“Isn’t this exquisite!” exclaimed 4-year-old Sarah Heebe as she stepped inside the luminous Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant during her first trip to Paris. Today, nearly 10 years later, the adjective still prompts a giggle from mother Jennifer, father Fred, and twin sister Anna. The memory remains so dear that it inspired the theme for another family milestone, Jennifer’s 50th birthday celebration.
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In the foyer, a Louis XVI giltwood mirror and marble-top console speak to Jennifer’s love of all things French.
Big hugs for Jennifer’s husband, Fred.
Working with event designer Kenny LaCour of Grand Events and floral designer Stephen Sonnier of Dunn and Sonnier Antiques & Flowers, Jennifer re-created the sparkling ambience of the hotel’s famed restaurant inside a clear-topped tent on the sprawling front lawn of her New Orleans home. Built in the Beaux Arts style by architect Emile Weil in 1907 and redesigned in 2009 by interior designer Gerrie Bremermann and landscape architect Mary Palmer Dargan, the home (also known as the Benjamin Monroe House) has hosted its fair share of social and philanthropic events but none quite as “exquisite” as the 155-guest dinner dance that took place last December.
Crystal chandeliers, billowy white branches dripping with prisms, Chiavari chairs, and dining tables draped in creamy linen tablecloths created the perfect backdrop for wintry wonder and merriment beneath a canopy of centuries-old live oak trees. In lieu of traditional flower arrangements on the tables, Sonnier designed “runners” made from garlands of boxwood embellished with seasonal blooms in varying shades of white, including amaryllis, peonies, and open ‘O’Hare’ and ‘Patience’ roses.
“The flowers were not only beautiful but were brilliantly designed for conversation,” Jennifer says. “The runners hugged the tabletops, and the candelabras towered above them so you could talk to the person across from you without talking directly into the décor.”
The place settings—china, sterling flatware, and crystal from Jennifer’s own collection—added elegance and meaning to the festivities. She began acquiring ‘a fork here and a flute there’ during college and, over time, amassed an impressive assemblage of antique, heirloom, and new pieces from the flea markets outside Paris and the auction houses of New Orleans and New York.
“It meant so much to me to incorporate these pieces into the evening,” she says. “Each one reminds me of the person who gave it to me or the place or time that I discovered it. Birthdays are a celebration of life, and my collections are a part of my story.”
Produced and written by Margaret Zainey Roux | Photography by James Shaw and Eugenia Uhl