Orleans?

WJ: My favorite place to shop in the city is Target. They’re really trendy – they’re on the mark on what’s hot in decor. I’m not a trendy decorator, per se, but I like to see what they have. If you’re not really good at decorating or don’t know what you like, Target allows you to do it on a budget. Pillows, linens, living chairs, lounge chairs, and all for good quality and price.

Nadeau has really good price points and unique items, so I’d definitely say Nadeau for furniture. TJ Maxx for accessories and Pier 1 for glamorous accessories – they’re pricier but they’re not outrageous, and you can have a really glamorous look for a lot less than you’d expect. 

1LP: What are some of your favorite websites for that same purpose?

WJ: Ballard Design – they’re not the most inexpensive but they have beautiful items. I really love Wayfair so there are hundreds of thousands of times so you could shop all day! Sometimes it’s way too much stuff to look through, but in a good way. I like Wayfair for the options. Home Decorators Collection – it’s actually Home Depot’s home line. They don’t tell people that, but it is! They have really good stuff for really great prices. 

Find Whitney on Instagram at @whitneyjdecor or visit to connect with this amazing local designer!



Local Expert Whitney Jones Explains Her Interior Design Philosophy

It’s a conundrum we’ve seen a lot: renters don’t want to spend a lot of money tricking out their space, but they still want an apartment to feel like home. That’s why we’ve teamed with local interior designer Whitney Jones of Whitney J. Decor to get her expert advice on how to jazz up your apartment smartly and affordably – and with gorgeous results. In the first of our two-part series, we talk the basics of what to buy and how to rethink your approach to decorating. Stay tuned for our next post when we delve into specific DIY projects and the best places in New Orleans (and online) to find decorative accents, furniture, and more.


Jones, who rents an apartment, recently redid her living room using pops of color and pattern. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1st Lake Properties: Obviously, we’re proponents of renting, and we think it’s important that a rented space feels like home. We’ve taken great care to create beautiful landscaping, smart floor plans, and other welcoming details across our properties – how else can someone make a rental feel like home?

Whitney Jones: First, I always like to say that I think it’s a misconception that we whouldn’t spend money or we shouldn’t invest in home décor just because we rent. I believe that if you can afford to get quality pieces, you should invest in them because those pieces can move with you. Things that require custom fitting – like custom draperies or rugs – are things I wouldn’t suggest for a rented space because you don’t know if they’ll work in a home or in your next apartment, but there are other things you can purchase that can take your space to the next level.

1LP: What are some examples of the types of things renters can purchase that will make a big impact?

WJ: A quality sofa or quality artwork. They are something you should invest in because those pieces can move with you. And pillows! Pillows are a really good way to update a space and make an apartment look totally different without spending too much money.

1LP: Let’s say a renter has $500 they can use to ‘jazz up’ their space. How should they use it?

WJ: I just redecorated my own apartment! I’d say $500 would be a good budget to buy art, new pillows, and also draperies. I think one of the things for apartment renters that we forget altogether is drapery. It can be expensive if you get them custom, but if you purchase ready-made panels from a store like Target or JC Penney, you can really shape a window. Draperies really ground a room.

Jones says art and decorative pillows are an easy and affordable way to change up the look of your space. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

Jones says art and decorative pillows are an easy and affordable way to change up the look of your space. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: Draperies, really? We wouldn’t have guessed that!

WJ: They are a game-changer. As for solid or prints, I think personally, and especially in an apartment, prints are the best way to go. A lot of times you bring in interests by actually putting some pattern on the wall – most apartments come with mini blinds, so putting a plain curtain on top of it doesn’t really add a big effect. Even a colored panel just doesn’t do enough. Bringing in some pattern and texture allows for that big pop and serves as another work of art depending on the kind of curtain you use. It lets you show your personality and brightens things up while having a little bit of fun. Curtains already ground a space, and by having a pattern, it really brings a pop of interest to a small space, which is needed for apartments – sometimes they can all look the same! Curtains are an easy, beautiful way to differentiate yourself stylishly.

You can use complimentary or contrasting colors along with a bold, printed curtain to define your space. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

You can use complimentary or contrasting colors along with a bold, printed curtain to define your space. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: Should people consider hiring an interior designer even for a rented space?

WJ: I definitely think that it’s a lot better to work with a designer and decorator even if you rent, because you can save yourself a lot of money and a lot of headaches in the end. You give a designer a budget, and they can have your apartment laid out for you without you having to lift a finger. There’s a really big misconception that we’re super unaffordable but that’s not the case – a lot of designers work in relation to your budget. For me as a designer, anything you should buy should be something you buy to KEEP, and an interior designer can help you find those pieces that’ll move seamlessly with you as you transition from apartment to apartment.

Next week, we pick up the conversation with Whitney about DIY, how to plan for decorating, and how to avoid feeling “stuck” when it comes to revamping your space. Follow her on Instagram at @whitneyjdecor or visit





Where to Eat Lunch in Metairie and Kenner

The midday meal is an oft-forgotten one. Sometimes we eat it quickly and mindlessly at our desks at work, other times we blow through a drive-thru as we use our lunch break to conquer errands like going to the bank or the post office. While most people look forward to breakfast or dinner, lunch is the middle child of the food spectrum. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With so many great, local lunch options in Metairie and Kenner, you can take a REAL lunch break and enjoy some REAL food while you’re at it. Is it noon yet?

Get to the Greek

Mediterranean eats are a popular lunchtime choice, because you can opt for something light like tabbouleh and hummus, or enjoy a full-on feast with a decadent, savory gyro. In Metairie and Kenner, there are a few standouts.

Byblos Located on Metairie Road (one of several locations around Greater New Orleans), Byblos has an attractive but casual atmosphere and authentic Mediterranean menu items. Start with the muhumra dip – a mix of red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses – for a flavorful vegetarian appetizer.

Acropolis This Veterans Memorial Boulevard staple serves up tried-and-true favorites like homemade hummus alongside creative dishes like Pork Corfu – a center-cut grilled pork loin served with feta cheese and roasted potatoes. You can eat the leftovers for dinner!


Chargrilled oysters from Drago’s. (Photo via Flickr user Wally Gobetz)

Classic New Orleans

Drago’s Seafood – Oysters, shrimp, and all sorts of Gulf seafood are what’s on the menu at this Arnoult Road restaurant in Metarie. Order the charbroiled oysters first, then try the tuna. It doesn’t get more boat-to-table than at Drago’s – the yellowfin tuna comes directly from local fisherman and is on your plate that very day. Try it just slightly seared to let the flavors shine through.

Martin Wine Cellar – No, we don’t mean a liquid lunch. But you can pick up a French-style meal with gourmet cheeses and charcuterie at this spot on Veterans Memorial Boulevard plus a variety of sandwiches, entrees, soups, and quiches. Try the half-sandwich special dressed to order and served with your choice of the soup du jour, a salad, or a side of fresh fruit.

R & Os – Italian-accented Cajun dishes are the specialty at this Bucktown spot. The roastbeef po-boys are an excellent lunchtime choice. No-frills seafood platters, spaghetti, and chicken parm are other winners, and be sure to order the Italian tossed salad with olives.

Pan-Asian Eats

Pho OrchidBanh-mi, spring rolls, and vermicelli bun are all great options for lunchtime – you can eat them at room temperature, cold, or hot! Pho Orchid bakes its own bread for the banh-mi, and the pho has a wonderful depth of flavor if you’re craving soup. Wash it down with a Thai iced tea or Vietnamese iced coffee, both of which have a nice kick of caffeine to get you through the rest of the day.

Kanno Sushi – Fresh, California-style sushi in Fat City is a reality with Kanno. Beautifully plated dishes make even an office lunch break seem like an escape to some sort of spa resort. The Protein Roll with tuna, snowcrab, avocado, and salmon is tasty and healthy.

Korea House Get your whole lunch in a single bowl when you order the bibimbap, a mix of fragrant white rice and toppings to your liking, including typical options like beef and a fried egg.

Working from Home 101: Succeed with These Tips

Doesn’t the idea of working from home sound absolutely incredible? Lounging in your pajamas, working with your favorite daytime television blasting in the background? Well, working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because you really, truly are working. And sometimes, when you’re not in a traditional office setting, it can be hard to stay focused. We love that some of our properties feature dedicated home office spaces (or spare bedrooms that you can convert into a home office), so with that in mind, we’re sharing a few tips on how to create a beautiful, functional home office – plus how to stay focused when you’re at home.

home office

Staying productive and focused at home isn’t always easy, but these tips can help. (Photo via Flickr user David Martyn Hunt)

How to Stay Focused When You Work from Home

Treat it like a normal office day. One of the ways you’re able to be so productive at the office is the natural structure that the office environment creates. Try to mimic it at home by setting specific times for your breakfast and lunch rather than grazing in front of your computer all day.

Keep your family and friends in the loop. Your family and friends might be tempted to chat or plan to get together while you’re working from home. Of course, it makes sense to take advantage of work-from-home flexibility, but you can gently remind people that even though you’re at home, you’re still working.

Get to know your computer. When you’re working from home, you’ll likely be on your computer most of the day and can’t rely on coworkers at the office to help you out if you’re having an issue. Make sure you understand all pertinent programs on your computer before you plan to work from home.

Have a backup plan. Perhaps the Internet goes out or you find that you’re just too distracted at home. Try working in one of our common areas or even going to a local coffee shop for a change of scenery that might spur productivity.

Creating the Right Home Office Environment

Get organized! Organization is perhaps the largest component to working from home successfully. Make sure your home office is stocked with all the things you’ll need throughout the day – pens, paper, Post-Its… whatever works best for you.

Invest in a good chair. Rather than balancing your computer on your lap as you sit on the couch (sound familiar?) look into finding an office chair with proper ergonomic support. Your back – and productivity – will thank you.

Prioritize good lighting. Working from home means you can choose an area of your home that offers a good balance of natural light. Adding attractive desk or table lamps creates a sense of ambience while also helping you to avoid straining your eyes.

Renting on the Rise: Renters are Set to Surpass Homeowners

“The housing bust taught us to be wary,” says the Washington Post in a recent article about falling homeownership rates – rates that are expected to continue to fall until the amount of renters exceeds the amount of homeowners in the United States.

“Viewed another way,” the article continues, “a big surge in renters is coming.” As a premier apartment company with communities throughout Greater New Orleans and the Gulf South, we’re excited to accommodate the expected uptick in renters. We believe renting is a worthwhile long-term option for a multitude of reasons (check out a recent post here).

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

The National Apartment Association notes that by the year 2030, a majority of the estimated 22 million new U.S. households will be renters, not buyers. These combined articles suggest that perhaps the future is dim for homeownership but, as the old adage goes, where one door closes, another opens.

We’re constantly improving at 1st Lake Properties, from updating apartment communities to adding seasonal landscaping and so much more. We’ve recently built new communities, too, like our Bella Ridge property in Elmwood with luxury units that have all the comforts (and more) of any standalone home. An on-site dog park, gorgeous pool, and state-of-the-art fitness facility are all worthwhile additions we’re so pleased to be able to deliver to our residents.

What’s more, our improvements aren’t limited to actual buildings – we’ve added helpful assets on our website like our apartment moving checklist designed aid residents during transitions from one 1st Lake Community to the next.