Phoebe Howard considers it essential to honor the milestones in life, including those of the young women who work at her Atlanta, Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Florida, showrooms. “The events of women’s lives come in continuous cycles,” says the designer. “Whether it’s a wedding, an engagement, a new baby or a birthday, I believe that these events are worth marking and celebrating.” Like the chic interiors Mrs. Howard is renowned for, any occasion at which she is hostess will leave no detail unattended.
Tonight’s party, which celebrates the arrival of new hire Kate Bradley, is no different. While overlooking some of the arguably best views in the city, Howard’s Atlanta team of doyennes-in-training raises a toast to their friendships—both in and out of the office. That’s because this professional is not only guiding their design expertise and business acumen; Howard is also passing on what she considers to be equally valuable—the arts of social graces and elegant entertaining.
“While we don’t often think of it that way, entertaining is a very important business skill, where attention to detail is paramount,” she says. “It’s that same attention that translates to decorating; you can’t be disorganized and decorate well.”
From the evening’s buffet-style courses such as Tuna Niçoise and chilled avocado-cucumber soup—selected by Howard with caterer Mattie Hines—to the carefully thought-out seating plan (“never arrange for more than two guests to sit on one sofa”) and custom invitations printed on her personal stationery, the designer’s presentation never fails to meet the mark.
Neither does the conviviality of the occasion. A well-edited playlist of ballads by Howard’s favorite female artists, from Amy Winehouse to Ella Fitzgerald, lends a festive mood, greeting guests at the door and continuing through the evening with a steadily slowing tempo. A flirty signature drink imbues the setting with fun, which is great for a gathering of girls. “We’re having watermelon martinis over scoops of shaved ice with watermelon and mint to garnish—so appropriate for summer,” says Howard. “I wanted everything to read ‘fun, airy and light.’ This is summer in the city.”
Phoebe Howard’s Shopping Secrets
MATTIE HINES, LE LAPIN
“Mattie Hines of Le Lapin has a wonderful flair for food and presentation. He is flexible, innovative, friendly and easy to work with—and he can deal with a curve ball quite easily.” (404) 814-0411
BLACK TIE SERVICES
“Simply put: These are professionals. They are quick, efficient, unobtrusive and clean up everything. I hire bartenders separate from caterers; they bring the glasses, they bring the ice and then you can provide everything else. It’s a way to get your budget down, because you can buy your own liquor and mixers.” 120 W. Wieuca Road NE, (404) 705-9472
“This is a fun place to go for unique bar accessories, glasses, cocktail napkins, olive picks and all the little special touches that can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. The staff loves what they do, which shows.” 2385 Peachtree Road NE, Suite A1E, (404) 846-4414; cocktail-hour.com
DJ DON TONIC
“For larger occasions, I always recommend a skilled DJ who knows how to gauge the crowd and change his music accordingly. Music is key to a successful party.” (404) 272-5371; myspace.com/dontonic
MARK AND SCOTT INC.
“When it comes to flowers, make it easy on yourself. Go to a florist and get a centerpiece. For foolproof table decorations, Mark and Scott never disappoint. Any size, any budget.” 309 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, (404) 841-4890; markandscott.com
TOWER WINE & SPIRITS
“The most reasonably priced liquor store in Atlanta. You can call your order in ahead of time, and they’ll have it ready for you when you arrive. They have great customer service, too; they’ll help you figure out the exact quantities you need, and will do the math for you.” 2161 Piedmont Road, (404) 881-0902; towerwinespirits.com
MARGUERITE PEELE PAPERS
“The pinnacle of fine stationery. She is loaded with great ideas and is very knowledgeable about her product, which is of the highest quality. She also has the best calligrapher in the South. Blow it out for a party; it doesn’t cost much for 12 invitations.” 425 Peachtree Hills Avenue NE, (404) 841-7645
“Who doesn’t love Star Provisions? Go here to pick up gourmet takeout, even appetizers alone. Wherever you’re coming from, it’s worth the drive!” 1198 Howell Mill Road NW, (404) 365-0410; starprovisions.com
Phoebe Howard, Mrs. Howard, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Atlanta, GA 30305, (404) 816-3830, phoebehoward.net