In New York, the kitchen is often seen as an additional storage space; in New Orleans, it’s the heart of the house. That is because despite busy, sometimes stressful lives, another thing that New Orleanians haven’t given up on is opening up their homes to entertain friends and family. Whether it’s simple grills, seasonally inspired open houses, birthday celebrations or community fundraisers, entertaining at home, and with it a true and modern rendition of Southern hospitality, is alive and well in New Orleans.
Whether it’s a rebuttal to the challenges New Orleans’ inhabitants have faced or just part of the DNA of people from here or transplanted here, locals love to celebrate and decorate. As well as thinking about what we’re serving, we also spend time on how we will be serving it. We therefore thought it would be fun and useful to ask some of the city’s top decorators and designers to recommend their favorite home entertaining pieces, things that are so versatile they are perfect in both form and function for every occasion. Here is what they said:
Bowls: But not just any kind! Julie Skiles, a designer at Ashley Hall Interiors (832 Howard Ave., 524-0196), and Caroline Robert of perch. (844 Magazine St., 899-2122, perch-home.com) both agree that a beautiful, fairly large bowl can be one of the most versatile pieces for home entertaining. Great as a standalone centerpiece, it also works well filled with wine or flowers.
While Ashley Hall has bowls in a range of styles (priced from around $325), Skiles highlights a blue-and-white bowl that has a classic appeal.
Robert says she uses a Kartell Moon bowl ($109) all the time in her shop for her “champagne for no reason” days, when she chills the bubbly down in it or fills it with chips, fruit, salad or plant cuttings, whatever she’s in the mood for. She adds that the translucency of the bowl projects a magic light with all the colors of the rainbow and shimmers as you look at it.
Curios: At Spruce Eco-Studio (2043 Magazine St., 265-0946, SpruceNola.com), which offers beautifully designed green products, founder Nomita Joshi-Gupta recommends a white ceramic Kate Tremel Clay tray ($150), which has a thinness created through a Peruvian method of paddling. She also points out a Jonathan Adler vase ($594) that features a boy on one side and a girl on the points out a Jonathan Adler vase ($594) that features a boy on one side and a girl on the other. Although primarily decorative, they are examples of ornaments that are fun to adapt to present food or beverages in.
Elizabeth Kurtz of Eclectic Home (8211 Oak St., 866-6654, EclecticHome.net) had the same thought with bright jewel-toned mouth-blown decanters ($385) that are so striking they light up a room and are a guaranteed conversation starter. They are also a fun way to let a bottle breathe and cannot fail to enhance its sharing.
Extra seats and tables: It is great having extra guests and it is even better having instant solutions for accommodating them. Skiles at Ashley Hall Interiors says a gate leg table is a very useful, multifunctional piece of furniture to have if you like entertaining. With both legs down it’s a useful side table. When you have guests it’s ideal as a serving console. As a demi-lune (with one leaf out) it provides extra seating and with both leaves extended, you have an instant extra table.
Annie Fowler of Antiques and French Polish (505 Jefferson Ave., 896-2588) agrees, saying that investing in one beautiful table (ideally with leaves) gives you a base for myriad entertaining options. You have the opportunity to have seated formal dinners and family parties when extended, a smaller table for everyday use and a buffet table when you are expecting dozens of guests. You can dress it up and down, change the color with fancy linens and use it as a stage for wonderful flower arrangements or ornaments.
Vicki Moran of Orient Expressed (3905 Magazine St., 899-3060, OrientExpressed.com) offers a lightweight stool ($310) in a porcelain-like material. Featuring open work reminiscent of antique Chinese garden stools, it can be used as a side table or extra seat – wherever you need it in the house. It comes in a variety of styles and colors, including the season’s hottest hue, tangerine; a fun addition to any room, indoors or out.
Linens: Lee McKee of The Linen Registry (204 Metairie Road, No. 101, Metairie, 831-8228) offers a wide selection of fine European linens for bed, bath and table. Her tip for home entertaining is to use Chilewich placemats (from around $60 to $74 for a set of four) that you can rinse off in the sink. Made from a woven vinyl, they’re available in many different styles (including lattice and basket-weave), images and colors to fit in with any kind of décor. While making any table look sophisticated and fun, they’ll save the hostess hours in the laundry room.
The same is true of the capiz shell placemats ($25) available at Judy at the Rink (2727 Prytania St., 891-7018, JudyAtTheRink.com), which are another easy, wipe-clean but elegant option. Available in both round and plain scalloped, they come in gold trimmed with gold or white edged with silver, and add elegance to any table, home and event.
Glasses: Rather than pulling out your usual glasswear, think about investing in some wonderful glasses to make any wine, champagne or cocktail more fun to drink. They are also great for presenting dessert (especially mousses) or making simple fruit and ice cream more dramatic. Eclectic Home stocks a statuesque pair of flutes ($115 a pair) that have a decorative swirl on the side that seems to wind upwards and is perfect for bubbles. At Judy at the Rink, a treasure trove for home gifts, you can find individually mouth-blown Wauhatchie stemwear goblets ($46 to 66); each one unique and purposely misshapen they come in bold, fun colors such as cobalt blue, amber, lime green, red and yellow, and add a celebratory atmosphere to any occasion.
Lighting: At Source (2103 Magazine St., 561-7558, SourceNola.com), renowned for its selection of Swedish and French antiques, they offer crystal glass Greek keyed hurricane lanterns ($485 for the pair) in the style of English decorator and designer William Yelland. Stunning on their own, they transpose perfectly from casual cookout to elegant supper. Add candles of the color of your choice and you can rely on them to create soft lighting.
In a town with so many boutiques crammed to the rafters with gorgeous home accents, the best advice we heard was to follow your heart. Literally. If something speaks to you in some way and stands out from all the other goodies on display, it probably reflects your own style and will fit into your home and your celebrations, helping to create the perfect atmosphere for any occasion. With great pieces, you should love looking at them every day as much as you enjoy sharing them with friends on special ones.