Covering windows has always been the focus at Wren's Tontine Shade & Design Inc. (1533 Prytania St., 525-7409; www.wrenstontine.com), but in the 74 years since Hayden Wren Jr. began offering venetian blinds and roller shades to New Orleanians, the shop has grown into a full-service interior design studio that specializes in high-end window treatments.
Now operated by a third generation of the Wren family, the shop has three interior designers, an in-store sewing room staffed full time by a trio of seamstresses, and a client list that ranges from private homeowners to Tulane and Loyola universities, hotels, and other customers across the country. The business' designs have been featured in such publications as Architectural Digest, Better Homes & Gardens and Windows & Walls as well as local publications that focus on interior design.
"We're an interior design corporation that specializes in window treatments," says Blythe Wren, an interior designer and daughter-in-law of current owner Hayden Wren III, who works in corporate real estate. "We make any kind of bedding materials, anything with fabric really. We [provide] furniture, carpets, flooring, wall coverings -- anything interior, we can do."
Designer Ashley Boisfontaine leads the design team, which also includes Blythe and Samantha Lanier. Boisfontaine joined the business full time earlier this month following the death in March of owner Carol Wren, who joined the company in 1985 and expanded Wren's Tontine from a shade shop into a full-fledged interior design business.
"She started just making roller shades, then started doing measurements, etc. for people and they started asking her to find a table, a couch, and she started going to market," Blythe says of Carol. "Now we do everything. We have tons of fabric samples and two rooms of fabric books, furniture books, wallpaper books."
The business, however, is still best known for its upscale window treatments, although it offers window coverings from the very simple to the exquisite. "We are definitely a high-end window treatment business," Blythe says, "but we can also do roller shades, motorized shades -- (window coverings) from the nitty-gritty to the really high-end, from mini-blinds to drapery panels, balloon panels, everything."
A Blast in the Past
Experience the past and present together in a lovely setting during the inaugural Frisco Fest May 15 and 16 at San Francisco Plantation (Hwy. 44, Garyville, 985-535-2341; www.sanfranciscoplantation.org). The festival, held on the 7-acre grounds of the historic plantation, will include a garden show, entertainment by youthful fiddler Amanda Shaw, local cuisine, arts and crafts, antiques displays, educational programs, a fun run and bike tour, a live radio broadcast by horticulture guru Dan Gill and more. Admission to the festival is $3, or $10 for the festival and a tour of the historic plantation house. Children 12 and younger get in free.
Gates open at 9:30 a.m. each day, but festivities Saturday will get underway at 8:30 a.m. with a 5K fun run and at 8:30 a.m. Sunday with a 25-mile bike tour. Log onto the Web site or call the plantation for registration and details.
Kim Fontenot, general manager of the nonprofit San Francisco Plantation, says the festival was organized as a way to spotlight St. James the Baptist Parish, bring together the local community and the plantation and to share the area's history and heritage with people outside the area.
"We're trying to open up to our community and say, We're accessible. Use us. Be a tourist in your own backyard,'" Fontenot says. "We wanted to promote not only the crafts and the gardens, but the music, to promote our heritage, to keep that alive. We're just a little postage stamp -- 7 acres -- but it shows a past (way of life) and it's preserved."
Some of the festival activities, including Saturday's 11 a.m. performance by Shaw and Sunday's performance by a gospel choir, will be held in a 7,000-square-foot winged cypress barn that originally stood next to a sugar mill near the plantation.
In addition to the activities, local chefs will prepare crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, cochon de lait and other Cajun and Creole dishes.
New Orleans in Bloom
If you need ideas for beautifying your garden or yard, new plants, accessories or advice about how to make it all work, check out the 25th annual New Orleans Spring Garden Show Saturday and Sunday, May 8 and 9, at the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park.
The show includes dozens of exhibits of plant and garden products and ideas and information about how to make things grow, how to decorate your yard, and even soil analysis and plant health clinics. There also are sales areas that offer affordable plants, accessories and more. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission is $6 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 12. Friends of City Park get in free.
- Seamstress Nina Price, who helped set up the sewing room at Wren's Tontine Shade & Design 15 years ago, works on a set of custom-designed drapes.