Styling the best Provencal party !

Back when we first opened our shop, we had yet to learn about So Cal life style …and adapt to it which took us years . We had no concept of couch TV dinners , buckets of fried chicken take out , drive through lunches . No matter what day of the week , it would not even cross our mind not to set up a table for dinner …we wouldn’t put up grandma antique silver and fine gold trimmed Limoges china but it would definitely be sit down , with a tablecloth and napkins . Do I have to specify cloth napkins ? Yes cloth not paper napkins …yes every day and actually lunch and dinner !

When we entertained, then we actually made an effort to coordinate the linens , the flowers and the food, all with effortless refined style : it’s what Provence is all about , this country casual elegance and we wanted to share this with our clients by importing the nicest earthenware from Uzes ( not only hand made but dipped in the glaze by hand, giving it this rich thickness and uneven subtle tones ) , exceptional cutlery by master Laguiole craftsman and hand blown glasses from Biot . The latest trend was to use a “boutis ” a thin quilt as a tablecloth for a rustic look . We were hunting flea markets to bring back antique linen napkins which I was dyeing in colors to match our bubbled glasses or tablecloths . It looked romantic , chic yet country . Of course none of these dishes and glasses were dishwasher safe, the linen napkins had to be ironed and these were 2 concepts we realized quickly did not fit SoCal lifestyle too well …

Here , I had layered the quilt over an antique linen sheet and dyed the antique tablecloth in burgundy to match the plates and quilt
Antique linen napkins dyed in pale blue to coordinate with the Biot glasses
Here in mustard yellow just like our traditional Dieulefit plates and wood handle Laguiole cutlery
Sunday table on a beautiful quilted tablecloth from Souleiado topped with a sheer organdi patterned cloth from Blanc d’Ivoire

But to most people in San Diego this was way more formal than their most formal setting…until one day a client came in and just LOVED my table setting . She understood its casual elegance … and nobody had done this here before ! She asked me to style her party and I was ecstatic !

It was going to be a special dinner for special guests and Lynn wanted to give them an authentic Provencal experience . Not only we had to supply all the table setting pieces and style the table but she wanted me to consult with her team of lighting people from Hollywood , the florist and chef to make sure even the flowers and menu would be authentic . This was very intimidating and with my poor English I wasn’t sure I could communicate my ideas properly but nevertheless it happened . It was the most magical evening and I bet memorable for the lucky 12 guests .

Last briefing with master chef Andrew Spurgin , last touch up before guests arrived to the Fairbanks Ranch Country club by hot air balloons …

It was going to be a candle lit dinner; the chandelier was covered with fresh aromatic rosemary and flowers were simple lavender bundles.

It’s show time ! Lynn had asked me to welcome her guests … I guess I was part of the authenticity of the party , but mainly I realize she wanted them to understand how special this dinner was going to be without being over the top opulent in every way . While they were eating , we hung back in the outdoor kitchen tent set up for the occasion . The food was spectacular and this evening will forever be in our memories as our first big gig .

Bread baskets were pieces of art , hand woven earthenware decorated with tiny flowers ; the antique silverware was not as ornate as Lynn’s personal sterling, it just had a little motif on the back as we set them facing down in France . You would normally not display the cutlery on the plates as I did but we wanted to really showcase them , in particular the knives that were special ordered from Laguiole . The solid horn handles were a rare light color not the most common mixed marbled tones . It was more elegant and blended so well with the color palette of Celadon greys . I had hand written the menus scrolls and place cards .

The whole look was to mix : white and cream to show the scalloped edge plates, cream and celadon pieces to accent like the cicadas napkin rings and pitcher . Compared to American standard, everything was a scale down specially the glasses were true French size were you serve ice cold water without a tone of ice cubes.

The fun story behind this event is something personal I never shared before …In France we always were considered to be “Originaux ” original , uncommon, who never do what’s normal or expected, a bit odd in a weird or positive way ?! I guess we kind of are … For example when we moved to San Diego, we needed to buy a car but Pascal had left behind in France his beloved vintage car so instead of buying a regular car he spotted a 1954 Porsche 356 at a great price . He would need to restore it but that is also his passion . Next thing you know he shook hands and we owned it. Obviously the paint was so bad we could step on the roof no problem and the original 1954 interior was pretty shabby ! We nicknamed her “the tomato ” and did everything with her : transformed it into a jungle on nursery trips, bought a lawn mover and made it fit inside , groceries AND business meetings….

That’s when the 2 stories come together . I had to meet with Lynn and all those Hollywood professionals in Rancho Santa Fe . So I dressed for my business meeting and went …in my “Tomato”. Only problem was , she would never start again when it was time to leave and I had to ask the same Hollywood people to push me to jump start my funky car !

Before you knew it , it was July and we wanted to throw a Bastille day Party for all those new friends , neighbors , clients who had helped us during our first few months as San Diegans. I cooked for days : french pâtés, vegetable terrines , quiches, tarts… It was a Sunday afternoon ; we took all the chairs we had in the shop out in the front yard as well as small tables and picnic blankets.

Our friend Chris looking so French with our old bicycle !

What we had not expected was that anybody walking around that day would come inside our little back apartment , checking every room , eating all the food I had prepared thinking this was an other Sunday Open House !

I hope you enjoyed these never before told stories behind our very first year in San Diego ! If you do not follow our blog yet , please click on the follow button so you will be notified when I post a new story .

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