Thomas Hamel Birthday Party on Capri

Gina Lollobrigida

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Grab your Limoncello, doll, and let us tell you about internationally-known interior designer and author Thomas Hamel’s chic birthday party on the Italian isle of Capri. Talk about la dolce vita, baby.

La fête: A birthday party to celebrate Thomas’s milestone birthday. Incidentally, his debut furniture collection for Jean de Merry will be featured in the September 2014 issue of Elle Decor. Here’s a sneak peek just for you, amore.

L’ambiance: The celebration began with a garden party in Capri’s historic Gardens of Augustus followed by a boat ride to the beautiful Conca de Songa restaurant for lunch by the sea. Later, a stylish poolside supper was held at Capri’s La Scalinatella Hotel.

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Le décor: Allowing Capri’s magnificent natural beauty to set the tone, Thomas added simple, elegant and tasteful touches like large baskets filled with the same local herbs that were used in the meal. Sprigs were also used to garnish the place settings. The dinner tables were adorned simply with glass hurricanes and Capri’s famous local lemons.

Thomas Hamel

En vue: In addition to Thomas and his partner, George Massar – both such dapper gents, we spied a chic crowd of international socials from New York and Nashville to Vienna and London. They included Capri icon, Renee Myers; Australian philanthropist, Fiona Myer; Australian financier, Simon Cary and stylist, Howard Steeves; interior designer, Kate Hume; photographer and furniture designer Frans van der Heyden; interior designer, Tamsin Johnson with her husband Patrick, founder of the eponymous bespoke tailoring company; Australian television personality, Chyka Keebaugh; and Brent Wallace, founder of the chic luxury travel blog, Where’s Brent Been? 

J’adored: Given Thomas’s talent for creating perfect, well-edited environments, we were not surprised by the refined less-is-more elegance that carried seamlessly through every element of the party. We were particularly ga-ga over the invitations and the custom-made leather and canvas bags that were gifted to each guest.

Perfetto, baby. Buon compleanno, Thomas.

Introductory photo: Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon & Sheba (1959)
Introductory quote: Mae West


Madame Helvétius

3-Mme Helvetius Doll, come on in and let us tell you about a gorgeous dame who had great panache, lived life to the fullest and threw a heckuva party. Madame Helvétius was her name, but let’s call her “Minette” (which means pussycat en français) as all of her close friends did. Not only did Minette have a very successful 18th century salon – even Napoléon was a guest! – but our gal also set prominent tongues wagging across the pond by capturing the heart of one of our own Founding Fathers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Anne-Catherine de Ligniville d’Autricourt was born in France July 23, 1722, one of 21 children of Jean-Jacques de Ligniville and his wife Charlotte de Saureau. At the relatively late age of 29, Minette married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed quite a fortune as a tax collector. The couple settled in the tony Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette began her salon, which included some of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment.

Claude HelvétiusClaude Adrien Helvétius

Among the habitués of Madame Helvétius’s salon were our old salonniere friends, Julie de Lespinasse and Suzanne Necker (both of whom you’ve met, doll), great writers like Diderot and Volney, thinkers including Condorcet, d’Holbach, Turgot and Buffon and scientists like d’Alembert, Lavoisier, Cuvier and Cabanis. It was a veritable who’s who of Paris society. Others who would drop by included politicians like Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who was quite the ladies man, doll, but we’ll get to that.

These salons were put on with such éclat and whimsy that it was not surprising to see in attendance all 18 of Minette’s prized Angora cats, dressed to the nines in their silk ribbons. It was also not unusual, évidemment, for Madame’s dogs and canaries to attend, because everyone should get into the salon spirit according to Minette.

Monsieur Helvétius died in 1771 after 20 years of marriage, and Minette carried on with her salons, choosing never to remarry. But our gal had no shortage of suitors. Madame was said to have been so beautiful that a 100-year-old man paid one of the most famous compliments of the era: Ah, Madame, if I were only 80 again.

AuteuilAn old postcard of Auteuil, which was also home to Victor Hugo and Molière 

In her 60s, Minette made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, who was serving as the US ambassador to France, and it was not long before he became smitten. Rumor has it he even proposed marriage. They were avid letter writers and Franklin, who affectionately called our gal “Notre Dame,” wrote this to her in one of them: If Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights.

4-benjamin_franklinBenjamin Franklin

Quite saucy, n’est ce pas? But not everyone succumbed to Minette’s charms. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, was shocked by Minette’s behavior when she met her at a dinner in France following the successful negotiation of the Treaty of Paris. In correspondence, Abigail noted scathingly that our gal kissed Franklin on the cheeks and forehead when she greeted him, held his hand during dinner and occasionally threw her arm around his neck: I should have set her down for a very bad one altho 60 years of age and a widow. I own I was highly disgusted and never wish for an acquaintance with any ladies of this cast

Madame Helvétius died at Auteuil in August of 1800. But what a life she lived, doll, so full of exuberance.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Raucous Royals

Sally Award: Taylor Swift

mgid-uma-image-mtvThis week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Taylor Swift who looked dynamite in a red and blush-hued Monique Lhuillier gown at the August 11th New York premiere of The Giver. Our first two-time Sally Award winner, the super-chic Swift paired the gown, part of Lhuillier’s Resort 2015 collection, with sleek and elegant nude pumps from Casadei.

Taylor-Swift-The-Giver-New-York-PremiereSwift kept her jewelry modern and minimal with a Sylva & Cie ring and pink quartz Brumani earrings. Her flawless make up – featuring her signature black liner and red lip – and Veronica-Lake-inspired side-swept ‘do had us goo-goo eyed and proves that old Hollywood is very much alive in young Hollywood.

"The Giver" New York Premiere - ArrivalsTrès bonne, Miss Swift. Until next time.

What do you think about Taylor’s party look? Come on over to our party on Facebook and let us know, doll.

RSVP: Alexa Hampton

Alexa HamptonPull up a chair, doll. You’re just in time to meet our fabulously chic friend, Alexa Hampton, a world-renowned interior designer and the president of Mark Hampton, the design firm founded by her late father, one of the all-time great interior designers. A perennial member of Architectural Digest’s AD100 and House Beautiful‘s Top Designers list as well as a member of Elle Decor’s A-List, Alexa is also the author of two fabulous books on interior design. Talk about talent running in the family. As if that weren’t enough, Alexa, who told us she wishes she could go back in time to attend a Parisian artists’ salon in the late 1800s, was also named one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s “fun, fearless females.” Clearly, she’s our kind of dame. So, what do you say, sugar? How ’bout we raise a cold glass of red wine – we’ll explain – and listen in as our friend and designer-extraordinaire spills her secrets on everything from how to make your home a great entertaining space to her favorite dinnerware collections.

Your entertaining style?
I like lots of wine and loud laughter and not being too dressy. And I love beautiful surroundings.

Best or most memorable party you’ve ever attended?
My wedding in Greece was pretty great. Four hundred people on a cliff overlooking the Aegean with a full moon, fireworks, DJ Johnny Dynell, lots of wine and shots passed around on the dance floor. We dance the danced night away until 7:30 am.

Alexa Hampton

Alexa with her husband, Pavlos Papageorgiou 

Dream dinner partner?
My father. I’d like to see him, kiss him, hug him and tell him all about his grandchildren.

How do you stay party ready?
I always have to go out beforehand. There’s always wine at our house but, unless my guests were to want chicken noodle soup, Cheerios or egg white omelets, I’m unprepared. I’d run out for olives, hunks of Parmesan and Manchego, some Brie, rice crackers, a baguette, broccoli rabe, sausages, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Boston Bibb lettuce and porterhouse steaks on the bone. My husband is our house chef and he is fantastic!

Best way to make your home a great entertaining space?
Have lots of chairs kicking around in corners. Beyond that, be happy. If the host is relaxed and happy, the guests always have a better time.

Alexa Hampton

Room by Alexa Hampton

Your top tip for getting your home party ready?
My best tip is to have your house look great all the time, full stop. Have candlesticks and a centerpiece of some kind permanently located on your dining table. That way you’ll be ready to go. Just grab some fresh flowers on the way home.

Best conversation piece in your home?
My husband. He is really fun and always keeps the party going…until he falls asleep, sometimes even at the dinner table. Our friends have come to expect it. At that point, I take over. I’m the night owl.

Let’s play favorites…
Color – My favorites are expanding. Blue is the longest standing one. Purple is a new fave.
Flower – Anemones
Champagne – I’m not a huge champagne person. I invariably get a headache from it. However, Veuve Cliquot is nice. I also like Krug.
Linens – Leontine Linens

Leontine Linens

Monogrammed cocktail napkins from Leontine Linens

Party food – Bread and cheese, pigs in a blanket, cheddar cheese burgers, Pasta Bolognese, cheese soufflé and caviar pie
Cocktail – Red wine on ice. Repulsive, I know, but I love it.
Dishes – Aptware. I’m also in love with Spode’s Greek and Queen Charlotte patterns.
Glassware – Baccarat Harmonie, and I love – but don’t have – Puiforcat’s silver champagne goblets

Baccarat HarmonieHarmonie by Baccarat

Party resource – Glorious Foods caterers
Comfy shoe for dancing – Prada sky-high heels are, strangely, very comfortable.
Party dress designer – Oscar de la Renta or Issa
Hostess gift – A bottle of wine or champagne.

Three party pet-peeves?
If I’ve gotten myself so stressed out that I’m sweaty
If it rains and there’s no cover
If I forgot I was going to a party on grass and I’ve worn the kind of heels that sink into the dirt

Three party must-haves?
Good company
Good music
Good food and drink

What will you wish for this year when you blow out your birthday candles?
Another year of health and happiness for my family and friends.

We’ll drink to that. Thanks, doll, for stopping by.

How to Host a Classic New England Clambake

Every one of you listening to my voice, tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking. Keep watching the skies.

Nothing says summer like a New England-style clambake with all the traditional fixings: steamed lobsters, clams, corn on the cob and a sunset. But clambakes are also a wonderful way to entertain in the early fall. In fact, Susan Warner, the founder of Nantucket Clambake Company, a leading catering firm that has been serving up traditional New England clambakes for more than 25 years, says September is her favorite time of year for clambakes. Says Warner, “September sunsets are spectacular.” For nature’s great encore, we recommend scheduling your clambake around a full moon. Moonlight is the perfect party lighting.

Clambake under the moonClambakes have a long history in North America. It is believed that the practice was originated more than 2,000 years ago by Native American tribes in the New England area who cooked lobsters and clams in sand pits lined with seaweed and hot rocks. Passed down through the generations, the tradition continues to be an important part of our heritage, history and culture.

Winslow Homer, A Clam-BakeWinslow Homer’s A Clam-Bake, 1873 

While there is nothing as beautiful as a clambake on the beach, backyard clambakes can be just as fabulous. The key is to serve traditional fare and use seaside touches in your décor. Try nautical rope down the center of a long table, driftwood for name cards, ball jars and driftwood hurricanes for candles, linens in a sandy hue or nautical stripe and plenty of shells. Of course, it won’t hurt to have a nice glass of rosé in hand and a glorious sunset in view.

ClambakeTable for 80 by the window? No problem, darlin’. Right this way.

  • Clambake place setting
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  • Clambake under the moon

Introductory photo: Lana Turner
Introductory quote: The Thing (1953)

Clambake photos by Nate Coe for Carla McDonald

The Sally Award: Charlotte Le Bon

This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Canadian model-turned-actress Charlotte Le Bon at the New York premiere of her new film, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Held at the Ziegfeld Theater last Monday, the stunning 27-year-old looked youthful yet sophisticated in a sheer and lace bell-sleeved dress from Elie Saab’s Pre-Fall 2014 Collection. Charlotte echoed the geometric lines of the pretty white frock with strappy white stilettos that added both an innocent and slightly edgy touch to the look.

We also went a bit doll dizzy about Charlotte’s glamorous side-parted hair, simple eye make up, soft berry lip, and berry-colored floral button earrings. All seem so effortless, but these well-chosen touches complemented the silhouette, texture and style of the dress perfectly. Doll, this week, Charlotte proved that she certainly is le bon.

What did you think about Charlotte’s look? Post a comment on our Facebook page, won’t you?

Tipsy Tuesday: 10 Best Party Wines

Oh Beulah…peel me a grape.

À santé, mes chéries. It’s Tuesday here at The Salonniere, and you know what that means – it’s time to get tipsy. Today, we’ve invited 10 food and wine experts to share their favorite summer party wines – wines that are refreshing, delicious and versatile but also affordable enough to serve at soirées. You’ll never believe that these nifty and thrifty libations are all $20 or less per bottle. So, shh, doll. We won’t tell if you won’t. With that, we’ll turn it over to the virtuosos of vino.

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, wine educator and Master of Wine - It’s all about rosés during the summer because they are so refreshing. I recommend a Spanish rosé (or rosado) called El Coto. The El Coto Rioja Rosado is a real crowd pleaser available for under $10 a bottle.


Adam Platt, restaurant critic, New York magazine – I like Domaine de la Papier Sevre et Maine from the Loire Valley. This isn’t your grandmother’s Muscadet. It has the depth and purity of much grander and more expensive wines from the region and, at $19.95 per bottle, you can’t beat the price.

Maureen Petrosky, author of The Wine Club - I like the 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend from Lieb Cellars. It retails for $20 a bottle but you can buy the box, which is about four bottles, for only $48. I know this sounds crazy, since I’ve never come close to finding a wine in a box that I would recommend, but it’s the best boxed wine I’ve ever tasted and it has fooled many of my wine geek friends. If you’re having an even bigger party, this wine comes in a disposable keg. I mean wine in a keg?!?! That would definitely be a conversation starter at your next summer soirée.

Brahm Callahan, wine director at The Nantucket Wine Festival - My favorite is Malvira Roero Arneis 2012. It’s crisp and clean with lifted citrus aromatics and, at $17.99 a bottle, won’t break the bank.


Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier and wine director at Eleven Madison Park – At $18 a bottle, Guy Bossard Muscadet, Loire, France, is a bright and minerally white that kills it for the price!

Vilma Mazaite, Advanced Sommelier, La V Austin – I like Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut from the Languedoc region in Southern France. It is a refreshing, energetic and bright wine made in the same style as champagne. The best part is the price — less than $15 a bottle.

Catherine Louise Schubert, one of New York City’s most in-demand event planners ad caterers – A particular favorite is Pomponette Couteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. This wine is delicate with citrus and berry notes but not too delicate. At under $17 a bottle, it won’t break the bank.

Mary Ann Vangrin and Natalie Wassum, co-founders of Wine Sisterhood – In hot weather, we love Lady LaFemme Prosecco. It’s fresh, affordable and perfect for sipping on a sweltering afternoon.

Mia Van De Water, wine director at the North End Grill – In the summertime, my go-to sipping/picnic/patio wine is Txomin Etxaniz.

Txomin Etxaniz wine

Walter Robb, co-ceo of Whole Foods Market - One of my favorite wineries is Rodney Strong Vineyards. I love their 2012 Chalk Hill Chardonnay for under $20.

Introductory Photo: Rita Hayworth
Introductory Quote: I’m No Angel (1933)

The Sally Award: Miranda Kerr


This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Australian model, Miranda Kerr, in Escada at the fashion brand’s soiree in Munich to celebrate the launch of its new fragrance, Joyful. Kerr, the face of Joyful, looked every bit the part as she posed on the red carpet in a sweet-but-sexy floral button-down sweater and skirt combination by Escada. We all know that this Victoria’s Secret Angel knows how to pick her blooms and this green, white and violet petal print was certainly an inspired choice for a perfume launch. To accessorize the look, Kerr chose understated jewelry, simple hair, soft make-up, a green crocodile clutch and purple metallic Dior pumps. We might have preferred a slightly less matchy-matchy shoe – this Stuart Weitzman sandal or Valentino pump would have kept the focus more on the print and Kerr’s gorgeous face – but everything else made her a shoo-in for this week’s award. Do you agree? Take our poll below and let us know. You can also share your thoughts on our Facebook page or any of our social butterfly platforms.

Tell us, doll, what do you think of Miranda’s party look?

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The Secret Language of Flowers

To you, my little prairie flower, I’m thinkin’ of you every hour.

At The Salonniere, we adore flowers. To us, the appeal goes far beyond their beauty and fragrance. Flowers are a historically significant part of human social interaction. In fact, the custom of giving flowers dates back to early civilization, and the earliest known depiction of a mixed arrangement is a mosaic from the early 2nd century at the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. Mythology also blooms with associations between flowers and the gods and goddesses. Remember when Aphrodite’s handsome beau, Adonis, was killed by that nasty wild boar? The story goes that a heartbroken Aphrodite used his blood to create the red anemone flower.

“The Awakening of Adonis” by John William Waterhouse, 1900

Assigning specific meanings to flowers is a tradition that is believed to have begun in Turkey in the 17th century and kept strong through the years by the French and English. During Victorian England, that time when everyone had to keep their feelings to themselves, people used flowers as a secret language for expressing their emotions. Not surprisingly, it was also the time when floriography books – beautiful floral reference books – abounded.

We know that red roses express love and white lilies are a symbol of purity, but do you know the meanings associated with other popular flowers? Take a gander at the list below, buttercup. It offers a garden of opportunities for using posies to proclaim a sentiment. Throwing a tea party to welcome a new friend to the neighborhood? Choose a centerpiece of yellow roses. Hosting a gathering to toast an engagement? Serve a dessert garnished with candied white violets. Yes, they’re edible and so are these yummy blooms.

White violets say, “Let’s take a chance on happiness.” 

BUTTERCUP – Childishness
CALLA LILY – Magnificent beauty
CAMELLIA – Admiration, perfection and good luck when given to a man
CAMELLIA (WHITE) – Adoration
CHRYSANTHEMUM – Abundance and wealth
DAHLIA – Dignity and elegance

Dignified dahlias

DAISY – Innocence
FORGET ME NOT – Memories
FREESIA – Innocence
GARDENIA – Secret love
GERBERA – Innocence
HYACINTH (PURPLE) – “Forgive me”
HYACINTH (RED OR PINK) – Playfulness
HYDRANGEA – “Thank you for understanding”

Hydrangea are flowers of appreciation

IRIS – Faith and wisdom
IRIS (YELLOW) – Passion
LILAC (GENERAL) – Beauty and pride
LILY (GENERAL) – Majesty and honor
LILY (CALLA) – Beauty
MAGNOLIA – Nobility
ORCHID – Love, beauty and fertility
PANSY – “You occupy my thoughts”
PEONY – Happy marriage

Peonies are the perfect wedding flower

PETUNIA – “Your presence soothes me”
POPPY (YELLOW ) – Wealth and success
RANUNCULUS – “I am dazzled by your charms”
ROSE (ORANGE) – Fascination
ROSE (YELLOW) – Friendship
SNAPDRAGON – Gracious lady
SWEETPEA – “Thank you for a lovely time”
TULIP (YELLOW) – “There’s sunshine in your smile”
VIOLET (WHITE) – “Let’s take a chance on happiness”
ZINNIA (MAGENTA) – Lasting Affection

Source: The Language and Sentiment of Flowers

Introductory photo: Mary Pickford (1938)
Introductory quote: The Awful Truth (1937)

Summer Gazpacho

Rita Hayworth

I’m going to show you what yum-yum is. Here’s yum. And here’s the other yum. And here’s yum-yum.

We’ve always been keen on serving gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup, at summer parties. In addition to being healthy, delicious and refreshing, gazpacho looks just swell when served in clear shot glasses with a pretty vegetable or herb garnish.

Photo courtesy of Parade magazineTraditionally made entirely of raw vegetables, gazpacho is said to come from the Andalusia region of Spain. No one really knows where the word “gazpacho” (pronounced gahz-pah-cho) came from but the theories range from the Greek word for “collection box” to the Hebrew word Gazaz, which means to break into little pieces. No matter which is true, all speak to the technique of the recipe.

There is really no right or wrong way to make gazpacho, and it comes in many variations, which is why experimenting with gazpacho is so much fun. Some gazpachos are smooth and almost creamy, while others are quite chunky. There are green gazpachos, yellow gazpachos, even an orange-hued Spanish version that blends day-old crusty bread into the soup to give it some added thickness.

What the recipes have in common, however, is that each is made from a base of tomatoes. Vegetables are added for taste, color and texture, vinegar is added for acidity and a touch of olive oil is used to smooth it all out.

Gazpacho ingredients

We like to start our gazpacho with a basic, colorful recipe and then get creative and add in whatever fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs we may have picked up at the farmer’s market that morning. Just be sure to serve it cold as ice baby. Easy, breezy. Come on in and have a taste, doll.

Basic Gazpacho (serves 8)

4 tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 seedless cucumber, peeled if desired and cut into large chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 orange or yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. Place the mix into a blender or food processor and pulse it to the desired consistency. Be careful not to over-process the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least another hour or two. Remember, the longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Garnish with cilantro, mint, basil, lemon, a bit of chopped apple or whatever you fancy and serve.

Introductory photo: Rita Hayworth
Introductory quote: Ball of Fire, 1941

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