A Formal Dinner Party in New Orleans, Kemper & Leila Williams Style

Welcome to the 301st Tablescape Thursday!

When I was in New Orleans the early part of May, one of the homes I toured with my friend, Linda, was the home of Kemper and Leila Williams. Their home, located in the French Quarter at 712 Toulouse Street is actually behind another home, the Merieult House at 533 Royal Street. The Merieult House (shown below) serves as the entrance to several buildings, including a pretty courtyard.

Merieult House

 (Picture above and below were found here: The Historic New Orleans Collection)

The courtyard is visible when looking out the windows of the Williamses’ home.

Courtyard Outside Kemper & Leila Williamses' Home


Once we entered into the Merieult House and were taken further back in to tour the Williamses’ home, I was lost. It’s so different in New Orleans the way homes are behind other homes.

Entering the previous home of Kemper and Leila Williams is truly like traveling back in a time machine. The Williamses moved into their home in 1946 and they lived there until 1963. Their home is the only French Quarter home that’s open to the public and still has its original furnishings.

Today I’m taking you into the dining room. I couldn’t actually walk into the room since they had it roped off but I think you can see a fair amount of the table in the following pictures.

The Williamses were known for their lavish dinner parties. Though Leila Williams was quiet and reserved, she loved to entertain and host dinner parties. The dinner parties usually called for formal attire with the ladies wearing evening gowns and the men dressed in dinner jackets.

Upon arriving, guests would be taken to the drawing-room for cocktails which usually consisted of a couple of martinis, manhattans or old-fashioneds. After cocktails, the guests would be seated for dinner at 7:00.

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum Dining Room, New Orleans_wm


Leila Williams really loved preparing for her dinner parties and put a lot of thought into the linens, china, crystal and china she would be using. She had an extensive collection of beautiful antique china, collected over the years from local antique shops and on trips abroad.

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum, New Orleans_wm


The table would be set with antique Italian linen runners and napkins, crystal stemware by Baccarat and Sinclaire and elegant English and French porcelain. You would never see this today and this had me imagining the days of “Mad Men” but to make sure her guests felt completely pampered and at home, Leila would place matches and ashtrays, along with small glasses filled with cigarettes, on the table between each of the guests.

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum Dining Room, New Orleans


Do you recognize the china? I don’t but it is beautiful!

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum, New Orleans


You can see some of the Williamses’ antique china displayed in the china cabinet here in the dining room.

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum in New Orleans_wm


For the table itself, Leila Williams would normally have a centerpiece consisting of fresh-cut flowers in an oriental urn along with pretty tapered candles. The room doesn’t have a chandelier so the candles would have been the main source of light. That must have so beautiful to see and experience!

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams House Mueseum, New Orleans_wm


Wouldn’t it be fun to travel back in time and be a fly on the wall for one night to experience one of the Williamses’ lavish dinner parties.

General L. Kemper & Leila Williams Dining Room, New Orleans_wm


Just outside the dining room was a display of some of the beautiful silver pieces belonging to and used by the Williamses back in the day.

Williams House Museum in New Orleans_wm



Antique Silver


I can’t wait to take you on a tour of the rest of this beautiful home. It truly is a time capsule and it feels like the Williamses have just left for a few minutes and will return at any moment. Hope you’re enjoying seeing a bit of New Orleans with me!

You’ll find several other tours of homes in Louisiana and Mississippi here: Tour the Historic Homes of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Looking forward to all the beautiful tables posted for this week’s Tablescape Thursday!

Tablescape Thursday


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  1. What amazes me is the incredible courtyards that are hidden from the streets by blank,old barnlike doors.

  2. Hi Susan, I love old house tours and the dishes (AND those chairs!!!) are gorgeous here. But can you imagine sitting on the wall while all those cigarettes were lit? That is something I do not miss while dining 🙂 Thanks for the tour! Linda

  3. Thank you for the tour of this gorgeous dining room, Susan. That china is stunning. Look at all of those beautiful crystal stems. I wouldn’t have any idea what to put in each of those beautiful stems. laurie

    • lol I’m not sure I would either! I’m guessing the taller glass would have been for water or tea, maybe one would be for wine and another for champagne. Ummm, it’s a lot of glasses!

  4. I love the crystal, but imagine cigarettes at the table. It seems so wrong in all the beauty.

  5. Beautiful china and crystal! Thank you for hosting!

  6. These are photos I could just study for days! I have always enjoyed New Orleans when visiting there, but have never toured this home. You’d better believe I’ll remember to schedule a tour on our next visit! I just love to get glimpses of “the way we were” via old homes.

    The cigarette thing is still going on in Europe as I understand it. Alberto Pinto still includes the little vessels or trays of cigarettes for dinner parties. Wild in this day and time with our knowledge of the the health risks associated with tobacco. Maybe they’re just the kind of clove cigarettes like they use in the movies! 🙂

    • Alycia, you’ll definitely want to make this home a stop on your next trip there! Linda put our itinerary together for the trip and I’m so glad she included this home! Interesting! I didn’t know that about Europe. Wonder if eventually times will change there, too. I grew up around people who smoked so it didn’t bother me back then, but it definitely does now. Sends my allergies/sinuses into an uproar! There is something kind of romantic about a gentleman puffing away on a pipe. 🙂

  7. Linda Page says

    One of the things that caught my eye was how the napkins are folded. It is an unusual way to fold napkins but very attractive. I love the china. Really nice and I have not seen that pattern before. Great pics!

  8. Wonderful lines and china….just stunning! Thanks so much for hosting each week:-)

  9. The china and serving pieces are incredible. Glad you posted the pics of the individual items behind glass. I always try to read others comments and glad I did, because, the napkin fold was unusual, some of us my revive it! P.S. New Orleans does Rock, (or should I say Jazz).

  10. Lovely table! Hope you enjoyed your trip to New Orleans -thanks for hosting

  11. pam ~ crumpety cottage says

    Hi Susan, I agree that the way the houses are arranged is so unusual in terms of what the typical American is accustomed to. Funny how things can be so different from one location in our country to another. That courtyard idea is so lovely, though it doesn’t lend itself to much privacy. I could see an extended family living like that — with the adult children living adjacent to their parents. That would be nice for the grandkids as well as the grandparents! Well, every generation, really. But to have strangers that close seems odd.

    Also, the way the Merieult house fronts the street like that, as though it’s a commercial shop, is interesting. I have een a lot of that in programs about Europe and even other places like south America. And then they have a big courtyard within their house. It’s funny to think about standing in your living room and having people walk by on the street, just a few feet away from you, lol. It’s just so different from what we are used to, but very interesting. I’d love to see some of those houses in person!

    Susan, you teaser! Hurry up and post the rest of the house. 😛 Hee .. you’re like a good show that leaves you with a cliff hanger til next week. 😀 (At least we won’t have to wait a week. I know you’d never torture us like that.)

    • lol Sorry about the cliff hanger. 🙂 I quite a few pics because it reminded me of the Colefax and Fowler days you hear Mario Buatta talk about. I loved the fabrics and the wallpaper. I’ll try to go through all the pics so I can post the rest of it soon. Yeah, I felt a little claustrophobic the whole time we were in New Orleans. You have to really love city life to live in the French Quarter!

  12. Susan ~ Such a beautiful dining room! Lovely china and silver. Thanks for hosting.

  13. Do you remember, not too far back, the feeling you would get when your favorite decorating magazine would arrive in the mailbox at the end of your driveway? Well that is how I feel when I open your blog that is in my inbox. I love zooming in on every detail of these photos. I would love to tour this New Orleans area. Thank you for showing me how beautiful it is.

  14. Susan,
    do you think it is possible that that cabinet was originally designed for laundry?
    I have never seen a lighted solid wood cabinet for china (no glass doors)?
    Whatever, it is beautiful anyway, and I love those chairs! Especially their seats! 🙂
    ~Hugs to you~

    • It does look more like a linen press than a china cabinet, doesn’t it. It’s a beautiful piece!

      • Susan,
        Beautiful home. How could you not feel honored to be seated at that table?
        The lighted china cabinet does look more like a bedroom piece vs dining room. The drawers look like they are more for clothes than table linens or flatware. My mother’s 1923 dining set has a “silver cabinet” solid door with Marquetry inlay and shallow drawer beneath. Was told by Antique dealer the piece was smaller size and solid door told him it was for silver.

  15. I love seeing homes and historic places like this, Susan. Now I’ll have to add “castle plates” to my wish list, ha ha.

  16. Susan, I have so enjoyed this tour! So beautiful. I love how she had the napkins folded so simple but yet so elegant. I love this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  17. Charlotte says

    I have lived in New Orleans (Metairie & Mandeville actually) my whole life and never t0ured that house. It is beautiful! I love the dining room table & chairs and the antique china. That is what is so cool about New Orleans, behind the businesses & gates are beautiful courtyards, gardens, homes & pools, you would never know it from the street. Thank you for the tour!

  18. Dear Susan,
    Always a delight to stop by your place and visit a spell.
    This table setting is absolutely LOVELY!!! Love the colors and formality.
    Gorgeous. So glad you shared with us in blogland.
    Will copy to the best of my ability! grins.

  19. This is very interesting, and pretty. We went to N.O. two years after Katrina hit. The French Quarter where we stayed was not damaged, or was repaired by the time we were there. Such a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Thanks for hosting!


  20. Thanks for the tour of this grand home. I never would have guessed that there was such a courtyard hiding behind the house. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I appreciate you sharing this tour! Thanks for hosting!

  21. Oh Susan, this old home is one of the most gorgeous I have ever seen! I love the stunning dining room.
    Thank you so much for hosting… I’m very late cause I’m visiting my g’girl for her 1oth. b’day!
    Have a great weekend, ahead.

  22. So lovely…I know that you were in paradise during this trip…so many beautiful homes…so little time.

  23. What beautiful china! I have no idea what the castle plates are, but I’m fairly certain the bread plates are Spode Sheffield pattern. That pattern is, sadly, discontinued now, but I know through at least the 1980’s you could order monogrammed pieces of it.

  24. I love new orleans, i like the magical atmosphere of the place, I also admire people who know how to entertain and make sure of all the little details. However, I could never show such a dining table as I never have complete sets of tools, always something broken, something is lost.

  25. No place like the “big easy”. This is a gorgeous home and I specially like the dining table with the area rug. Just beautiful.

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