Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twelfth Night Julie Neill Style

Last night was Twelfth Night, or the twelfth day of Christmas, or Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.

Twelfth Night is also a play by William Shakespeare, with a screwball comedy plot.

Judi Dench and Gordon Reid in a 1969 production of Twelfth Night

Here in New Orleans Twelfth Night is celebrated as the official start of Carnival season leading to Mardi Gras. A Krewe named The Phunny Phorty Phellows ride the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, and heralds the start of the season. Starting today houses are decorated, costumes pulled together, king cake appears in the super market, and the big countdown filled with parties, balls, and parades commences.
Merriment and madcap antics take over the entire population including a tango dancing couple you all know.
Can you guess who this tango dancing couple is behind the masks?

Recently Courtney of Style Court did a nice little piece about Twelfth Night HERE
Though this croquembouche is grand, for us in New Orleans there is nothing that says Carnival like King Cake. King Cake dates back to 17th century France and Spain. It's basically a coffee cake, that gets a purple, green, and "gold" sugared coating. A tiny baby is hidden inside the cake, that is meant to symbolize the baby Jesus. Getting the baby in your piece of cake has meant different things at different times. Once it was the way to choose a Carnival king and queen. In fact The Phunny 40 still use this method to choose their queen. But for most of us, getting that baby means you're expected to provide the next King Cake at the next party.

from a very cute blog: Granny Smith Green

Some of you may have figured out that I am no longer a dead beat tango bum ha ha. I've started working for Julie Neill as the Director of Marketing. I get to do alot of interesting stuff, including styling and taking photos in her store to use for various PR and marketing things.
So I wanted to do a Twelfth Night shoot as a way to kick off Carnival season for me and Julie, and to share some very beautiful things with you from her store.

The store has so many perfect things to represent Carnival. Lots of crowns!
Julie's logo is the crown, and I asked her how this came to be. She told me that she thinks it's a rather mundane story, but I disagree. When her daughter was younger, she made all kinds of crowns for her because she was her little princess. She collected crown images, and they were just a part of their everyday life. She also says that everyone in New Orleans, whether you're a man or a woman, adult or child, thinks they're royalty, thinks (and acts like) they're a queen.

With all the faux Carnival royalty and rituals here in New Orleans, I quite agree. Plus Julie is very much influenced by French style, where crowns are always used decoratively.

A beautiful "sister" store up the block, Leontine Linens, provided all the exquisite linen pieces and pillows you see. They are famous for their monograms, and the large runner has a seeded applique integrated into the fabulous monogram.

I chose shades of purple, gold, and green. These are the traditional colors of Mardi Gras: Purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power). The accepted story behind the original selection of these colors originates from 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by the Krewe of Rex...thus, did these colors also become the colors of the House of Romanoff. The 1892 Rex Parade theme ("Symbolism of Colors") first gave meaning to the representation of the official Mardi Gras colors.

I used little crowns as napkin rings, and the napkins are luscious tea towels from Leontine Linens. The bejewelled initial is the place card and Carnival favor.

The white pottery is Italian, done by a company called Abigails, and it has a raised Fleur de Lis on the edge of it.

Don't you love this pale pink chandelier? It looks like a crown, so I placed it in this fabulous urn to create a centerpiece. The star and flower metal crown hanging on the wall (and also used on the table) is Carnival perfection!

The Angelena Sconce (made by Julie Neill) in the back is the JN version of the King Cake baby. I love the drapes in the store. They're heavy ballgown silk. I like the way they're hung in this small window. I know many homes have small windows cut into the wall up high, and I think this is a good solution to dealing with window treatments for them.

The tall candelabra on the table is a Julie Neill piece.

Julie Neill is happy to ship anything in her shop. Just contact Director of Sales Julie Ponze at

All Julie Neill images were styled and photographed by Valorie Hart.

Wish List!
Star and flower crown -$108.
Small crown used as napkin ring - $20.
Jeweled initial - $13.50
Pink tear drop chandelier - $90.
French dining chair - $600.
Antique gold chair - $500.
Julie Neill tall Candelabra - $1000.
Julie Neill Angelena Sconce - $1000.
Abigails Italian pottery $20. - $70.
Faux stone urn - $108.
Vintage silver plate flatware (all 6 pieces) $87.


Renee Finberg said...

NO FAIR !!!!

what great stuff to post about !!

i am green.

and julie's merchandise and exclusive creations, really are to die for.

xx to u

GrannySmithGreen said...

Thank you, Visual Vamp, for the mention in your blog. Granny Smith Green has the best time during Carnival season. Although I'm not located in New Orleans, I am quite at home in the "first" Mardi Gras" city in our country!

I hope you have a wonderful time. You've got a great blog. I'll be mentioning you in my next post.
Well, I'm off to bake a King Cake!

Hope to "see you again soon!

Cyndi said...

I would love to visit that store. Some great finds.

Visual Vamp said...

Yes indeed, I do think dear reader Granny Smith hails from the great city of Mobile, Alabama!
France stakes claim on the Gulf Coast, in what is now Mobile in 1702-3.In 1704 Mobile is formally made the capital of the French province of the Louisianne Territories. Masque De La Mobile celebrated until 1709. Mardi Gras begins to become the holiday for French colonists to remember their homeland roots! Mobile is now widely considered by all scholars to be the very first organized celebration of Mardi Gras in a city of the New World.
New Orleans was founded in 1718, another jewel in the French colonial crown.
It's all good sister sister, it's all good!
Laissez le bon temp rouler!
xo xo

Anonymous said...

Dahlin' how mahvelous!

I hereby anoint you the Queen of Mardi Gras decor.

Is there a drink exclusively associated with Mardi Gras?

Do you take non tango dancers at your Bed and tango?

It must be a dream to stay at your house.

Linda Merrill said...

What a fantastic store - so many beautiful things to play with! Good luck with your new post! (get it... post?)

Topsy Turvy said...

Lucky you! Lucky Julie! Congrats!


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wonderful job! Well done!
And yes, I do love that pink chandelier!!

bayou contessa said...

Oh my Darling Valorie, you truly have the eye, the taste, the style and the joie de vivre!!! We are so lucky to have you in our town and I am so lucky to have you stylin' in my shop and in my life! You are wonderful. Bravo!

Things That Inspire said...

What a dream job - working with Julie. I love this post!

When my husband was in grad school, we had a good friend who was born and raised in New Orleans. I had my very first king cake at the friend's house, and I got the baby! What a great memory that I had not thought about in years.

Fifi Flowers said...

Beautiful table adornments! I LOVE the crown! ooooh la la!

Alkemie said...

I love the Twelfth Night! There's a really cute modern remake of it starring Amanda Bynnes called "She's the Man." It's hilarious and very cute.

You always do really great introductions to beautiful stores and boutiques!