Impress While Entertaining

Tips and tools for entertaining in your home

Eclectic Home

Cheryl Gerber Photographs

Here in New Orleans, we all love a great party. The friends, the decorations, the food and the drinks all make for a good time. We take pride in inviting friends and family into our homes and showing off how great everything looks and tastes, and we do it without even breaking a sweat! We have gathered together the best in the business to help make your next party a major hit.

First and foremost, you’ll need invitations. At Betty Hunley Designs (6057 Magazine St., 895-2870,, Betty Hunley has been designing invitations since she was in high school, and she opened her shop in 1983. Needless to say, she has the experience to create the perfect invitation for all of your special occasions. With these years of experience, Hunley has seen many trends come and go in the industry, and she thinks it’s an adventure to stay ahead of the latest trends while still maintaining the traditional and classic designs.

Hunley says that there’s no better way to start off your party than sending a fantastic invitation. “A beautiful, clever invitation will set the tone for the entire event. At Betty Hunley Designs, our goal is to create an invitation that reflects the personality of the hostess and paints a picture of what is in store at the party.” She also recommends a printed invitation over an e-vite, because it shows your guest that you truly care about their presence at your festive event since you took the time and put the thought into creating that distinctive invitation. Hunley also recommends her other services to give the event that extra special touch: hand-calligraphed place cards, printed menus and printed cups and napkins. She says, “We love to help our clients tie all the different components together so that you will have a polished presentation starting with the invitation and ending with your thank you notes!”

After sending out your invitations, you’ll need to plan out your linens for the extraordinary event. Lee McKee at The Linen Registry (204 Metairie Road, 831-8228) offers many of their signature items to help your home and your event stand out. The Linen Registry has something for everyone and every occasion because they believe entertaining should be easy and worry-free, especially when it comes to linens. McKee says that for a stress-free party planning, you should allow at least eight to 10 weeks to coordinate and order your party accessories.

The Linen Registry carries festival hemstitched table linens by Sferra, which come in 101 rich colors to match any theme or décor. If linen placemats aren’t your style, they also carry Chilewich woven vinyl placemats that can easily be wiped down at the end of your soirée and can be paired with Chilewich’s coordinating pre-shrunk linen napkins. To complement your tabletop, The Linen Registry also offers Oak Forest Designs glitter candles – not just for holidays – in a wide variety of colors and sizes. In case of any accidents, they offer LeBlanc Linen Wash, which is endorsed by all of their linen lines and will take out lipstick, red wine, grease, tomato sauce and chocolate, just to name a few! To follow that wash, they have LeBlanc Dryer Sachets to scent all of your finest fabrics. In addition, if you’re looking for something a little more personal, The Linen Registry also offers quick local monogramming and can add your initials to your table linens.

Next on your to-do list should be to stop by Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3060,, where they’ll help you find the perfect glasses, serving trays and more to put on your tables. Your guests will all appreciate the significant uniqueness of all that Orient Expressed has to offer. They recognize and give thanks for the individuality of New Orleans and all of its citizens, and they provide the same individuality in their inventory. They have their own characteristic decorative style that they want to share with all of New Orleans.

One item that’s especially lovely and helpful for a home entertaining event is a tray that serves a multitude of uses. Their recommended tray is wooden with a distressed gold leaf finish with raised edges and round raised dots around the edge. You can place it on a bar for glassware, use it to pass around your favorite treats or as a portable table for your guests. At 23-inches-by-15.5-inches, the tray is also water resistant and would make a beautiful decorative accessory for after the meal. At Orient Expressed, they suggest you pair the tray with the Bombay water goblet (which also has a matching wine glass) for a truly festive party. The glass is optic clear white that rests on a twisted stem rubbed with gold leafing, which makes it a perfect match for the tray!


Penny Francis at Eclectic Home (8211 Oak St., 866-6654, has some great recommendations for unique decorations. One decorative item Francis suggests is one that can also be used as an uncommon serving dish. She says, “Instead of a regular candy dish on your buffet or drinks table, use a large footed vase for a display that’s hard to miss and even harder to resist.” Another embellishment Francis recommends is a vase with floating apples. “It’s both low-key and low-tech, but the results bring a Zen beauty to your table.” She says to fill large clear-glass vases with water at different levels, then drop in bright Granny Smiths for a whimsical still life that beats fake fruit any day.

After the invitations have been sent and the linens, party trays and centerpieces have been ordered, it’s time to think about the floral arrangements. Flowers add sunshine to any room and put a smile on everybody’s face. At Judy at the Rink (2727 Prytania St., 891-7018,, Kay Fausset knows how problematic floral arranging can be. She has discovered a wonderful serpentine case that is available in the store that will work for any event and looks very attractive on any dining room table. It consists of 16 connecting small vases. All you need is a bunch of flowers to put one in each vase, and it looks like a work of art!
Another simple yet beautiful idea that Fausset has for floral arrangements is to use Simon Pearce vases, which are also available at Judy at the Rink. For table flowers, she suggests getting three small Simon Pearse vases with Pearse’s votive candles scattered in between for a little something extra. Non-iron placemats work great with this piece; her favorites are the Dahlia by Chilewich. Whichever way you go, flowers are always a “must” for a home event.

Finally, with the event date fast approaching, the final ingredient is the bar. At Whimsy (5420 Magazine St., 273-5900,, Marcelle Perez understands that hosting your own party can often leave you feeling like a member of wait staff instead of a hostess. She says that you need not despair because you, too, can enjoy your party while making sure that your guests are well fed and their thirsts are quenched.

Perez highly recommends that you provide a signature cocktail in lieu of a full bar. “Providing a full bar for your guests can be stressful, time consuming and quite often you’ll end up playing the part of bartender instead of host.” Signature cocktails, on the other hand, are more fun and personalized. They can be fixed in large batches so all you need to do is refill throughout the evening. Perez says to “set up small self-serve bars throughout your venue with beer, wine and your signature cocktail. This will appeal to most everyone’s taste and allow your guests to serve themselves while you mix and mingle.” You should also add the perfect finishing touch to your party with custom printed cups and napkins, which are all available at Whimsy.

Now that your invitations, linens, serving trays, vases and drinks have all been taken care of, you can sit back and enjoy the party. Your friends and family are all “Oohing” and “Ahhing” at your personalized napkins and monogrammed linens, they’re asking what’s in your amazing signature cocktail and they’re asking where you got everything. You have worked hard to put this fabulous party together, so relax and have a cocktail because you’re a great hostess!

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