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Jun 1, 201610:15 AM
Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer

Designing Life

Birthdays, Baccarat, redecorating and a philosophy for good living

The Bon Vivant blog turned two years old in April. During that two years, it served as a place to share tips, tricks and stories about living the good life in New Orleans and beyond. A recent shift in my career however, has prompted what I’ll call a “redecoration,” of sorts of the blog. Some may have already noticed a little more design-related fodder of late. As the newly appointed editor of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, I’m becoming more and more immersed in the local design world. On a somewhat side note, I’m still the editor of New Orleans Bride Magazine and also have taken on the job of managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile magazines, so life is all Louisiana all of the time, which I consider a pretty great thing. I covered design for many years in Texas as a columnist at the Austin American-Statesman, senior reporter at The Houston Chronicle and contributor to Austin Monthly, Austin Monthly Homes, Modern Luxury Texas InteriorsModern Luxury Houston and other publications, so it’s a subject I’m well versed in and that I enjoy writing about, as evidenced by the occasional design stories that have popped up over the past couple of years on the blog. I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the beautiful traditional, modern and contemporary design happening in New Orleans and sharing it with you here on Bon Vivant. I’ll be working with a group of immensely talented writers and stylists on the magazine and am excited to spotlight what they are working on as well. Entertaining at home and enjoying the good life will of course still be a huge part of Bon Vivant, because both of those subjects are a big part of how I live life and my life philosophy, which centers on surrounding yourself with beauty, art, fun, good people and delicious food and drink. As always, I’m grateful to the readers who come back to this space week-after-week to read the posts and hope the more design-centric nature won’t be too much of a jolt. Thank you for reading, commenting and for the lively email discussions I’ve had with many of you. I hope it continues! Meanwhile, pardon our dust, so to speak as we tweak, fine tune and grow the blog a little bit.

On that note, welcome to the new Bon Vivant! Grab a cold glass or hot mug of your favorite beverage and let’s talk a little about the recent Southern Style Now event.

It has been two weeks since Southern Style Now wrapped and I for one am still processing it. The workshops, panels and parties were chock full of some of the best design and designers in the South and really across the nation. Bunny Williams dazzled during her keynote. New Orleans’ own Julia Reed brought her favorite textile and tableware designers, artists, writers, musicians and home furnishings together at her Catfish & Henry popup, which was a hoot of a party for four days straight. The Traditional Home Southern Style Now Showhouse was a feast for the eyes. Writer, former creative director at Domino magazine, designer and serial collaborator Sara Ruffin Costello and her husband photographer Paul Costello threw a VIP bash at their stupendously beautiful home in the Garden District.

During the Costello’s evening soirée, I had the chance to speak with Jim Shreve, president of Baccarat USA. Baccarat is of course the storied maker of fine crystal tableware, jewelry, chandeliers, gifts and other decorative items. Shreve was hot on the heels of his keynote at a popup on Magazine Street earlier that day. With his tattooed arms and shock of platinum blonde hair Shreve looks much more like the front man of a band, rather than the president of a luxury crystal company, which is just the way he likes it. He says he wants to bring the beauty and luxury of Baccarat to a new generation.

“Do I think you should use fine crystal every day? Yes,” Shreve said. He spoke passionately about how fine things shouldn’t be relegated to the back of the kitchen cabinets until there is a special occasion.

His “Everyday Baccarat,” collection speaks directly to this idea. The six tumblers come in six different patterns and Shreve encourages customers to use them for everything from their morning juice or soda to their favorite cocktail. Indeed, this isn’t your grandma’s crystal. They of course come with the $450 per set price tag expected of fine crystal, but they are designed to last a lifetime, so presumably, you buy once and enjoy that investment for years to come.

Shreve’s philosophy is similar to my own, outlined above, but I left out that key element he so eloquently drove home: use the beautiful things you own. Whether $450 or a $20, invest in the best quality home goods your budget allows and make it a point to use those items daily. What good is it to own something that brings you joy if you aren’t ever going to use it? When it comes to the items we live with in our homes, quality over quantity is key. A handful of fine, well-crafted, special items that I love, make being home comfortable and enjoyable. It also cuts down on the chaos of clutter, because when you relegate purchases to only things that bring you joy and are well made, inevitably buying dwindles to a minimum, rather than a maximum. It doesn’t hurt that I favor vintage home goods, but this works for new purchase too.

If you haven’t yet adopted a design philosophy, you are welcome to borrow mine. Side effects include extra space, abandonment of storage facilities and the peace of mind and comfort that comes with being surrounded by beauty and good design. You might also just want to spend more time at home. Some assembly required.

 

 

 

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Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer

about

Melanie Warner Spencer is a native Kentuckian, but says she got to New Orleans as fast as she could. For more than 16 years, Melanie has covered lifestyle, design and entertainment at various publications, serving as the design columnist at The Austin American-Statesman, a senior staff reporter at the Houston Chronicle and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Houston Brides magazine. Her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and Reuters in the United States and across the globe. In her spare time, Melanie is an award-winning fine art photographer and has been honored by the Texas Press Association for her editorial photography. She also has been honored by the Press Club of New Orleans for its Excellence in Journalism Awards and is currently serving as a media member of the board of directors. Cooking and eating fabulous food and taking road trips with her spouse of 16 years, fellow writer and filmmaker Mark Patrick Spencer however, is at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. Click here to like Spencer's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @MelanieSpencer. 

 

You can reach her at melanie@myneworleans.com.

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