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Stylish Dinner in a Showhouse

Designer Melanie Turner knows how to wow guests with elegance, ambience, and memories

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Menu and recipes start here.

    Mark your calendar for Saturday night. Any Saturday night. Atlanta-based Melanie Turner is hosting dinner. She started this weekly routine a few years back when she developed a template—same time, same place, same menu, different people—that enables her to entertain in her city home as much as she does at the beach. And when it was time to flaunt her design talents at the Atlanta Symphony Decorators’ Showhouse, she aptly re-created one of her schemes in the dining room.

    “My dinners are about people, not the elements,” the designer says. “I purposely invite guests who don’t know each other so I can make introductions. Even though so much about each dinner is the same, the guests always provide a new experience.”

    Photography by Emily Jenkins Followill and Peter Krumhardt
    Produced by Lisa Mowry

    Interior designer: Melanie Turner with Cristi Rajevac, Melanie Turner Interiors, 130 W. Wieuca Rd., Suite 209, Atlanta, GA 30342; 404/250-0134,  

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Dazzling Dining Room

    With perfectly square proportions, the dining room needed something to soften its hard corners. Melanie selected a round table to lend a visual cushion, and used two layers of fabric to cover it—a linen underlay and a quilty, ivory-colored topper.

    Covered in tulle for a party-ready ambience, the “Adriana” crystal chandelier from Ralph Lauren Home sparkles in the round mirror above the fireplace. A soft palette of taupe, ivory, pale pink, and green emerges from paneling that is original to the 1923 house. The round mirror is by Formations.

    Practical pleather cushions on fully upholstered dining chairs with casters lead to long, comfortable conversations. “When one person leaves the table, the magic of the conversation is broken,” says designer Melanie Turner.

    Venetian mural: existing. 
    Paint: custom, to match existing crown molding.
    Window treatment (“Watteau Silk Taffeta”/Pearl #54905); table-skirt base and napkins (“Anya Linen”/Celadon #64823); dining-chair fabric (“Gweneth Linen”/Pearl #644993): Schumacher,
    Table-skirt topper (“Aspara”/White Sand #3188/01): Jim Thompson Fabrics,
    Area rug (antique): Keivan Oriental Rugs,
    Dining chairs (custom design): Melanie Turner Interiors,
    Chandelier (“Adrianna Large Chandelier” #RL5233, by Ralph Lauren Home); sconces (“Adrianna Triple Sconce” #RL2232, by Ralph Lauren Home): Circa Lighting,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill


    Porcelain dinnerware from Melanie’s grandmother is embellished with delicate gold flowers and anchored by gold-plated chargers that echo the scalloped edges of the plates. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Pretty Pieces

    Brass candlesticks mingle around a moss-filled bowl centerpiece. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Designer Portrait

    “We have dining rooms, and they should be used,” Melanie says. “It’s what connects us as humans. The key is not to overthink.” 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Wall Panels

    Mural panels depicting architecture along the shores of the Mediterranean were hand-painted when the 1923 house was built, and left in place as part of the showhouse decoration.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Pattern Play 

    We assembled variations on Melanie Turner’s table scheme to give you options that are equally stylish.

    “Monaco” reverse-painted glass charger from 10 Strawberry Street.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Pretty & Pristine

    “Flourish” bisque dinnerware in white from Jacqueline Cambata

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Gold & Glass

     “Vetro Gold” footed fruit bowl from Arte Italica through Replacements

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    To re-create one of designer Melanie Turner’s Saturday night dinner parties, we turned to Chef Pano Karatassos, executive chef at Kyma, one of Melanie’s favorite Atlanta restaurants. This menu highlights the Mediterranean-based cuisine Kyma is known for. Visit Kyma.


    Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Preserved Lemon

    Grilled Herb-Stuffed Filet Mignon

    Eggplant and Feta Casserole

    Baklava with Honey Yogurt

    Shopping list

    We’ve organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you’ll have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    • Kosher salt (need 1-1/4 teaspoons plus more to taste)
    • Ground black pepper (need 1/2 teaspoon plus more to taste)
    • White peppercorns (need 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground)
    • Crushed red pepper flakes (need 1/4 teaspoon)
    • 2 sticks butter
    • Extra virgin olive oil (need 1/3 cup)
    • Canola oil (need 6 tablespoons)
    • Light-color corn syrup (need 3/4 cup)
    • Granulated sugar (need 2-1/4 cups)
    • Ground cinnamon (need 1-1/2 teaspoons + enough to sprinkle)
    • Stick cinnamon (need 2 inches)
    • Ground cloves (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Whole cloves (need 2)

    Specialty food store

    • 1 jar preserved lemons
    • 1 (16-ounce) package tri-color or plain quinoa (look for Bob’s Red Mill brand)


    • 2 tomatoes
    • 1 bunch green onions
    • 2 pounds Vidalia onions
    • 4 pounds small Japanese eggplants
    • 1 bulb garlic (need 3 cloves)
    • 2 large lemons (for juice)
    • 1 bunch fresh basil
    • 1 bunch fresh parsley
    • 1 bunch fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
    • 1 bunch fresh tarragon
    • 1 bunch fresh chives
    • 1 bunch fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)
    • 1 bunch fresh thyme


    • 1 (24- to 25-ounce) jar good-quality tomato-basil sauce
    • 1 (15-ounce) box golden raisins (optional)

    Baking aisle

    • 1 (1-3/4-ounce) jar pine nuts
    • 1 (16-ounce) package walnuts
    • 1 (16-ounce) container fine dry bread crumbs (need 1 cup)

    Frozen foods

    • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen phyllo dough

    Meat counter

    • 6 (6-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon), cut about 1-1/2 inches thick


    • 2 (5.3-ounce) cartons honey-flavor Greek yogurt

    Cheese counter

    • 1 (4-ounce) container crumbled or 1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese 
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Preserved Lemon

    Preserved lemons add a sprightly, salty note to this quinoa salad. Multicolored quinoa adds visual interest. Preserved lemons are simply lemons “pickled” in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt. They are an essential ingredient in the cuisines of many Mediterranean countries. You can find preserved lemons at a specialty grocery store or purchase them online here

    • 3 cups cooked quinoa
    • 1/2 cup seeded and coarsely chopped tomato
    • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
    • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
    • 4 teaspoons finely chopped jarred preserved lemon
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
    • Slivered preserved lemon, snipped fresh basil, and/or chopped tomato

    In large bowl combine cooked quinoa, coarsely chopped tomato, green onion, pine nuts, and chopped preserved lemon. Stir in olive oil, lemon juice, kosher salt, and white pepper until well combined. Spoon onto plates or into individual glasses. Top with slivered preserved lemon, snipped fresh basil, and/or chopped tomato. Makes 6 servings.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Eggplant and Feta Casserole

    It may seem counterintuitive to serve a casserole at an elegantly appointed dinner party, but the simplicity and heartiness of this eggplant dish is a perfect foil for the rich flavor of the filet. Le Creuset’s 3-quart rectangular baking dish in Cassis is beautiful enough to go from oven to table.

    • 6 tablespoons canola oil
    • 6 cups thinly sliced Vidalia onions
    • 4 pounds small to medium eggplants, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
    • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh thyme
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 2 cups good quality tomato basil sauce
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley

    In large skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add onions; cover and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes more or until golden brown. Set aside.

    Meanwhile, working in four batches, in very large skillet cook eggplant slices in 1 tablespoon hot oil 3 to 4 minutes or until browned, turning once. Transfer eggplant to an extra-large bowl. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant slices. Add thyme, garlic, salt, cracked black pepper, and crushed red pepper to eggplant; toss to combine.

    Pour 1/2 cup tomato sauce into 3-quart rectangular baking dish to coat bottom. Top with one-forth of caramelized onions and one-third of eggplant slices. Repeat layers, ending with sauce and onions.

    Top with feta cheese; cover with foil. Bake in 300°F oven 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. Before serving, sprinkle with parsley. Makes 8 servings.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Grilled Herb-Stuffed Filet Mignon 

    For a savory trio, serve the filet mignon with Eggplant and Feta Casserole and a side of cherry tomatoes charred on the grill in a grill pan.

    • 6 (6-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks, about 1-1/2 inches thick
    • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened
    • 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
    • 4 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
    • 4 teaspoons snipped fresh chives
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Fresh snipped rosemary sprigs (optional)

    Make a pocket in each steak by cutting horizontally almost to the opposite side.

    In small bowl combine butter, parsley, tarragon, chive, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon butter mixture into pastry bag fitted with large round tip. Pipe mixture into pockets in steak.

    Season steaks with additional salt and pepper. For gas or charcoal grill, place steaks on grill rack directly over medium heat. Cover; grill 8 to 12 minutes for medium-rare doneness, turning once. Garnish steaks with snipped rosemary. Makes 6 servings.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Baklava with Honey Yogurt

    This version of baklava differs slightly from the traditional form by rolling the filling in phyllo dough instead of layering it, making attractive individual servings. The recipe yields about 30 rolls, so it’s a great dish to bring to a party.


    • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
    • 4 cups whole walnuts (13 ounces)
    • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
    • 1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen phyllo dough [20 (14x9-inch) sheets], thawed

    Baklava Syrup:

    • 1-3/4 cups sugar
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 3/4 cup light-color corn syrup
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 inches stick cinnamon
    • 2 whole cloves
    • 2 (5.3-ounce) cartons honey-flavor Greek yogurt
    • Sprinkle of ground cinnamon

    For baklava, preheat oven to 325°F. Brush bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking pan with some of the melted butter; set aside. In food processor combine walnuts, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves. Cover; pulse with several on/off turns until walnuts are finely chopped. Stir in raisins, if desired.

    Brush one sheet of phyllo with butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo; brush with more butter. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup nutmixture. From short end, carefully roll phyllo sheets. Brush outside of roll with butter. Cut roll crosswise in thirds. Place rolls, seam side down, in prepared baking pan. Repeat with remaining phyllo and nut mixture. Drizzle with any remaining butter. (As you work, keep the stack of phyllo dough covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying, removing only the number of sheets you need at a time.)

    Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly in pan on wire rack (about 5 minutes).

    For baklava syrup, while baklava bakes, in medium saucepan stir together 1-3/4 cups sugar, water, corn syrup, lemon juice, stick cinnamon, and whole cloves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 219ºF. Remove stick cinnamon and whole cloves, discard. Pour syrup evenly over warm baklava in pan. Cool completely.

    In medium bowl, whisk yogurt to lighten. Spoon over individual baklava; sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Makes about 30 individual baklava.

  • Robert Brantley