Southern Lady Magazine

Open Book: Designing Life’s Celebrations

Southern roots inspire the sophisticated soirées of a renowned event designer.

Author’s photograph by Emily Goodnight. Book photography by Monica Buck.

In a debut book that brims with creative party ideas and stunning floral inspiration, Alabama native DeJuan Stroud helps guide readers in turning their special occasions into extraordinary events.

By Mona Moore

Some of DeJuan Stroud’s greatest memories of growing up in Andalusia, Alabama, are the celebrations— anniversary parties and formal teas, helping his grandmother pick flowers from her garden for party arrangements, and picnics in quiet meadows that finished with sunset drives beneath rose and copper skies. “At an early age, I was going to events that I really loved,” he says.

DeJuan’s memories take shape in his new book via old-fashioned ladies’ lunches, garden parties, holiday buffets, and road trips that end in picnics. Designing Life’s Celebrations features more than a dozen vignettes brimming with signature floral arrangements and an exuberant eye for details. “They all have the following qualities in common: they are tasteful, elegant, and fun, which is exactly how we would describe DeJuan,” say Dorothea and Jon Bon Jovi in a foreword they wrote for the book. “He is that rare person who listens and completely understands what his clients are trying to achieve, and he creates the most striking spaces.”

Though DeJuan dabbled in musical pursuits and enjoyed a 13-year career as a stockbroker, he eventually returned to the skills he learned working summers in an Andalusia florist shop as a teenager. DeJuan embraced any opportunity to arrange flowers for church, decorate for a friend’s birthday, or help with a small wedding. He and his wife, Debra, later decided to open an event-planning business from the basement of their New Jersey home. The endeavor quickly outgrew its humble beginnings, moving to New York to take on large-scale corporate and private events and increasing the staff to include a team of creative souls.
DeJuan’s book demonstrates the work he has done for New York’s elite, from Gloria Vanderbilt’s family Thanksgiving to table settings for Anderson Cooper. But DeJuan credits his Southern heritage with his success. “There seems to be a real level of personal care in the South,” he says. “There’s a warmth and graciousness when you attend events. You always feel comfortable, taken care of, and special.”

Over the years, clients have approached the floral virtuoso for advice on how to make intimate gatherings as distinctive as his large-scale social and corporate events. Those inquiries not only inspired the focus of DeJuan’s book, they also shaped its final section, which he calls the master class. It covers everything from choosing the right container for arrangements to caring for flowers.

DeJuan hopes the final product will encourage others to start new traditions and make entertaining at home a constant in their lives. “Celebrating events is so important,” says DeJuan.
“I really do have a desire to teach people, and if I can just make entertaining easier with a few basic principles, that will be an accomplishment.”

Published by Rizzoli, Designing Life’s Celebrations is available for preorders on Amazon and will be available at booksellers nationwide on April 5, 2016.

Find this and additional entertaining inspiration in the March/April issue of Southern Lady or Download and read now on your tablet.