Monday, July 4, 2011

A Progressive Dinner Party In Three French Quarter Courtyards

French Quarter Courtyard #1 - Before

So I get a Tweet a couple of months asking me if I was up for a styling job. I followed the Tweet to an email that led to phone calls that led to a most interesting job.

The premise was a progressive dinner party to take place in three French Quarter courtyards, a benefit for NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), in particular for the Culinary School.

Target was the generous sponsor, with the one request to use the Smith & Hawken product they sent for the party and for a photo shoot to be used for their various PR needs.

And send it they did! Over $35,000. of beautiful merchandise that the Target product designer and I chose to fit the personality of each of the three courtyards.

It was a complex and interesting project from receiving and organizing all the product in a hot New Orleans warehouse, to arranging for the home owners' things to be taken away and stored, to dealing with copious amounts of trash that all the packing materials created, and all the regular issues involved in planning a party, with everything done in triplicate!

Target and their PR team in New York were spectacular, the vendors in New Orleans impeccable, the French Quarter hosts stellar, generous, and helpful, and NOCCA was involved in the best possible ways.

It was the beginning of our record breaking heat wave in New Orleans, but that did not stop people from attending the sultry party, with nearly $60,000 raised in one night of fun for NOOCA!

Let's start with courtyard #1.

Courtyard #1 - Before

Small and charming, with the old servant's quarters balcony at my disposal. The home owners are avid collectors, and one of their collections is of copper pots and pieces in their kitchens. Target offered me product from their Smith & Hawken line, and there were many beautiful copper pieces to choose from.

I used Smith & Hawken zinc lanterns in all three homes, starting with this one, where they lined the narrow alley way that is the entrance to the courtyard. I chose to use wax battery operated candles for the whole project.

Smith & Hawken zinc lanterns from Target

Courtyard #1 was used for cocktails and hors d'ouvres. Fifty people were invited, and 58 turned up! Obviously this courtyard is too small for that amount of people, so the house was open to guests as well.

Patio furniture and dinnerware, glasses, flatware, and napkins from Target

I used Smith & Hawken copper rain chains to festoon the balcony rail

Planters and pots and lanterns from Smith & Hawken for Target

A Smith & Hawken hammered copper hose bowl was used for ice on the bar

Colorful fans rest in a Smith & Hawken copper boot tray for guests to take and use - a jazz brass band of student musicians from NOCCA played for the Second Line to accompany guests to the next location - Note the color of the fans...

On to courtyard #2, where dinner was served. The front entrance of each home was decorated with Smith & Hawken accessories from Target.

Wreaths and urns from Target

Courtyard #2 is long, and at first glance very large by French Quarter standards. But where do I put 50 people for dinner? I wanted this to be a seated family style dinner.

Courtyard #2 - before

So of course! I had an acrylic pool cover installed. That's precious real estate!

Acrylic pool cover by Event Rental

I placed Smith & Hawken teak tables on top of the pool! Host chairs are also Smith & Hawken, but I could not use the teak dining chairs to accommodate 58 people, so I rented bamboo folding chairs. I wanted to use a chair with a low top line so the Target product on the table could be seen and featured. I was wearing two hats: Product Stylist and Event Decorator.

Art of the Feast party designed by Valorie Hart

I added oversize tissue paper spheres everywhere! I chose hot spicy colors. The lovely courtyard is muted and monochromatic, and I wanted to inject a feeling of festive Summer fun by using color.

Over size tissue spheres

A garden of tissue spheres

For the table: I chose to leave the tables bare, to show off the gorgeous teak wood finish. I added Thomas O'Brien dinnerware from Target, and tea towels from Dwell Studio for Target for napkins. I love mixing the sophisticated pattern and color Dwell uses. More Smith & Hawken zinc lanterns were used on the tables, and ceramic pots (also S & H) were used for bright bouquets made by Tommy's Flower Shop in the French Quarter (533 Rue St. Louis, 504 522-65630.

Dwell Studio dish towels were used as napkins

Bouquets on the table by Tommy's Flowers

In another part of the courtyard, I replaced the homeowners lounge furniture with a fabulous teak set from Target.

Courtyard #2 - Before

There is an incredible terra cotta stucco wall in the courtyard, that gave me my color cue. I requested rusty orange cushions and umbrella. I mixed in navy blue accessories. I think orange and navy look so sophisticated and fresh together.

Smith & Hawken outdoor living room styled by Valorie Hart

The product designer asked that I incorporate garden tools along with the planters, furniture, and another accessories. Sure thing! I knew there were all these existing metal trellises in the flower beds, so I hung the tools on each of them. I think it made for a very pretty product shot!

Smith & Hawken garden tools styled by Valorie Hart

You can get all these pretty things at Target

A ton of ginormous planters were sent for each courtyard. I didn't have the budget to buy mass amounts of plants for them. So when I could, I popped the home owner's existing plants into the planters. When that wasn't possible, I "made" plants by using a few cases of cut lemon leaves and leather leaf fern stuffed into to Oasis floral foam. These florist fillers are often maligned, but I loved them because they withstood the annihilating heat!!!!

Cut greens were "potted" into oversize Smith & Hawken planters

Let's look at the courtyard again the day I went for the first walk through...

Art of the Feast - Before

And here's the same view on the night of the party. An extra table had to be added at the last moment for extra guests coming. I always go from plan A to Z with a smile. I had to pull a couple of rental tables from other uses, and juggle the seating arrangement. I visually pulled it all together.

Art of the Feast - After

But wait!!!! There's still one more courtyard to go to for dessert!!!! The guests walked two doors down for more fun.

Courtyard #3 - Before

Courtyard #3 belongs to someone many of us bloggers know and love. She's my fellow "New New" as she calls us, someone from New York and New Orleans. Her home was used for dessert. Again this third courtyard is a tiny gem, so a bar was set up there, and some seating for anyone wanting some sultry romantic ambiance. So the dessert buffet done by Sucre was set up on the dining table. Do you recognize it?

Dessert at house #3

I used garden ornaments from Smith & Hawken on the table: peacocks for whimsy, and mini birdbaths to hold macaroons.

Sucre did the macaroon topiary!

Small pastel bouquets were placed around the sitting room...Tommy's did these too (and all the flowers for all three homes).

Here's a total hint of whose house we are in!

Target handed out swell SWAG bags, that were placed all along the stairway

Of course I styled up the coutyard in this house too. The house is very French, so I chose things from Target accordingly.

Just to remind you of courtyard #3 - Before

Strings of copper shaded lights were festooned overhead, like the ones you often see in courtyards, restaurants, and even over narrow streets in Europe. Ceramic garden stools (from Target) took the place of larger furniture (and they have lights in the bottom!). Zinc lanterns were place around the courtyard. As night fell, I wanted the courtyard to twinkle, to be magical.

I had to "borrow" the linen covered table that was supposed to be the bar for the overflow of dinner guests at courtyard #2. So I used the owner's kithcen table as the bar, with a huge Smith & Hawken copper hose bowl for iced bottles of Proseco, and copper boot trays for glasses.

Courtyard #2 - After

Lights strung overhead were magical

French style peacocks, copper pots, zinc lanterns - all from Smith & Hawken

Styled for a product shot, but still cute for the party

Whew! Just reading all this and looking at all the pictures must have worn you out!!!!

I loved every minute of this project, and I hope you enjoyed a little insight into my work world, and I hope you got some good ideas to use for your next party. Do check out Target and get some of these things. The summer sales are in full swing, and there is still alot of summer entertaining to do.

And speaking of summer entertaining, go on over to Eddie Ross and read about his backyard bash. Alberto and I went to it a year ago!!! How fast another summer has rolled along.

All photos of Art of the Feast by Valorie Hart
Except dessert buffet - photo by Sucre
Read more HERE


Dumbwit Tellher said...

Valorie I could not possibly gush enough about the marvelous job you did styling all 3 courtyards. From the tools on the trellis' to using a S&H copper garden hose bowl to hold ice and bottles of bubbly. The whole event not only looked gorgeous but it sounds like it was a smashing success raising a large amount of money for NOCCA and delighting all who attended. You are yet again a truly impressive, talented lady. Hope your 4th is relaxing because I think you deserve to put your feet up.

xx oo Deb

pve design said...

Insert clapping and a "bravo" to you - I do hope you did not do this all alone....WOW. What a dynamo you are.
Happy 4th and all I want to do is rush out to Target!!

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

I'm with PVE...wanting to run to target with garden stools and copper lights on my mind!

WOWZA! What a project!!

john's mom said...

Love the transformations. Where in the world did you find the tissue paper spheres? They'd be such great decorations for a fund raiser coming up.

Anonymous said...

Great job. Sensational. Now I know where to buy
Smith & Hawken.
Best wishes,

Reggie Darling said...

Valerie: You did a marvelous job times three transforming these courtyards! That must have been a swell party, indeed, and made all the more special by your magical touch. Congrats, and thanks for sharing these photographs. It was fun to meet you at Eddie and Jaithan's party last year. My how time has flown since then, and my how lucky we are! Reggie

Debby said...

Your work is amazing. Those courtyards are wonderful spaces of outdoor living. I would be outside all the time. Thanks for the tour.

katiedid said...

Looks like a fantastic setting for a party! Bravo! I hope a good time was had by I am dashing over to target to get that blue and white throw!

Anonymous said...

Valerie, you never cease to amaze me. What a wonderful eye you have and what creativity. My daughter is getting married next summer and I had hoped to sell her on the idea of the reception and sit down dinner being designed like an English garden. If it can't be done locally, honey you are coming to my town. Splendid job as always.

jlonit said...

You get all the fun jobs!

Mar gar et said...

VV, you use your talents to the max! You made it look effortless...great photos, and lots of work for you to post them. I wanted to buy all of the items--the copper boot trays are gorgeous, and what lovely drink trays!


Fidji said...

Waow, all those courtyards feel like Summer and happy moments !

Fidji from

The Devoted Classicist said...

Fabulous transformations! I am sure the homeowners wanted to keep all the props!

Kwana said...

Valorie what an amazing job you did. I wish I could have walked through each party. Just beautiful. Wow. I need you do spruce up my sad back stone area. Thanks for all the ideas.

Pablo said...

I love all the changes! =) Thanks for sharing!

vicki archer said...

Fantastic transformations Valorie...I love those colourful spheres in the garden....xv

VICTORIA said...

BRAVO!!! what a great transformation! So refreshing,so relaxing Outdoor Views!You really did drastically amazing!thanks for shaing :-)

Janette@the2seasons said...

We have a charming courtyard here at our new digs. I got some great ideas. Thanks so much. I always love seeing what you are up to. Too bad you and your creativity live so far away.

Erica said...

Very sensational! Great job!

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My Notting Hill said...

Valorie - Amazing work! My favorite is the courtyard w/all the colorful paper balls. Great idea for acrylic pool cover. Didn't even know they made those!

Loved the video Alberto made. I've lost 15 pounds since last summer but that picture in Woman's Day will be an eternal reminder to me to keep exercising!

nanne said...

gorgeous. inspiring!!!!!!!!

how in the world did you do the acrylic pool covering???

i love it & love the romantic idea of a floating dinner party. we have a lovely pool (it actually has a stainless interior)..but it takes up a huge space in our yard. would love to copycat you.

nanne, who is still trying to live southern in the heart of the midwest..

Bill said...

Hi Valorie,

Everything here from grand strokes to finely-tuned detail is absolutely stunning! The folks at NOCCA and Target must have been so very pleased with the magic you created, and the guests must have felt very special indeed!

I followed the link to the Eddie Ross blog and watched Alberto's video. You looked great! And I loved that you declined to remove your sunglasses! ;)

It's difficult to believe that it's been almost a year since I was in NOLA. It was such fun meeting you, drying my shirt in your dressing room (if anyone's reading this and saying, "What???," it's OK -- Alberto was there too giving me advice on surviving the New Orleans heat and humidity!), seeing where you work, having brunch in the Garden District. Nice memories!

Congrats on another brilliant styling job!

Bye for now,

anita said...


What amazing work -- I love every single element.


Carol said...

Love what you did. What a great eye you have.

Love the Target products, however, every time I go to Target, they are out of half their stuff like that, and never replenish. I'm still looking for a few more of the outdoor cushions I bought, but no luck. Also wanted to buy an outdoor dining set they advertised, but they were out -- and wouldn't sell the floor model.