Friday, July 31

Off to Little Rock

I am off to Little Rock to see my friend Tobi Fairley. I will post again on Monday. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 30

Studio Tour: Amanda Talley

I love the way Gerrie Bremermann mixes fabulous contemporary art with traditional antiques. Three artists I discovered while visiting her shop were Ashley Longshore, Julie Silvers and Amanda Talley. I had the pleasure of seeing Amanda’s studio and meeting both Julie and Amanda on Saturday evening (I must meet Ashley on the next trip).

Upon arriving we were greeted by Amanda’s adorable dogs Phil and Don. A Louisiana native, Amanda graduated with a MFA in Painting from Savannah College of Art and Design. When Amanda first came to New Orleans she landed a job with Gerrie Bremermann. Her work has been widely featured on blogs, in shelter magazines and Gerrie’s many projects. You can also learn more about Amanda on Style Court. Enjoy the photos.

Tuesday, July 28

Frances and Rodney Smith

The charming Soniat House is one of the most acclaimed luxury boutique hotels in New Orleans. It has been named by Travel and Leisure as "one of the best hotels in the world" and it's been included in Michael Kors' New Orleans Address Book.

The hotel was created twenty years ago by combining three historic Creole town-houses in the quiet residential section of the French Quarter. Two of the houses were built in 1830 by Joseph Soniat, a plantation owner who needed a house in New Orleans when visiting with his large family. Just four years later his oldest son built an even larger house. The three have since become one.

While in New Orleans we were treated to a tour of the splendid Soniat House. However, before the hotel tour, owners Frances and Rodney Smith were gracious enough to give us a grand tour of their beautiful home decorated by Nicky Haslam. One of the worlds most distinguished interior designers, and renowned for his opulent interiors, Nicky's work had been published in Architectural Digest, World of Interiors, Vogue, House and Garden, Elle Décor and Traditional Home. Notice the jib door leading to the dining room.

The remarkable hotel renovation by Rodney and Frances Smith has won every local award imaginable, as well as national praise for its sensitive design and the striking guest rooms.

The glorious details—spiral stairs, balconies and patios are all original. Courtyards explode with lush sweet olive, magnolia, guava and ginger.

Rodney and Frances travel the world selecting just the right antiques for their beautiful hotel and their antiques shop, Soniat Antiques.

Soniat Antiques has been featured in Architectural Digest, Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and Town and Country. The collection is primarily 18th and early 19th century French furniture and decorative accessories, including a superb collection of Italian lighting, both sconces and chandeliers. Soniat Antiques and Soniat House are a MUST stop on your next trip to the Big Easy.

Monday, July 27

Profile: Julie Neill

I love the way blogging brings like minded individuals together each day. Through this remarkable medium I am offered a privileged glimpse into the hearts, minds, homes and work of those I admire. Over the past two and a half years I have had the honor of meeting countless people through this amazing phenomena, and yet there is still something wonderfully surreal about meeting in person.

During our tour of Magazine Street we stopped by the shop of Julie Neill. Expecting our arrival, Julie was waiting at the door with open arms and a hug. It was very much like reuniting with an old friend. Since discovering Julie’s blog last year, I have become a fan of her elegant hand created chandeliers and sconces. What a delight to see them with my own eyes, they are even more beautiful than I imagined.

After obtaining a Fine Arts degree from Agnes Scott College Julie pursued a career as a painter but found painting on canvas confining. She began painting other objects including walls, fabrics and furniture. Before long she began freelancing and selling her decorative creations. After several clients asked for her help in finding unique pieces for their homes, Julie began a second career as an interior decorator.

Frustrated with being unable to find the right chandeliers for clients, she found a few talented craftsmen to create lighting made to her specification. Julie followed by opening her shop on Magazine Street in 2000. “It is a dream come true. I get to be my creative self all day long and I have so many interesting clients who inspire me to come up with more and more fabulous ideas.” I can attest, Julie's designs are truly fabulous indeed!

We followed the tour of her showroom with a brief look at her design studio just down the street. It was fun and fascinating to see her chandeliers in various stages of development. She also shared with us some of the details of an exciting new collaboration that she will launch in the near future. Stay tuned for more details...

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
The love and inspiration of my beautiful family and amazing friends.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Gerrie Bremermann, the goddess of New Orleans interior design.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Sharing a meal, a relaxing afternoon or an adventure with my children.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Taking time to slow down and experience the small beautiful details of living on this earth. To truly look into someone's eyes while talking with them, to notice the intricate symmetry of a flower, to close your eyes and listen to a beautiful piece of music, to feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face or the embrace of someone you love.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
At present, my new business partner, Shawn O'Brien is most influential in the direction of my life because we are in the process of collaborating on creating a series of new fabulous pieces of furniture and lighting which will be shown and available in our new store, N+O, on Magazine Street.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
Absolutely the city in which I live: New Orleans. I am inspired every day and in every way by the history which is still so very present in our city today. The architecture, the antique shops, the historic neighborhoods, the unbelievable cuisine, the redolent tropical ambiance, the cast of characters, the plethora of art and artists, the luxurious slow pace of life, the decorative fantasy of Mardi Gras, and the importance placed on the creation of a home are all things that stir my creativity and inspire my designs.

I'm so happy that you got to experience some of this first-hand while you were here.

What is your most prized possession?
My iconic New Orleans 130-year-old double shotgun camel-back house where I live with my two children surrounded by the most wonderful neighbors anywhere.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Athena, goddess of Wisdom, Reason and Purity, Patroness of the arts and Protector of Cities. She was both powerful and fashionable and inspired the construction of the Parthenon, the most perfect building ever built.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without
The love and inspiration of my beautiful family and amazing friends.

Sunday, July 26

Soup on Sunday: Chilled Avocado + Cucumber

I have a huge weakness for avocados, especially in the summer. Normally I resort to salads in the warmer months, but 100+ temperatures prompted me to experiment in the kitchen yesterday. The result: a yummy and refreshing soup.

2 - 3 ripe large California avocados
4 medium cucumbers
4 scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 - 8 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
juice of one lemon or lime
32 oz Nonfat Plain Organic Yogurt
Tabasco to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup cold water

Peel, seed and roughly chop cucumbers. Peel, remove pit and quarter avocados. Cut scallions into large pieces. In a blender purée all ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Add more water or lemon juice if needed.

Serve soup garnished with coriander. Lump crab, if available, would be super yummy! Chill for at least 2 hours.

Serves 6 - 8

Saturday, July 25

Shopping on Saturday: Magazine Street

I spent the better part of last Saturday touring the amazing shops on Magazine Street. I can unequivocally state that Magazine Street is all that I hoped it would be, and one day is NOT enough time! This wonderful “emporium of shops” is 6 miles long. There is so much to see and so little time. Michael, our tour guide and partner in crime, managed to pack a punch in just a few hours.

After our whirlwind tour of Magazine Street, Michael and Quinn hosted a cocktail party that evening in our honor to meet the many shop owners, artists and designers that call New Orleans home. I've included a few of the stops we managed last Saturday, suffice it to say I will need to plan another trip very soon.

Ann Koerner's shop, hands down, is one of my favorites. In part it has much to do with Anne. Not only does she select a beautiful mix of French, American, Italian, Swedish, regional and decorative objects and antiques, she is a lovely person.

4021 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Mac Maison LTD has amassed one of the most amazing collections of chandeliers imaginable. Specializing in 18th and 19th century antiques, chandeliers, sconces, mantles, gates and other architectural artifacts and ornamentations, Mac Maison LTD is a visual treat for the eyes.

Mac Maison LTD
3963 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

I was delighted to visit Hal Williamson's shop. Hal has been a favorite of mine for many years. His stunning store features beautifully selected French and Continental antiques and fine quality reproductions. Hal recently collaborated on the Low Country Luxe "New Orleans" Scented Candle that is carried in his shop - it is a MUST have!

Williamson Design
3646 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Thursday, July 23

Profile: Nadine Blake

Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person alive. Since launching All the Best I have had the privilege of meeting some really amazing and wonderful people. Many I have 'known' through books, magazines or emails. However, on occasion, you meet a 'stranger' with whom you feel an instant attraction.

Such is the case with Nadine Blake. After arriving in New Orleans we made our way to the French Quarter for an afternoon of shopping, touring, cafe' au lait and beignets. One of our first stops, as highly recommended by Quinn and Michael, was the delightful shop owned by Nadine Blake. All of the accolades were true, her shop is a treasure trove and we clicked instantly.

Prior to moving to New Orleans, Nadine and her husband Simon lived in New York (a friend and neighbor of Amanda Nisbet - small world). After taking a few interior design classes in New York, Nadine's work caught the eye of Alexa Hampton. After an interview with Mark Hampton LLC, Nadine joined the firm. "Working with Alexa was wonderful, I immediately felt as if I were home. We are still friends to this day," says Nadine.

It's easy to see why they are still friends. Nadine is not only a genial host, she is a great storyteller with an infectious smile. I especially loved hearing her reminisce about the pink 'office' phone that once belonged to her grandmother.

On Sunday Nadine and her husband Simon invited me, Chris, Quinn and Michael for Pimms on the balcony of their beautiful French Quarter home, before heading off to Galatoire's for dinner. During cocktails the conversation turned to the amazing apartment belonging to Thomas Jayne. I lamented the fact that I was to email Thomas when I traveled to New Orleans for a tour of his apartment, but sadly I forgot. During my last conversation with Thomas he mentioned that a friend held his key. As it turned out, Nadine is that friend!!

After a quick phone call to Thomas, arrangements were made to stop by the apartment after dinner. The apartment was purchased two months before Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully, being eight feet above sea level there was no flooding. The wall paper in the dining room is beyond fabulous! And we were lucky to have Nadine as a tour guide.

I hope you enjoy the photos of Nadine's home and her answers as much as I enjoyed writing this post.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
Art; travel; fashion; movies; nature ... I could go on and on.

Which talent would you most like to possess
It would be awfully fun to deliver witty ripostes `a la Winston (Churchill), Dorothy (Parker), and Oscar (Wilde) but I'd settle for better short-term memory.

What is your most prized possession?
I'm extremely fickle. Today it's a Polaroid SX-70 camera and a few remaining boxes of film.

Who is your hero of fiction
When I was young I was obsessed with the glamorous, girl sleuth Nancy Drew. Presently, I'm in admiration of the level-headed Mma Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. And no doubt I'll find the dithering Miss Marple positively charming in my later years.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
To paraphrase John Lennon, all I need is love.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project
It's a toss-up between Desmond Guinness and Daphne Guinness.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Bolter by Frances Osborne; The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Diana Cooper; Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters by John Richardson.

What is your favorite luxury in life
Subscriptions to foreign magazines and the time to pore over them.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have managed to surround myself with a coterie of very good people (both friends and family). They inspire me, challenge me, cheer me up and calm me down - they're cheaper than therapy.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Brits and grits.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life
My husband, Simon. Every day I aspire toward his creativity and his kindness.

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
Elvis Costello, at home, with pots of tea followed by bottles of red wine.

Nadine Blake
1036 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70116-2704
(504) 529-4913

*So many have asked about the pet pillows, just give Nadine a call for more details, she is a doll!

Profile by Ronda Carman/Photos by Christopher Carman

Wednesday, July 22

Gerrie Bremermann

It all started with a little book. Accents on Accessories: Ideas and Inspirations from Southern Accents, published in the fall of October 1995, to be exact. It was then I fell madly in love with the work of New Orleans designer Gerrie Bremermann.

I have followed Gerrie's career for years, collecting every possible image of her work. So, you can only imagine my delight when we were invited to her shop on Saturday. Gerrie, a friend of Quinn and Michael, welcomed us with open arms. Despite suffering a cold, she was completely delightful and gracious. It was a true gift to hear Gerrie talk about her latest project and be given the chance to photograph her shop.

Still whirling from all of the weekend excitement, my joy was only elevated today after a long morning phone call with Gerrie and promises to meet again.

Often referred to as the Grande Dame of the "new" New Orleans, Gerrie masterfully mixes warm fruitwoods, airy antiques, contemporary art and stunning chandeliers. Whites, creams and ivories, with a punch of color from artwork, are hallmarks of her inimitable style. "Some people ask why I choose the same colors over and over again. The answer is simple, because they are timeless and they work." I absolutely agree. If you are in New Orleans, Bremermann Design on Magazine Street is not to be missed. It's one of the very best.

Bremermann Designs
3943 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Phone: 504-891-7763
Fax: 504-891-7765

Photos by Christopher Carman

Monday, July 20

Home Tour: Dr. Quinn Peeper & Michael Harold

The word gracious only begins to scratch the surface when describing Quinn Peeper, Michael Harold and their amazing New Orleans home. Chris and I were so very fortunate to have such delightful hosts and tour guides for the weekend. Quinn and Michael have the unique talent of making guests feel simultaneously at home, relaxed, spoiled and honored.

It's wonderful to see a city through the eyes of a local, especially if it's New Orleans native Michael Harold. To say that Michael, who grew up in New Orleans, seems to know everyone would be a monumental understatement. As we walked down Magazine Street cars would honk, passersby would wave, and shops owners offered huge, friendly hellos.

Over the weekend we were introduced to a colorful cast of characters. NOLA has certainly cast a spell, and I can't wait to share the raw talent and energy of the city with all of you. I will be devoting this week to the fabulous Crescent City. Enjoy the photos of Quinn and Michael's home.

Quinn and Michael at the Soniat House in the French Quarters, en route to Galatoire's for dinner.