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Monday
May212012

Dewit Design Camp: NOLA Recap

Oh, hello. Did you enjoy those testimonials? They are all totally real.

I do not even know how to start talking about my first Dewit Design Camp. There are so many things to talk about, and things I am afraid I will forget! The first thing you need to know is that my first camp was in New Orleans, my favorite place, the place we want to live in a few years. And secondly, you need to know that the awesome ladies who attended are all now my new best friends, ready to accept me into their adult ladies' marching dance team the minute the Chaos set up shop in NOLA.

Vince and I arrived a day early to make sure everything was in order (coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks, champagne, etc.), to take delivery of rental tables and chairs, and to set up the space for Saturday morning. I don't know how I happened on the most perfect place ever to have a design camp, but I need to give a shout-out here to Caroline Ferguson, Architect and Person Extraordinaire, who let me use her beautiful office as a classroom. When I was in NOLA scouting locations -- unsuccessfully -- and crying in my car, I called her out of desperation (I had copied her number onto a receipt as a last resort). I left a crazy voicemail ("Hi, I am having a design camp in New Orleans, and I kind stalked your office from the street because it looked pretty? So, can I use it for the weekend?"), and Caroline -- who clearly has no regard for her own safety -- called me back. And while she allowed that my call WAS totally weird, she graciously listened and offered me her space and now we are getting married.

Y'all, are the bags + contents not the cutest? For that, we can thank Sydney from Baggu for her help and kindness, and Theresa from Twine and Tape, who not only put together the adorable tape, baker's twine, and mini clothespins for the Dewit Design Toolkits, but who ALSO donated the items for this first class. And to top it off, she's offering a 10% discount to readers who use the code ABCHAO for any order. Yay!

Meanwhile, back at camp: Saturday dawned rainy and dreary, contradicting every weather forecast I had read for weeks before. This caused me to have a series of hissy fit meltdowns involving my ugly hair, stupid flip-flops, and ridiculous long skirt dragging the wet ground. I was just a delight to be around for about thirty minutes there.

Fortunately, I had Eliza -- the human Xanax pill -- with me, and she distracted me with questions about things non-camp-or-rain-related ("Have you seen 'Girls' yet?" "Aren't you so excited about the beach in a few weeks?" "Did you know that the human head weighs ten pounds?"). Following a quick stop at the store (shout out to the Whole Foods on Magazine!) for flowers and juice, it was camp time.

I wanted campers to arrive and know that this weekend was going to be special and amazing, so obviously neon was involved. Also personalized camp pencils/schedules, and their own little flower vases. Oh, and jawbreakers. Jawbreakers are special.

Many of you have heard me talk about my husband Vince, but you've mostly just heard jokes Allison and I have made at his expense. I am here to tell you that I could not have pulled this thing off without him. Vince Chao was part production assistant, part muscle, part emergency technician, and all moral support this weekend. 

He IS one in a billion. (Ha HA! I couldn't resist.)

After everyone had arrived and helped themselves to coffee and delicious pastries, it was time to begin. I started with introductions (mine, of course, and each camper gave their name, city of residence, and childhood best friend). I then launched into a long, long, long (but fun!) slide presentation featuring the things you see in the camp description here. The group was shy at first, but warmed up quickly and started participating and asking questions. (In retrospect, I probably could have served the champagne earlier.)

Above, the campers and I discussing things during the slide show. It was hard for us to concentrate with Sarah's fabulous orange shoes in the room.

I am pretty sure I'm trying to convince someone to do SOMETHING at this moment.

At several points during the presentation, there was some exciting hands-on learning. Here, we are talking about how to draw a layout to scale and I am obviously extolling the virtues of the furniture template. (The furniture template is awesome.)

Cupcake break! I guess cupcakes are now totes passé. That is fine, but I am unapologetic about these particular cupcakes: Sucré forever!

We learned some more stuff, then it was time for another hands-on activity. This time it was learning how to make one ugly grocery store bouquet into several adorable flower arrangements.

 Everyone got REALLY into this project, and into styling the end result. It made me happy like I was their MOTHER at GRADUATION.

And as well I should have been -- look at this beauty that they made!

I then gave a little lesson on how to shoot interiors: wide shots, close shots, pro tips, and mistakes to avoid. Then I quick, quick showed how to style a vignette, because it was almost time to go. 

We finished up the slideshow and Vince Chao served us the champagne he had been secretly icing for us. (I told you he was helpful.)

On Day 2, Sunday, we started with coffee, breakfast, and talking about the pictures that everyone had brought of their own homes. This part of camp was that thing that ends up being everyone's favorite, but you don't realize it until it happens. Seriously, we could have spent five more hours talking and collaborating on everybody's respective rooms. SO MUCH FUN. Check out these people actually paying attention to me like I have something important to say.

After camper house design collaboration fun times, it was time for lunch.

Did I mention we had lunch catered by St. James Cheese Co. on both days? Well, it's true. And it was a thing of beauty.

My sweet group. You never forget your first.

(This wasn't the end of camp: we attempted to go shopping, and when we discovered that all the places were closed for Mother's Day, ended up at Delachaise drinking $5 rosé. Priceless.)

Oh, look, here come a few more testimonials!*

Of course I'm kidding. But here are some actual quotes that are real, and make me real happy:

Dewit Design Camp is the sweetest, coolest, funnest, educationalest, most exciting thing I have ever done, and I am so grateful to all of my NOLA ladies who took a chance and signed up. I want you all to come! So DEWIT.

The next camp is in Austin at the very end of June. Details here. Love y'all!

 

*All testimonials created by Pamela Ribon, who thinks she is pretty funny.

Reader Comments (13)

Yes, camp sounds awesome, yada yada yada, but what we really want to know is WHERE DID YOU GET THAT POLKA DOT DRESS?
I cannot wait for Design Camp in NYC but, like the other poster, my main comment is re: your polka dot dress - it is PERFECT on you!
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim
The dress is Kate Spade, you sillies.
May 21, 2012 | Registered Commenterabchao
Look at celebrity cameo Aubrey Plaza glaring at your individual-homes tutorial.
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpamie
Awesomeness all around! Can't wait for San Francisco!
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
I am flamazingly proud! It sounds awesome and I would gladly give you a million dollars, if I had even one dollar.
May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterALH
I really hope to attend one of your camps! It's on my list and pretty much what I'll be asking for, for the next birthdays and Christmases. This looks so amazing!
May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel S.
sigh. i cannot wait.
May 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhannah
Aaaaaaaah! I just signed up for NYC Dewit!! I am excited. Can you tell?

XOXOXO
ABC
May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Burr
You know what I did last night? I went to the 24-hour Walgreen's on St. Charles at midnight to buy graph paper and an eraser so I could work on my living room layout. Look what you've done to me!
May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Can you add Philly to the Design Camp list??? DEWIT! I'll have everyone I know sign up and find a great spot for you to hold it!
May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMia
Oh, lordy! I just impulse bought my space at Design Camp: Seattle . I think the fact that I decided to just DEWIT without analyzing the almighty crap out of it is my soul saying, "Girl, that is right where you need to be!"
May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen
next time you're in nola, i'm in! (i do hope that there is a next time ;-))
May 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbeki

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