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Rooftop Rendezvous

Rooftop Rendezvous
March 2008
Entertaining in high style is a cinch with help from local pros

Consummate hosts Allison and LeGrand Elebash entertain often, and an invitation from the Elebashes is one to anticipate. Whether spontaneous cookouts with neighborhood families or sophisticated dinner parties, they pull out all the stops to make guests feel simultaneously special and at home.

Following a year of interior and garden improvements on their I’On house, the couple turned their talents to transform their accessible-but-stark rooftop into a comfortable, chic space to escape with a good book or to enjoy company. “We were drawn to this house because of its great layout and abundance of natural light, but the in­door-outdoor feel of the back porch and the rooftop sold us,” says LeGrand. “It’s rare to find an eagle’s-eye view in Mount Pleasant.”

“LeGrand and I had a distinct vision of transforming the essentially industrial rooftop into a setting reminiscent of the poolside lounges of Miami’s South Beach, one of our favorite vacation spots,” explains Allison. Having recently ventured into an interior design business, she had adeptly overseen the décor of the family’s home. Before embarking on the outdoor project, however, the Elebashes consulted Danny Berler and his capable team of designers and horticulturists at Down to Earth Garden Center for guidance on the furnishings, plantings, and accessories they would need.

“I’ve known the Elebashes for a few years, and they have definitive tastes,” says Berler. “The couple wanted a stylish, contemporary, and comfortable space for entertaining.” After assessing their needs and personal style, he narrowed down furniture options to what would function best in the outdoor areas. The team first thought to place an all-weather wicker furniture grouping so it overlooked Maybank Green, the square fronting the house, but they discovered that pulling the seating farther from the railing offered guests a more expansive view of the horizon, including a breathtaking vista of the Cooper River Bridge. The move opened up space for a mosaic tile bar and bistro table with tall swivel chairs, which now look down over the park. The collaboration resulted in welcoming seating areas made of intimate sofas and chaise lounges with popsicle-colored throw pillows, beckoning people to recline.

Finally, Berler enhanced the décor with foliage and decorative accents. “We used plants as a design element to break up the space,” says Berler, citing a dramatic wisteria-draped trellis placed on the white stucco of the chimney. “Plants add life to any setting.” Overscale cobalt blue flower urns-turned-end tables—perhaps Allison’s favorite find at Down to Earth—sparkle in the sunlight, and the couple’s own kilim rugs finish the look. “We’re very pleased with the outcome—a private oasis,” she says.

To christen their finished rooftop entertaining space, Allison and LeGrand extended invitations to a fun mix of friends, old and new, for a festive spring dinner party. “LeGrand and I really enjoy working in tandem to cook for friends, but for this event, we wanted to relax with our guests,” says Allison, who tapped Charles­ton culinary impresario Callie White to create a casually elegant warm-weather menu for this occasion. “With cocktails served on the roof, I knew having Callie in the kitchen would help me avoid running up and down the stairs in heels to check the oven,” Allison laughs. White immediately picked up on the hosts’ energy during a planning meeting and designed an extraordinary meal with flavors from the Mediterranean.

As guests arrive, music wafts down from above, beckoning them up the short flight of stairs for cocktails above the treetops. A lifelong musician and music buff, LeGrand is well-known for his DJ-worthy iPod compilations, and for this occasion, he has created a mix of ambiance-driven tunes appropriately inspired by a visit to South Beach. “Whenever we travel and discover new music, I’ll ask the bartender about the group or singer. This collection has selections from Blue Bar and the Delano in Miami, including ones from a group called Thievery Corporation. I like music to set the tone for people to feel upbeat, relaxed, and happy,” says LeGrand.

A bright sky streaked with the colors of the ever-changing sunset provides a picture-perfect backdrop for sipping bubbling rosé Champagne. And though tonight’s group brings together friends from different areas of the Elebashes’ life, by the end of the first cocktail everyone has connected in one way or another: “It is the South,” laughs Allison. Succulent baby gyros with chicken and tzatziki arrive, along with skewered garlic shrimp and Spanish chorizo with creamy avocado-lemon dipping sauce to kick off the evening. As guests sample the appetizers, all agree they’ve been transported to a tropical isle.

Soon, aromas from White’s dinner draw people down to the second-floor porch, where the relaxed vibe continues and the view centers on the Elebashes’ verdant garden, designed by Charleston landscape architect Sheila Wertimer. “We spend a great deal of time out here—serving family meals, reading, and kicking back on weekend mornings,” says LeGrand. “Porch living is one of the best aspects of life in the Lowcountry.”

Working with Lisa Thomas, owner of Out of Hand, Allison has reinforced the evening’s alfresco feel with a rustic dining table flanked by traditional dining room chairs. A natural linen runner is dressed with vines and stunning arrangements featuring clusters of cymbidium orchids and roses. The flowers bring terra-cotta oranges, maroons, and vivid yellows into play, but Thomas has softened the intense hues with antique hydrangeas and lilies. Delicate handblown glasses and simple votive candles contrast with Allison’s formal sterling water goblets and the iconic Herend “Rothschild Bird” dinner plates borrowed from LeGrand’s mother, well-known interior designer Kathleen Rivers. Even the typically functional steak knives boast decorative details with gleaming tortoiseshell handles. “This table setting is lovely, but not fussy or overdone,” says Allison. “It reflects the eclectic, organic style that I prefer.”

LeGrand has selected an array of wines for the evening from Soif, a wine shop located down the street on I’On’s square. After cocktails, he pours a buttery Santa Barbara chardonnay and soon moves into more serious grape territory. Luca, a fine Argentine syrah, offers a full complement to White’s earthy main course: perfectly cooked lamb chops and tapenade jus served with haricots verts with sautéed wild mushrooms, and tomatoes stuffed with orzo and sprinkled with feta.

Conversation crescendoes as the dessert of pound cake with lemon curd, mascarpone mousse, and sweetened berries is placed before smiling guests. LeGrand’s mellow tunes segue into a nostalgic ’80s mix of Duran Duran and Squeeze, and it’s clear to the hosts that the party’s groove has hit a high note. Seizing the moment, the Elebashes rally their guests up the stairs one last time, and the rooftop revelry continues with dancing under the stars.