Houston Power Woman Puts On a French Party In New Orleans Worthy of Marie Antoinette With Furniture to Swoon Over

French Heritage Society Members From Across the Country Delight In the Show

BY Shelby Hodge // 12.07.23
photography MoDavisPhotography.com

NEW ORLEANS — The setting was majestic when a coterie of French Heritage Society members from across the county arrived at New Orleans Auction Galleries for an evening of French-inspired festivities compliments of Houston-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Susan Sarofim, owner and CEO of the revered auction house which specializes in French antiques.

It was the society’s third visit to the Crescent City in recent memory and this night of wining and dining in Versailles/Marie Antoinette-inspired grandeur was highlight of the four-day visit that included receptions in private homes, tours of iconic cultural institutions and curated dining experiences around the city.

Internationally acclaimed interior designer Timothy Corrigan and New Orleans Auction Galleries owner and CEO Susan Sarofim cohost the NOAG Marie Antoinette-inspired dinner evening. (Photo by MoDavisPhotography.com)

Sarofim was joined in hosting the elegant dinner affair by her close friend and personal interior designer, the internationally renowned and absolutely charming Timothy Corrigan. The design maestro with offices in Paris and Los Angeles allowed that he has been a member of the French Heritage Society for a decade and has been shopping the valuable finds at New Orleans Auction Galleries for some 30 years.

Runners on the dinner tables at the New Orleans Auction Galleries were from designer Timothy Corrigan’s collection of fabric designs. (Photo by MoDavisPhotography.com)

For the evening, Sarofim tapped top tier event planner Michelle Norwood, coincidentally of New Orleans, to transform the ground floor of a 40,000-square-foot warehouse into an aerie of which Marie Antoinette would have approved. On entry, attendees were greeted by classical music from a quartet and welcomed by costumed waiters proffering classic New Orleans cocktails. Sazerac, anyone? The stage was set for a gilded soirée with generous flourishes of florals and lighted candles glimmering in sterling silver candelabras.

“My intent was to arrange the furniture, which was poised for auction at New Orleans Auction Galleries, in such a way that it would be both desirable and irreplicable,” Norwood tells PaperCity. “Every item that adorned the space was a curated piece from the galleries, which I was given carte blanche to showcase . . .

“This concept extended to the Victorian glassware — each piece a treasure available for sale.”

New Orleans Auction Galleries were transformed into an 18th century salon for the French Heritage Society dinner.

Each piece of the colorful glassware on display amid a tabletop setting of books and greenery was filled with a specialty cocktail. Attendees were encouraged to help themselves.

The florals alone, the handiwork of  Antigua Floral‘s Sara Perez Ekianger, would surely have pleased the French queen as profusions of hydrangeas, sweet peas, butterfly ranunculus, stock, lisianthus and more filled every imaginable corner of the showroom which was arranged for this evening in a dinner setting and a salon furnished with French settees and chaise longues. Adding to the ambience were characters — beautiful damsels and gents — costumed head-to-toe (wigs included) in period dress.

“The opportunity to host the French Historical Society is really exciting for us,” Sarofim told the intimate gathering before dinner. “At New Orleans Auction Galleries, we are known for our French pieces. So this is just a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with people who feel as we do, who know and love all things French.”

James Beard Award winning chef Nina Compton working in the kitchen on the French dinner at NOAG. (Photo by MoDavisPhotography.com)

Sarofim tapped James Beard award winning chef Nina Compton of Compère Lapin for the five-course French-inspired dinner that resulted in generous applause for the chef and her team. Between courses New Orleans native Treshor Webster in Marie Antoinette costume serenaded with “Nuit d’Etoiles” and “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.”

As Elizabeth Stribling, French Heritage Society board chair noted of Sarofim, “Isn’t she the hostess with the mostess? I have never been to a party like this — ever. We’re even outdoing New York.”

The New Orleans Auction Galleries

“I was a client a long time before I became an owner,” Sarofim told PaperCity on the flight over to New Orleans. “And I had so much fun that I actually started buying things to sell there. So when the opportunity arose that I could buy it (in 2012), it was yes. I wanted to own such a fabulous historical institution close to 30 years old.”

That time frame coincides with the length of time that Sarofim lived in New Orleans before moving to Houston following Hurricane Katrina.

Models in 18th century costumes added authenticity to the Versailles-inspired evening at New Orleans Auction Galleries.

After taking possession of the gallery, Sarofim, through a lengthy process, gained permits to add a fourth floor to the historic building in New Orleans’ popular warehouse district. Today, the auction house holds a cache of antique furnishings, accessories, silver, jewelry, rare books, designer handbags and more. There are four major auctions a year with the next one scheduled for March 2024.

Timothy Corrigan’s World

Corrigan, named by Architectural Digest as one of the world’s 100 top interior designers and by The Robb Report as one of the top 40 interior designers worldwide, is rather particular when taking on a new client. Sarofim was a chosen one.

Kelly Krohn Buchanan, Taylor Eichenwald at the Versailles-inspired dinner at New Orleans Auction Galleries.

“We’re very lucky because around 75 percent of our business is repeat business from existing clients,” Corrigan tells PaperCity. “My largest client is the royal family of Qatar. They keep us very busy. We usually take on only one new client a year.

“Susan was the lucky one and I was the lucky one  She has truly in one year become my favorite client of all time. She’s just an extraordinary woman. She’s whip smart. She’s funny and so incredibly caring and that’s what I think is the most amazing thing about her. That’s what I admire about her most is her generosity of spirit.”

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