At Exagere (227 Dauphine St., 523-5873; www.exagere.com), owner and furniture designer Perfecto Bobadilla describes everything in extremes: Exagere boasts the most "amazing collection of art in New Orleans," and hosted the "biggest grand opening of any gallery in New Orleans," he says. But he piles on the most superlatives when explaining the collection of couture furniture he personally designs.
"We're extravagant, we're over the top," he says with a laugh. "[As a furniture designer] I love to play with colors. I love color, I love that sense where I want to seduce you mentally. Everybody wants to be part of Exagere. ... there's nothing in the world like it."
With its lipstick-red walls, custom cheetah-print carpet and a veritable army of towering Egyptian-style statues, Exagere's interior verifies Bobadilla's claims. The walls are packed with a collection of intense paintings, many done in the turbulent reds, golds and blacks that comprise the company's signature palette. Couture furniture, mostly designed by Bobadilla, lines the floor: A chair in white Ultrasuede lined with fuchsia ostrich feathers faces a shell-pink couch with diamond and rhinestone accents.
Such opulent artifacts represent just a small sampling of Bobadilla's aesthetic.
"Exclusivity is what couture is about," he says. "It's like jewelry for a home. It's accessorizing in a beautiful, beautiful way. No one else in the world is going to have that piece or copy your piece."
Bobadilla has been a designer for 25 years. He was always drawn to "sexy, exotic" styles, and incorporated those predilections into his own work. Today, the furniture he designs for Exagere is "French, with a flair of Egyptian," though this limited description doesn't quite sum up the drama of his line. A chair currently on display has French-inspired red lacquered legs, but is topped with rich mink and chinchilla fur. Bobadilla sees couture furniture as a part of fashion, where each piece should reflect the designer's vivid imagination.
With the rise of moviemaking in Louisiana and the increasing presence of celebrities in the city, Bobadilla aspires to make New Orleans a high-end shopping destination on par with Paris or Milan. Through a career in television production and travels to Capri and the South of France, he found that the jet-setters who buy couture pieces prefer to shop in an aesthetically stimulating boutique-like atmosphere rather than a big-box-style store. After three years of planning, he brought this concept back to his native New Orleans, hoping to target celebrities and professional athletes.
"We're putting together something magnificent that can identify New Orleans," he says. "I wanted to bring something back to my home. [There is] a market here that deserves what we're offering — a lifestyle."
Despite the presence of Bobadilla's high-end designs, plus additional pieces from Versace Couture and Columbo Stile, Bobadilla says everyone can find something in their price range at Exagere. He prides himself on his work with local artists, pointing out one six-foot painting by local artist Marcus Martinez that was painted entirely with discarded house paints, priced at $2,500. Other items include one-of-a-kind couture jewelry designed by artist Panther, who often works and paints in-house. Most of her offerings are a marvel of ornate metalwork and colored crystal, with prices starting at $1,200. Bobadilla also goes out of his way to promote the work of the artists on display in his gallery, hosting events to drive sales and allow the community to enjoy Exagere's lavish ambience.
But ultimately, Exagere is all about the fabulous life and its accoutrements. With associate "Screamin' Rachael" Cain, Bobadilla plans to expand Exagere upward, creating a four-story nightclub above the gallery. The private club will feature a rooftop bar, entertainment and a dance floor embedded with diamonds. The style will reflect Bobadilla's vision of the "bodega-style" nightclubs that are in vogue in New York, he says.
As construction on the club continues, many who pass Exagere can agree that with or without the after-hours offerings, Bobadilla has already created something unique.
"The great thing is when I'm there at night, and I lock the doors, there's 20 or 30 people every night looking through the window," he says."The response is really amazing."