Gracious! Traditional Home Showhouse brims with cosmopolitan Southern style _lowres

Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY-- The front parlor, designed by Shaun Smith, in the Southern Now Showhouse on 7618 St. Charles Ave.

A conference focused on Southern design debuts in New Orleans this week, with panels, exhibitions, and a roster of well-known speakers.

The inaugural Southern Style Now Festival! is intended to spotlight Southern design and lifestyle, according to organizer Robert LeLeux.

One highlight of the week is the Southern Style Now/Traditional Home Showhouse at 7618 St. Charles Ave. The 4,000-square-foot Queen Anne mansion has been transformed by a cadre of top New Orleans and Southern designers and is open for tours through June 12, Wednesdays through Sundays, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (tickets are $30 at

On Friday, the conference will spotlight Magazine Street, with trunk shows, talks by Nathan Turner, Hunt Slonem, Vicente Wolf, and Julia Reed, panel discussions, cocktail parties, and a book signing with fashion designer Lela Rose.

On Saturday, participants will learn about interior design public relations. Richard Keith Langham, Suzanne Rheinstein and Lisa Fine are among the speakers, along with artists Sally King Benedict and Amanda Talley.

On Sunday the conference ends with a panel on Southern entertaining, led by Amanda Nisbet and featuring Tara Guerard, followed by brunch at Martine Chaisson Gallery.

While largely geared to industry professionals, the conference is open to the public. Registration is $375. Single tickets are available for some events. Go to for schedules and admission information.