In a normal year, Lance and Margo Bouanchaud Hayes, known for their floral designs and catering, would be at their busiest during the holiday season.
But 2020 is no normal year, so with fewer parties in town, the powerhouse couple — she's the caterer; he's the floral designer — had a little time on their hands.
Margo Hayes decided to use that time to decorate the couple's "petit chateau," their recently added guest house, with a French Noel theme.
"You have to do something to make your own self feel good during COVID," she said. "We have always decorated for all seasons and especially for Christmas, but this year I decided that I was just going to pull out my silver just to enjoy."
The small, one-bedroom house was completed in late 2018, and sits behind the couple's Garden District home. Working with New Orleans architect William Sonner, they infused the space with ideas gathered from several trips to France and magazine photos.
Like her mother, Sarita Bouanchaud, Margo Hayes is a collector, and uses her finds in her catering and in her home, where she's constantly changing and moving things around.
So when it came time to decorate the chateau, out came lots of favorite things.
Filling one corner of the room is an 11-foot Christmas tree, its top brushing the white-washed planks of the ceiling. The tree is decorated in silver, gold and soft pastels. Tiny Eiffel Towers, jeweled oysters shells, delicate sculpted busts and ornaments crafted from French fabrics dangle from the branches.
"A lot of the things we had," Margo Hayes said. "Some of the things just popped up, like little bird ornaments we have had forever."
Centering the room is a French table that usually sits in an alcove and serves as the dining table.
On it, Margo Hayes placed silver vases and candlesticks with tall white tapers, mercury glass pieces, bowls of nuts and candies and lots of lighted candles. Stacks of beautiful coffee table books are used to vary the heights of the many elements.
Lance Hayes created bouquets of roses in various shades of pinks and settled them among the table decorations.
"It's French in a Baton Rouge way," Margo Hayes said.
A tall French cabinet, situated between two large windows, holds a set of bronze Wise Men, lit by a French candelabra. In a rear corner sits a round bistro table, set with an arrangement of golden pine cones and a collection of small French wine carafes.
For serving guests, Margo Hayes set up a French buffet, COVID-style, with individual servings in small, footed silver bowls and flutes of Champagne.
On every window, Lance Hayes hung lush, green wreaths. He scented the space with cedar garlands, including one draped on a large poultry tray that hangs in the alcove above the sofa.