Designers Convene in Paris for a Dinner Party Inspired by Tony Duquette and Elsie de Wolfe

Charlotte designer Cathy Austin hosted the festive affair
at the home of Frank de Biasi and Gene Meyer
By Gay Gassmann
January 17, 2019
The table setting for Cathy Austin's Elsie de Wolfe and Tony Duquette-themed dinner party in Paris. Photo: Kelly Marshall


Design has taken over Paris this week with the 10th anniversary of Paris Deco Off and the opening of global trade fair Maison + Objet. Besides the massive fair, this means more than 100 fabric and furniture showroom open houses, countless pop-ups and special events, and streets festooned with oversize lampshades swinging from the buildings in the City of Light. It also means every night is jam-packed with cocktails and dinners hosted by the big industry showrooms, but there are also smaller private events. One of the most intriguing invitations of the season was the beautifully designed one for “An Unforgettable Romp in Paris: An Evening Inspired by Elsie de Wolfe and Tony Duquette,” hosted last night by Charlotte, North Carolina–based interior designer Cathy Austin of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design at the Paris home of AD 100 designer Frank de Biasi and designer Gene Meyer.

Austin makes last-minute arrangements to the bar. Photo: Kelly Marshall

AD PRO popped over to observe the afternoon party planning the day of and catch up with the infectiously enthusiastic and passionate Austin, who, despite flying in the day before, was bright-eyed and cheerful with a suitcase full of vividly colored feathers and hot pink sashes. “There is just something so lovely about entertaining in someone’s home, and I have so many friends from all over the country who are in town this week, I thought it would be such a great way to say thank you to all of these people,” Austin explained as she bustled about arranging colorful place settings and accessories.

The table settings, featuring plates by Marie Daâge and a menu and place card by Russell Melzer. Photo: Kelly Marshall


Nothing could be more complementary to the extravagant, maximalist, and colorful (there’s the Duquette inspiration) evening than de Biasi and Meyer’s picture-perfect appartement. Dedicated to Elsie de Wolfe, a.k.a. Lady Mendl—often attributed with inventing the profession of interior decorating—and her protegé Duquette, designer and, in all senses of the word, extraordinaire, the evening did not disappoint. “We studied Elsie in design school as the founder of our industry and she was also a shrewd businesswoman,” says Austin. “What I found out later was that she was also the consummate hostess with all of her entertaining in Paris before the war. I just thought, ’How wonderful to be in her orbit!’”

The atmosphere in the party. Photo: Kelly Marshall

Dinner guests were greeted with the sounds of Cole Porter and Ella Fitzgerald and quickly offered a welcome cocktail called the Lady Mendl. Drinks were followed by entry into the intimate dining room, with a festive table festooned in honor of Duquette with his signature malachite fabric from Jim Thompson, which proved a pretty backdrop to spectacular flowers provided by Oz Gardens, located a few blocks away.

“I had a clear vision of what I wanted for flowers: pinkish red and green to pick up the tablecloth,” Austin says. “I worked with my floral designer in Charlotte before going to Oz Gardens.” The table was designed to surprise and delight—and that it did. All the plates were produced by Parisian ceramic artist Marie Daâge, who created bespoke designs inspired by Elise’s love for chinoiserie and travel. “I have admired Marie’s work for a long time, so this was perfect,” Austin says of the results.

Flowers on a bust in the apartment. Photo: Kelly Marshall

Pink glasses from Nina Campbell London and miniature gilded antlers—an ode to Duquette—as place card holders for the fun and fanciful name cards designed so brilliantly by Russell Melzer rounded out the setting. Melzer also designed the invitation and menus.

Guests dined on croustillant de Saint Jacques and boeuf aux carottes expertly prepared by Parisian private chef Enrique Zaera. The meal was topped off with citrus slices, chosen to beautifully enhance the color scheme of the table! After dinner, the front doorbell started ringing and the apartment flooded with chatter and laughter as additional guests arrived for a late-night salon of more cocktails, dessert, cheese, and conversation. To quote Tony Duquette, “Each of us has an enchanted vision that we carry around in the treasure house of our minds….your personal approach to your own magic.” Austin shared her own personal magic last night—we imagine both Duquette and Lady Mendl would have been thrilled.