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HS-Homefront 7-18-06 By Kandace Power Graves HomeAid Housing The national nonprofit HomeAid, working with Tulane University's School of Architecture, last week broke ground on a 4,400-square-foot, two-story building to house families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The $3 million project, made possible through Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and its affiliates, is being built on the site of the historic New Orleans Rescue Mission (1130 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.).

HomeAid, one of the leading nonprofit developers of transitional housing in the United States, is working with Tulane, JaRoy Construction Inc. and Perez APC architects to build the project using environmentally friendly "Green" standards. The project aims to showcase the opportunity to build smarter, sustainable buildings in areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina and flooding from the levee breaks.

"In a historic city like New Orleans, where the majority of construction is decades or even centuries old, there is an opportunity to rebuild many of the city's structures in a sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly way that is unprecedented in this country," says Stephen Verderber, professor of architecture at Tulane. "The Family Center Project brings together the expertise of the city's architectural, building, education and nonprofit communities to set a standard for rebuilding in New Orleans."

The family center was designed before Katrina last year by a team of students in Verderber's design/build class. The storm at first seemed to kill the project, until HomeAid provided financial assistance in order that the center be completed to house evacuees. Designs with Taste Photo by Cheryl Gerber (photo of a funky bar) The bar, hand-painted by Simon of New Orleans, will be given away during Tales of the Cocktail. You can enter to win the bar during cocktail hour from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at Hotel Monteleone. Tickets to Cocktail Hour are $20. Tales of the Cocktail this year has added a new dimension to cocktail hour with Sippin' with 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, July 21, at Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.).

Sippin' with 7, hosted in conjunction with Rain Vodka, features seven (count 'em) cocktail parties in which guests visit seven hotel suites that designers have decorated based on various themed drinks. The local and visiting designers and room hosts will be on hand to talk with guests at the parties.

Susannah Koteen with celebrity caterers Serena Bass Inc. will host a Cocktails and Cooking party in the William Faulkner Suite, Heather McFarland and Mark Kirk of Unique Products will host Incredible Edible in the Riverview Salon, where they will create a room that will peak the culinary interest of both the palate and eyes as they use such food products as royal icing, wheatgrass and dough and food packaging such as foil in their dŽcor.

Playing on the theme Relax to Rebuild, Alexis Ulfand of Sparty is designing a spa with flowing white sheers, spa equipment and furniture. Guests will enjoy a range of services, music and a signature Spartini.

Chad Harris of The Garden Gate and Oasis Horticulture will use nature's flora for his Outside In room in the Frank J. Monteleone Suite, combining a vintage obelisk with flowering pathways and Anduze ornamentation to evoke Eden.

Elegance and Decadence is the theme in the Vieux Carre Suite designed by Tony Leggio of Mardi Gras Productions. A special surprise guest will be on hand.

Jack Forbes and Brian Bockman with BFG Studios will build on a famous Shakespeare play title in their Mid-Century Night's Dream room in another Vieux Carre Suite, using mid-century period furniture and artwork for the setting of their party.

Mikko takes off on things with snowy motifs, socialist art, Prokofiev music, ice sculpture and more at his Welcome To Our Party event in the King Bedded Room.

The Sippin' With 7 event is part of the fourth annual Tales of the Cocktail, this year a five-day event (July 19-23) that explores the history and spirit of the cocktail. Tales of the Cocktail is produced by New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for hospitality industry members.

Tickets to Sippin' with 7 are $25. To purchase tickets or find out more about this and other events, log on to or call (800) 299-0404.

(photo of plants/ Verdigris) Contain Yourself Photo courtesy Verdigris CUTLINE:

Container gardening can help you create small, beautiful oases for yourself inside or outside your home, plus it's easy and requires little maintenance.

In many parts of post-Katrina New Orleans, you have to create your own beauty and find creative ways to get away from the drudgery of rebuilding and clean up. Booth Pohlmann and psychiatrist Dr. Kenny Sumner decided one way was to show people how to make small oases at their own homes with uplifting plants in interesting arrangements.

The outcome of their efforts is the month-old Verdigris Container Gardening shop (5227 Tchoupitoulas St., 899-5771 or 888-2VERDIGRIS). Just walking into the patio and shop provides an instant stress release as you roam through plants, containers and other gardening supplies. But no less valuable are the ideas provided by the displays and Pohlmann, who's always ready to chat and offer advice. The store, he says, is one way he can offer comfort to himself and others who want to stay in the city.

"I've always seen the value in container gardening," says Pohlmann. "After the storm, I had to do something. We wanted to see some color; everything was dead and ugly."

Container gardening is one way people can rejuvenate their surroundings without a huge investment or the time commitment of relandscaping their entire yard at once, he says. "It all costs so much more for us to just be here. I saw so much value in it; it's hope."

Everything in the store is geared toward gardening, the gardener, and decorating with a garden theme. Gardening tools are fully functional and quality items, without high price tags. Straw gardening hats can double as fashion accessories. Blown-glass accents are available in the forms of flowers and lizards. There also are classical rain gauges and thermometers, antique-looking wall-mounted plant hangers and birdhouses, hanging lights and more. Plus, Pohlmann and his staff can help people to arrange flora in pots and advise them how to keep them looking fresh.

"Everything is geared to be as low maintenance and high yield as possible," he says. "We all have better things to do than worry about whether the flowers need watering.

"I love how happy people are when they come in here. I think this is a throw-back to a romanticized time. I think flowers in a pot are a step back to civility. They're beautiful and beauty is hard to come by these days."


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