New Orleanians' penchant for alfresco entertaining is sometimes curtailed by a dearth of outdoor space. Narrow stoops, cramped courtyards and skinny shotgun lots don't offer much room for guests. For The Art of the Feast, a fundraiser dinner sponsored by Target for the culinary arts program at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) furniture designer Stephanie Grotta and interior decorator Valorie Hart tackled the issue.
Grotta outfitted three courtyards with pieces from Target's outdoor furniture collection Smith & Hawken, comfortably accommodating 50 diners in one intimate courtyard.
"Teak is incredibly dense and has innate properties that allow it to be resistant to insects and mold," Grotta says of the collection. "The (furniture's) joinery methods allow expansion and contraction of the wood, and all our teak comes from sustainably managed forests in Indonesia, which has a similar climate to New Orleans — hot and humid."
The event's ticket sales, furniture auction and donation by Target raised $50,000 for NOCCA. — Missy Wilkinson
Keys to Outdoor Entertaining In Any Space
Smith & Hawken lead designer Stephanie Grotta and interior designer Valorie Hart share their tips.
1. Know how you entertain. If you like serving cocktails and appetizers, consider a lounge-based collection. If you like dinner parties, a dining set is the way to go.
2. Be cognizant of spatial restraints. If your space is 8-by-8 feet or larger, it can handle a dining set. But if it's smaller, look for something more petite, like a bistro set.
3. Understand your budget. Spend as much as you are comfortable with on a core set of outdoor furniture, and build your entertaining set around that.
4. Let the furniture inspire a party's color palette. Hart chose hot jewel tones based on the couch's orange color. If the garden is monochromatic, use bright colors as contrast. If the garden is colorful, consider soft, subdued hues.
5. Lanterns, twinkly lights and candles are tried-and-true lighting options.
6. Use your ceramic and china plates outside. Don't be afraid to mix and match patterns. Use cloth napkins or colorful tea towels, as Hart did.
7. Rental companies can provide extra glasses, flatware and chairs, if needed.