Design Your Life. That was the theme of this year's New Orleans Home & Garden Show—and a timely one at that. Four years after Katrina and the spirit of this great city is once again on the rise, proving everyday that it's the people and their tireless commitment to home, and all it represents, that will rebuild, renew, and restore New Orleans. For this year's show, I was asked to design a room that would showcase both participating vendors and stores around town. With spring finally here, and a personal passion for entertaining, I chose to do a dining room inspired by the season. After last month’s scouting trip, gathering images of furniture and accessories, Jaithan, Jordan and I touched down in New Orleans early last week and headed straight for the Superdome. Here’s what the room looked like when we arrived.


As you can see, I had divided the space into two rooms with windows separating one from the other. The dining room was the focal point of the design; the other, which we’ll post about shortly, was a small consultation space to greet visitors. For the wall color in the dining room, I chose a pretty lavender (Sanctuary AF-620) from Benjamin Moore’s new Aura line. And to bring a little sophistication to the palette, I trimmed the space all in gray (Storm AF-700). Now with such en empty shell of a room, I wanted to begin by injecting a bit of local history in the form of a fireplace. Older shotgun houses in New Orleans typically had smaller rooms, and so the scale of this mantel we'd spotted at Antiques & Wholesale Furnishings would be perfect! Not only will it add much-needed architectural detail to the room, it will also provide plenty of space for display. Chippy's great in the right context, but this piece would need a paint job, for sure.    


As soon as I saw this gorgeous Swedish secretary at Perch during the scouting trip on Magazine Street, I knew I had to have it! It's one of those rare pieces so versatile, it could easily go from library to living room, bedroom to dining room. I can even see it in a master bath with beautifully stacked towels and an assortment of antique apothecary jars filled with sponges, cotton balls, and Q-tips. Thankfully, my new friends at Perch—Caroline, Jack and the deliciously vampish Valorie Hart—were so incredibly generous to lend us not only the secretary but also… 


this show-stopping piece, an antique pedestal dining table wrapped entirely in zinc! I love its classic lines updated with a modern material.      

Zinc wrapped dining table - 3

And with these sleek, black Chippendale chairs ($125 each from Hopkins Boulevard Home Accents), I think the combination strikes just the right balance of traditional and modern, industrial and refined. 


With the last-minute addition of these beautiful faux bamboo benches from our friends Sylvia, Jay, and Bruce at Georgian Furnishing, just across the street from the Jefferson Highway Flea Market, we had all the furniture we needed. And now, for my favorite part—the propping!


That's where Aaron (such a sweetheart!) at Top Drawer Antiques helped save the day. Without his generosity, and carte blanche to borrow just about anything I wanted from his gorgeous collection of antique tabletop, I really don't know what I would have done! Accessories like this stunning Heisey punch bowl are the details that will give this dining room life! When I first saw this piece on the scouting trip, I knew right away I wanted it for the center of the table, filled with a lush, beautiful fern.


Once it's all polished up, this English silverplate urn is going to look great in the secretary.


The silverware I found, while a common pattern, can definitely be dressed up if paired with more elegant china and glassware.


Speaking of, I love the classic shape of this set for wine. They'll mix in well with other glasses for water, and the vine etchings are perfect for spring.


What's a dining room without candles, especially these elegant tapers our friends at Creative Candles sent over? Flea markets and even good antique stores are full of single candlesticks; problem is, onsies can look lonely on such a large table, so I like to group them together. It's like an instant collection without all the work! And this Heisey drink set, silver overlay over crystal, will make another great addition to the secretary. 


Finally, this gorgeous pair of fluted column alabaster lamps are the perfect size and shape for the top of the mantel, but the shades make them feel so dusty and dated. Nothing a trip to Wal-Mart for shades like this and a can of spray paint can't fix!


WIth all the shopping done, it was time to head back to the Dome. First, we laid down the rug, an inexpensive sisal
from Lowe's, put the table in place, then mounted the fireplace to the


With the furniture in place and accessories washed, it was time to dress up the windows with a little designer DIY!


First, we laid out these bamboo roman shades from Lowe's. The texture's great; the color, not so much. But like I always say, when in doubt, paint it out! In this case, I wanted to do white with wide gray stripes to match the trim, just to give the room a more custom feel without spending a lot of money. So while I did the first set…


Jordan did the second. 


And voilà! Boring bamboo shades turn decorator glam!


The room's definitely coming together now! As in our old apartment back in the city, we mirrored the fireplace with tiles from Lowe's, then hung plates from Top Drawer on either side.    


They're 1940s Bavarian with a modern shape and a rim of timeworn gold paired with a pretty, pale celadon.


In fact, timeworn figures prominently in this room. For me, the theme for this year's show-—Design Your Life—was all about creating a home, however new, that feels as though it's been there for years. With the mix of new and old furniture, together with the antique china, glass and silver, I feel like this dining room really could exist in somebody's home. It's elegant but livable with a wow factor that comes not from garish colors and gimmicky tricks but from the subtle details that give a house history. And that, I feel, is what New Orleans, and its great people, as they continue to furnish and decorate their homes, need the most.  


And finally, after all the hard work from the team, including both Jaithan and Jordan, here's the finished room! 


As an editor, I tried very hard to come up with ideas that people
really could learn from and do themselves. Above all, spend where it counts! The
expensive pieces, like the table and secretary, while certainly worth
their price, should also serve to inspire. Maybe you have an
old piece of furniture you want to wrap in metal or a dusty antique in
the attic you could faux finish and paint. Then, once you've spent the
money where it matters, fill in with less expensive items: a rug and
blinds from Lowe's, lampshades from Wal-Mart, and a starburst metal mirror from Target. But whatever you do, make it your own and most important, have fun! I know we did.