Jane Scott Hodges celebrates the holidays in her jewel box home in New Orleans’ Historic Garden District. (Photo by Paul Costello)
A drink station with all the accouterments. (Photo by Paul Costello)
Alexa Pulitzer is Hodges' go-to for gift wrap, custom-made tags, and paper goods. (Photo by Paul Costello)
Leontine Linens monogrammed napkins. (Photo by Paul Costello)
Nothing says, “Please have a Brandy Milk Punch” like magnolia swags. (Photo by Paul Costello)
Who else isn’t prepared for the holidays? Our hands are up. For inspiring southern holiday entertaining, our go-to girl is Jane Scott Hodges. For those who aren’t already part of the Leontine Linens cult, she is the empress of the monogram, upon which every good Southern party is built. Since founding the company in New Orleans in 1996, Hodges has preserved the classic monogram art form but infused it with bold color and style. With her two children now living in Texas full-time, we’re thrilled to run into her again and again at lunches and galas when she makes one of her frequent trips from New Orleans.
Gather ye fabulous holiday suggestions from our petite chat with the madam of monograms.
Decorations that always go up.
I cherish my collection of Fortuny stockings from Becky Vizard. I bring them out at Christmas and hang them from the grand mirror in the entry hall in hopes that Philip [her husband] might get the hint that an empty stocking needs to have some shiny bauble in it for me to find on the 25th.
What’s in your punchbowl.
Nothing says the holidays in New Orleans like a Brandy Milk Punch; try the Commander’s Palace recipe at home. A fully stocked bar cart is the perfect decorative accessory to ensure guests get the libations they want! I’m always half-expecting a Black Magic Drumline chugging through my house later in the evening.
Big Easy feasting.
Our New Orleans holiday dinner always starts with a bowl of traditional seafood gumbo; it was the tradition of my mother-in-law. Philip and my son Nalty take over the kitchen — we serve a standing rib roast, cheese soufflé, and an array of side dishes ending with a croquembouche that the family prepares ahead of time. Need sustenance to soak up some of that Brandy Milk Punch.
Star of your tablescape.
Secret to my success: two words, colored linens! They’re a game-changer on the table and as important as the flowers and candles. Square placemats — as necessary a table accouterment as a bon vivant from a fallen Southern aristocratic family — frame round plates beautifully and allow you to fit more guests around your table. I always recommend a felt liner under placemats to protect your table and dampen excessive sound.
You’re the queen of monograms. Any particular one you dust off for December?
The Leontine iconic Etienne monogram takes on a whole new dynamic embroidered in aubergine on fuchsia linen.
A nod to the personality of the hostess is always appropriate. If she’s a Waspy drinker who believes in the mantra “It’s 5 pm somewhere,” then maybe
it’s monogrammed cocktail napkins. Or a trinket for the tree, perhaps hand-blown glass. My go-to for ornaments in New Orleans is Judy at the Rink. Something for the bar is always nice, too — consider an assortment of Jack Rudy’s bitters.
The chicest gift wrap.
My friend Alexa Pulitzer is a go-to for gift wrap, custom-made tags, and paper goods.
Final tips for December.
Consider an open house, so guests can come and go at their leisure, setting a deconstructed table to enjoy a small plate and perhaps stations for drinks: a bourbon bar on the desk in the living room, a champagne bar on the console in the foyer. This encourages guests to move about and explore and perhaps whisper charming bons mots in my ear.
Also, monogrammed roadies keep the party going as guests flit (by foot or Uber, please) from one Garden District manor to the next. Remember, this season is a marathon and not a sprint. Live music is also a key element in creating an experience. In New Orleans, we treasure our brass bands. I have
them perform on the front balcony as guests arrive. It sets a festive tone for the evening and keeps me feeling bubbly and party season ready.