Fare Play: Designer Tara Shaw

The Italian table is adorned with a 19th century French service and a monogrammed silver dish cover. In the background is an Italian bookcase. All items are available through Tara Shaw.
The Italian table is adorned with a 19th century French service and a monogrammed silver dish cover. In the background is an Italian bookcase. All items are available through Tara Shaw.

Tara Shaw on entertaining in New Orleans: “It is all about the food.” It’s also about family. She typically serves buffet-style meals, and on any occasion, she easily entertains large groups of up to 20 to 30 people. Shaw’s home is filled with fine antiques, including a collection of silver and hotel silver platters and cloches that she acquired over decades of buying trips in Europe.

tshawokl-251This hostess firmly believes that messes are inevitable and we should not take them seriously. Just clean them up, and carry on living. She also reminds us that entertaining is about enjoying the people coming over rather than creating the perfect setting. Her spacious home, where the rooms flow effortlessly into one another, makes it easy to accommodate for large gatherings. An Italian carved table is set up in the breakfast room, and if needed, another table is added to the foyer for guests when the dining room is maxed out. After dinner tables are cleared, fun card games such as Left, Center, Right are played.

She hosts an open house once a year during Mardi Gras, when literally hundreds of people pour through her home, where they are welcomed to enjoy everyone’s favorite New Orleans dishes, such as muffulettas, jambalaya, whatever else may be served up on the grill, drinks, and king cakes for dessert.

Shaw’s amazing home is decorated with a mix of antiques, her own furniture design, contemporary art and other finds that she pulled together with the use of a neutral palate. She has been attracted to this calming neutral color scheme as a counter-balance to her busy days. Her favorite paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Linen White; she shares that her secret is to cut the paint by 50 percent. Shaw balances classics with contemporary, and her living room is her favorite room to relax in. It is here she can enjoy taking in the view of her garden and saltwater pool. Mornings, she can be found reading devotions for inspiration.


tshawokl-126The breakfast room boasts seating from Tara Shaw Maison, including oval back Swedish-style reproduction chairs, a banquette upholstered in Belgium gray linen and black resin stools. The antiques add warmth and character with stellar pieces such as the Gustavian drop leaf table with a remarkable patina of charmingly time-worn wood and an 18th century Venetian corner cabinet. It’s a treat in and of itself to find a fireplace in one’s kitchen, yet alone a beautiful one that hints of Old World European charm. The classical Italian urn fragment that was repurposed as artwork adorns the wall just above the mantel. A pair of Italian candlesticks completes the decor.


tshawokl-190Guests regally slumber in a cream colored, 19th century French Directoire daybed with gilded neoclassical carvings. It’s a favorite of Shaw’s as she loves the versatility that a daybed offers. White linens from Peacock Alley assure pleasant dreams, while the luxurious banana silk rug completes this dreamy bedroom.


tshawokl-039tshawokl-205In the library, light and dark are balanced with a white-washed Italian carved table – a fun alternative to a desk – that is complemented by an antique Swedish bergere. Venetian shield shades provide the finishing touch to the repurposed pair of Italian gilded fragments made into lamps.

Shaw hand writes thank you notes while seated at her 18th century Swedish Rococo clock secretaire, which features an attractive arched cornice and raised paneled doors on each side of the clock. Below the writing surface, there’s ample storage with multiple drawers. The desk chair is Swedish lyre shape, and a vase of fresh white tulips is the accessory of choice.


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Marine Paint was used to achieve the dramatic lacquer finish on this white coffee table with gilded trim. Designed for Tara Shaw Maison Custom, the stand-alone piece acts as the focal point of the master bedroom’s sitting area, topped with a befitting 19th century crown and flanked by a pair of midcentury chairs. On the left side wall are framed intaglio bars that Shaw designed for RH.


tshawokl-088In another view of the master bedroom’s sitting area, one can appreciate the layers of antiques paired with reproduced and new pieces, such as the contemporary sculpture in front of the window. The layers continue with a white long-haired goat skin rug placed over a sisal area rug, adding texture and a sensual air apropos of a bedroom. The soothing palate of white and the neutrals of white linen upholstery and curtains pull the look together.

Two of her favorite antiques acquired on one of her buying trips are a painting from the School of Genoa of Jesus of Gethsemane that hangs in her dining room and an Italian Rococo mirror in her master bedroom. For decades, she made annual trips to Europe, antiquing for five weeks at a time, combing through the “deballages” – open air flea markets – in France, Belgium, Sweden and Italy. Her favorite is Italy’s largest market in Parma, where she’s thinking of heading back next spring for her next buying trip.

Photography by Paul Costello/Otto

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