Once I got settled into the barn, I soon developed a closer relationship with a college friend and fellow designer, who became my running buddy. He was always dragging me to some beautiful party at one of the elegant and stately homes that lined Adams and Franklin Streets. He was a social light; his charm and gaiety won over the hearts of Huntsville’s society. I enjoyed the opportunity just to absorb my surroundings, to feel the details of the grand rooms juxtaposed with the quaintness of the back kitchens and service areas with their low ceilings and approachable furnishings. This technique of incorporating a grand or classic element with simplistic furnishings is a signature in my designs today.
I also loved how all the details of these parties seemed effortless and gracefully executed: the entry tables outfitted with exquisite flower arrangements cut from the garden and the buffet tables laid with sparkling silver trays and chafing dishes. All these early experiences helped to shape my approach to design and entertaining.
I became best friends with my neighbor. She was much older than I; I could talk to her like a friend and yet I respected her advice and wisdom like a mother. She was a beautiful entertainer, very thoughtful about whom she invited to her parties. Her guest list always consisted of young and old, rich and not, socially connected and new to town. Her parties were never about the food but about the interconnection of people and stimulating, insightful conversation. It was at one of her parties that I accepted my first husband’s proposal of marriage. And it was through him that I first saw and experienced the world — all its culture, its food, its architecture.