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A Room of One’s Own


Hurricane Katrina Brought Hints of Eloise to The Soniat House in New Orleans,
but This Time a Grown Man Moved In! 
Mr. Katz is the first to admit that he’s rather contrarian:  the New Orleans native who eschews the rich cuisine of his birthright in favor of fresh fish, yogurt, fruit and nuts.  Who -- although he shed his share of tears alongside his fellow citizens -- remembers the day he returned to the city after the five-week post-Katrina curfew as one of the most exhilarating in his life.  He decided at once he was here to stay. 
At first, he wasn’t the hotel’s only resident-guest; it was a distinction he shared with The Honorable Lindy Boggs, whose beautiful house on the lesser known, very dignified stretch of Bourbon Street was also unlivable.  He remembers her fondly, and for a year or two, before she moved to Washington, the two of them shared the pleasure of being long-term residents of New Orleans’ finest boutique hotel— The Soniat House.
The wind and water having pummeled his lake-front condo into an un-inhabitable state, he spent his first few nights uptown with friends, and set about implementing his “near-term solution”: seeking a full-service situation in the French Quarter until things stabilized.  These were not normal times, after all, and he knew he’d need more than simply a roof over his head. 
Katz, a real estate investor, had lived in the Quarter twice previously, first in the coveted historic Pontalba Apartments overlooking Jackson Square in the ‘80s; then in a condo within a historic Royal Street house he’d converted in the ‘90s.  And so it was that he returned in autumn ’05, introducing himself to Frances Stall-Smith, who with her husband Rodney Smith owns Soniat House, an elegant boutique hotel they’ve created by uniting three adjacent nineteenth-century Creole townhouses on the quiet residential end of Chartres Street.  As there were not many people coming to town those days, they must have been especially glad for this pleasant and respectable would-be guest.  Together, they worked out a situation on a day-to-day basis, which became week-to-week, then month-to-month.  Almost five years later [approaching the 5th anniversary] – he’s still there!
Right away, he divested himself of nearly all his belongings, donating them to charity.  It was cathartic, he explains, finding that you don’t need as much as you think.  He whittled a dozen suits down to three or four, and with a couple of sport coats, gets along just fine.  In giving and receiving presents, he prefers consumables – Champagne, in particular, or a good dinner somewhere.  He has few furnishings of his own, pieces of art and personal photographs, along with his mountain bike, comfortably placed in his room at the Soniat House.             
Katz has inhabited a number of different rooms during his residence at Soniat House, enjoying the distinctly different style and décor of each space.  That’s where the good-humored flexibility comes in.  The perks, beyond the ideal location, exquisite interiors, and sun-dappled courtyards where he likes to read his Sunday paper, include daily housekeeping and access to the kitchen.  He found it easy to get used to the fine linens; but the housekeeping is slightly modified in his case -- they have an understanding about certain things like nightly turn-down, which is a nice touch for the visiting guests, but unnecessary for a resident. 
On balance, Katz clearly loves his life at Soniat House.  He points out that Soniat House is in the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die.  Although he has yet to see them all, he considers himself fully vested, as he’s now spent well over 1,000 nights at one…  

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