7 Inspiring Table Décor Ideas From DIFFA’s Dining By Design

The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, or DIFFA, which supports organizations working on prevention, treatment and education in the fight against HIV/AIDS, recently hosted its 17th annual Dining By Design event. Held in conjunction with the Architectural Digest Home Design Show for the sixth consecutive year, the fundraiser celebrates three-dimensional dining installations created by both internationally celebrated designers, and promising local talent. Every year produces a new crop of inspiring tableaus and design ideas, each one wildly different from the next. (And yes, people actually dine in these unique environments, at the organization’s Gala Dinner.)

While of course I feel that designing a large-scale celebration is best left to the professionals (most importantly, so the host can relax and enjoy!), I think there are many ideas at DIFFA to appreciate and even borrow for your next intimate gathering.

Here are few of my favorite tables at DIFFA’s 2014 Dining By Design. Did you have a favorite? I’d love to know which one!

Ralph Lauren Home

This romantic display from Ralph Lauren Home incorporates plenty of elements you could replicate for a spring al fresco gathering: large hurricanes with white pillar candles, cherry blossom branches in bloom, and café string lights.

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Calvin Klein Home

This table from Calvin Klein Home is pared down, natural, and so pleasing, with neutral tones, natural materials, and the fresh accent of a bright green moss “runner.”

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2Michaels for Beacon Hill

This table designed by 2Michaels for Beacon Hill has a distinct Japanese influence, thanks to elements such as the simple light fixture, abstract mountain print, dark wood stools, and bamboo enclosure.

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Marc Blackwell New York

I don’t expect you to construct a sculptural enclosure for your dining table, as Marc Blackwell New York did, but you could arrange a collection of single stemmed, monochromatic blooms in individual bottles to create a striking centerpiece.

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Arteriors

This stunning tableau from Arteriors is a wonderful mashup of an eastern sensibility and Hollywood glamour.

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s table is a sophisticated mix of industrial and modern in black and gold.

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Uxe Interiors + Design and Fendi Casa, Designed by Philip Gorrivan        

I love the combination of sleek black seating, proper white china, and a burst of romantic color from a central bouquet in this table by Uxe Interiors + Design and Fendi Casa, Designed by Philip Gorrivan. The walls featuring sketched architectural details and an oversized photo of a grand hallway, almost transport you to Versailles.

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7 Rustic Spring Wedding Ideas From Flowers to Décor

You don’t get much more classic than a spring wedding. There’s a reason: it’s a beautiful time of year to get married, in no small part due to the glorious floral display nature rolls out after the long winter months. One of the enduring wedding trends of late is that of rustic décor, and you’ll see it everywhere at weddings this spring. Here are some ways to interpret rustic wedding décor, from flowers to little details — and only one of them includes a mason jar.

Refined Rustic

Not all rustic décor requires weathered wood, chalkboards and wildflowers, as shown in this rehearsal dinner I designed. This is what I like to call “sophisticated rustic.” Just a few elements in the form of fresh herbs, natural wood containers, and the slightest bit of rough twine give this gathering a cozy, but still elegant feel. 

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Classic Rustic Decor

Blue mason jars? Check. Weathered wood? Check? A lovely arrangement of roses, hydrangea, miniature daisies, and heather in hues of pink, white, and ivory? Check, check, check. And it really is lovely, without being too precious.

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Rustic New York Wedding

I love to play with texture when creating pieces for rustic weddings. Some of my favorite details from this New York wedding I designed are the flower girl basket crafted from natural bark and draped with delicate greenery, the table markers made from dried grape vines and natural wood discs, and a ring bearer’s “pillow” incorporating moss, natural twine, and succulents. 

(Photography by http://www.dreamlovephotography.com)

Rustic Flower Power

Don’t think that rustic means your flowers must be gentle pastels. Here’s an example of flowers in punchy orange, chartreuse, and saturated pink from a party I designed, that would be stunning at a rustic wedding celebration. 

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An Aisle With Style

At this rustic wedding, a simple arrangement of natural sticks and flower blossoms frame the aisle.

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Rustic Signage

Here’s a mashup of two rustic décor trends that looks great: a tree slice with natural bark edge and chalkboard finish.

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Rustic Wedding Cake

The cake, and how you display it, are a great opportunity to showcase the rustic theme. I love the look of this clean and simple cake displayed on a slice of natural wood, with assorted wildflower blooms providing pretty but unfussy accents.

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Yes, it’s finally here! Happy Spring!

Matthew David Raw Collection Chandelierium

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Nothing excites me more than trying something new and challenging myself creatively. I also, naturally, find it kind of terrifying.

But I recently partnered with lighting designer Michael McHale on his new customizable light fixture line, The Raw Collection, and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you.

The base of the collection is an industrial fixture of black steel pipes and a grid-like matrix of galvanized steel cable. Michael asked his collaborators to apply their unique vision and create kit that would transform the piece.

I’m thrilled to say my contribution, “Chandelierium,” launched the line at Art Basel in Miami last December.

The design is inspired by nature, glamour, and light, and features a sleek acrylic reservoir lined with flat glass gems.  Long Edison bulbs extend out the lower face of the fixture, casting light down, as well as onto the reflective surfaces of acrylic and glass above.

Finally, an arrangement of lush, wide grasses arches up and out of the piece, providing a natural and soft counterpoint to the steel frame. Floral blooms can be added to the piece to provide even more color and texture.

It was such a wonderful experience working on this piece, and I’m grateful to Michael McHale Designs for the opportunity to try my hand at product design — it’s something I hope to do more of soon!

Look for my Chandelierium design at Michael Mchale Designs.

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7 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Him That He’ll Actually Like

Valentine’s Day comes with a lot of pressure: where to go, what to do, and what on earth to buy your beloved? I’m of the opinion that an uninspired gift is worse than no gift at all, and so I’ve rounded up a few special items I’d be excited to give (or receive) this Valentine’s Day, as well as some ways to pamper yourself on the day of love — whether you’re attached or not!

For the Writer

For your love sonnets, or grocery list. I see this rugged brown leather journal with flap and tie closure from Cavallini equally at home in the city, or on your Tuscan holiday.

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For the Foodie

Help your in-house gourmet take things to the next level with this molecular gastronomy one-two punch. Former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer and Intellectual Ventures co-founder Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is a multi-volume, gorgeously illustrated guide to the new frontier of food preparation. It’s so inspiring, you should also have this Molecular Gastronomy Set at the ready.

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For the Techie

It’s fine if he’s addicted to his tech. (Aren’t we all?) Just make sure he totes his devices in style. I love the worn in look of this Italian leather laptop sleeve, and this subdued but stylish iPad carrying case made of waterproof waxwear will look even better the more it’s roughed up.

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For the Innovator

For the man who has pretty much everything (and is a full-on gadget geek), you can’t go wrong with the Makerbot Replicator 2x. Not only can he use this 3D printer to create whatever he might lack, he can produce it in two colors.

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For the Music Obsessed

Practical. Portable. Covetable. You can’t go wrong with ear buds by Dr. Dre. No one will ever say, “This music sounds a little too good.”

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For the Dandy (or the Scruffy)

Treat your man to a shave and a haircut in the old school tradition. With four New York City shops even the most macho bro might describe as “beautiful,” Fellow Barber offers services such as cuts, beard trims, a straight razor shave, as well as something dubbed “The Hangover Treatment.” Additional features making this a slam-dunk: there’s even a location at the Barclays Center and no appointment is necessary — he can just walk right in.

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For the Shutterbug

Has your better half been complaining about his camera? Silence him for good (if only by rendering him speechless!) by gifting the ultimate digital camera, the Leica M9.

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For You!

You deserve a little something too, right? How about one of Aerin’s new fragrances in a lovely floral like rose, lilac, jasmine or gardenia?

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Or, head to the spa yourself for a little pre-Valentine’s treatment. I recommend relaxing as the Greeks and Romans did at Tribeca’s Aire Ancient Baths, where a series of pools in varying temperatures (as well as a steam room, and a propeller jet bath) wash away tension and prep you for a massage.

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Not surprisingly, one of my favorite ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day is with flowers. I suggest buying some for yourself, and placing a few bouquets around the house. I say skip the roses, and go for bunches of unexpected, but very romantic ranunculus.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Spread the love!

The Best Holiday Party Playlists Selected by New York DJs

Take it from a pro: you can have the best food, the best décor, the best everything at an event — but if the crowd doesn’t enjoy the music you’re playing, more than a few guests will skip out before the dessert is served.

I think some seasonal favorites will always be crowd-pleasers (Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is a new holiday classic, as far as I’m concerned) but party playlists should reflect what’s popular now, as well as the tastes of a party’s attendees.

I surveyed some of the DJs working events this holiday season for what’s currently keeping spirits high and people moving, as well as some demo-targeted and unexpected numbers to mix things up a bit.

Hit Parade
People love to hear hits. They know them, can sing along (with or without coworkers), and feel a part of this larger thing we call pop culture. And perhaps most importantly, these songs are hits for a reason: you can dance to them.

More than one DJ named “Royals” by Lorde as a top pick. “It’s got that mix of indie and danceable vibe to it,” says DJ Nick Ferrington of Beat Train Productions http://beattrainnyc.com/, who also thinks “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say)” by Ylvis has the potential to be a real crowd pleaser. “It’s funny and people are playing it on the radio and everywhere right now.” And apparently, those songs of the summer are still going strong as temperatures drop…


“Royals” by Lorde

“What Does the Fox Say” by Ylvis

Other picks:
“Roar” Katy Perry
“Suit & Tie” Justin Timberlake
“Wake Me Up” Avivii
“Work B*tch” Britney Spears
“Timber” Pitbull/Ke$ha
“Blurred Lines” Robin Thicke
“Get Lucky” Daft Punk

For the 20- and 30-somethings

“The younger crowd wants to hear pop or classics, soul and funk,” says DJ Ray, Creative Director of Jarrell Entertainment. A bit of 90s nostalgia mixed in doesn’t hurt, either. Scratch Events’ DJ NME names “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe as a winner, as well as Biz Markee’s “Just a Friend.” New York-based DJ DJ Shakey also suggests indie rock dance mixes, electronic dance music and mashups, naming Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk,” and the Calvin Harris remix of Passion Pit’s “The Reeling” as possible tracks. DJ Ray finds new takes on Motown hits work well, too.


“The Reeling” by Passion Pit; Remixed by Calvin Harris


“Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe

For the Mature Crowd
This group is probably going to have some wide-ranging tastes, as its members’ ages span anywhere from the 30s to the 50s and beyond. But generally speaking, a mix of old school hip-hop, 80s and 90s music, with some hits sprinkled in play well. DJ Shakey suggests tracks such as “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode and The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” while DJ NME names “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” as good choices.


“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure


“Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode

Oldies But Goodies and Surprise Tracks To Keep Things Interesting:
People appreciate the familiar, but they also love to be surprised. Here’s a crop of songs these DJs whip out when they want to shake things up a bit or take the crowd for a ride in the way back machine.


“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston


“Wannabe” by The Spice Girls

More Ideas:

“Wanna Be” Spice Girls

“Everybody” Backstreet Boys

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana

“Sweet Child of Mine” Guns ‘N’ Roses

“Return of the Mack” Mark Morrison

“Freedom 90” George Michael

“Action” Terror Fabulous

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” Whitney Houston

“Temperature” Sean Paul

“Africa” Toto

How To Incorporate Radiant Orchid into your Holiday Décor

Readers of this blog know I’m always interested in what the Pantone Institute, known as the “global color authority” is projecting to be a hot new hue.

The company just christened “Radiant Orchid” as the color of 2014, a choice determined after surveying the use of color in fields as diverse as fashion, music, interior and industrial design, and film and television production.

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There’s a lot more of this pinky-purple-ish hue — which Pantone describes as “captivating,” “magical,” and “enigmatic” — in the pipeline, and I could not be happier as I love pink and purple and this is a perfect blend of the two!

According to the Institute, Radiant Orchid also emanates joy, love, and wealth, which makes it perfect for any celebration. But of course, the main reason to consider using this color for your event is that plain and simple, it’s lovely.

So to help you be truly cutting edge with your holiday party décor, here are some ideas to inspire you to incorporate Radiant Pink into your holiday party décor.

Happy happy!  

 Accent Pieces

Interior designer Jessica Gersten enlists a vibrant purple window seat, translucent chair, and boldly patterned pillows to provide pops of color in this primarily white room.

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 On the Edge

For this event, I paired pinkish-red with black leather and bold graphics in a minimalist setting that feels ultra modern. 

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Power Couple

Here’s an example of pairing two strong colors for a knockout combination. Skona Hem mixes purple and orange in the kitchen for an energizing duo in an unexpected place.

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Arabian Night

The popularity of Moroccan-influenced décor is still going strong; this family of bright hues is a perfect fit for the look, as seen in this bedroom.

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 Sweet Treats

These triple berry cheesecakes by Peggy Porschen for You & Your Wedding magazine are cute and festive (and look delicious)!

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 A Light Touch

Here’s an example of an event I designed with a deep, rich, pink color theme that is feminine without being too sugary sweet. White gauzy panels and a luxurious arch of roses and greenery feel romantic, while sleek light fixtures and a sculptural floral chandelier contribute a contemporary counterbalance. 

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 Think Drinks

Talk about a specialty cocktail! I love everything about this Lavender Collins from Brides magazine, right down to the gilded mirror tray!

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Rosy Outlook

This client wanted to go all the way with a rosy, warm hue. I achieved this look using hanging lights equipped with oversized shades, atmospheric lighting in a pink hue, and seating arrangements upholstered in the same color. Transparent Lucite side tables are almost invisible, letting the color shine right through. 

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Radiant Arrangements

Of course, one very popular way to incorporate orchid hues into an event is to feature the flower itself; it’s versatile, exotic, and beautiful alone or en masse.

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Photo Finish

Be the most fashionable guest at the party with this limited edition Gizmon iCA case for the iPhone 5 in the official Radiant Orchid from Pantone. 

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Dazzling Blue Wedding Theme and Decor

The crew at the Pantone Color Institute recently announced the spring 2014 color report, the group of hues most likely to be featured in fashion designers’ spring collections.

Pantone describes it as “a palette made up of soft pastels and vivid brights,” and the #1 color for next spring is the vibrant Dazzling Blue. (If it looks familiar, this particular shade is the color of the Facebook logo, as well as New York’s Citi Bike bike-sharing program.) It’s also a color fast on the rise in wedding décor. Here’s a look at how to bring the bold blue to your wedding celebration, whether it’s just a touch or all-the-way.

A Juicy Combination

At this Costa Rica destination wedding, the bridesmaids wore electric blue strapless dresses accented by punchy orange necklaces and bouquets of orange day lilies and orchids. It’s a great example of blue being breezy and fun, but still special.

Blue Light Special

Never underestimate the power of lighting! This photo is from a celebration I designed that took place in an all-white venue. Dramatic lighting in a vibrant blue color transformed the look of the space.

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True Blue

Here’s a close-up from the same event. I love how the different surfaces of glass, white linens, metallic silver, and even the transparent chairs reflect the soft blue light throughout the room.

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A Shoe In

Brides have been enlisting their feet to bring “something blue” to the ceremony for a while now, resulting in fun photos like this from photographer Shang Chen. (Although Chen reveals that the bride whose feet are pictured actually did use blue as one of her main wedding colors.) “Most of my clients are not 100 percent traditional and thus don’t usually have the ‘something blue’, though I’ve seen it in the form of shoes, fingernail colors, jewelry, or something else.”

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Blue Note

The invite sets the tone of the party. Here’s a rich blue invitation from Wedding Paper Divas by designer Jenny Romanski that feels exotic and sophisticated, with a lotus flower motif and text in a goldenrod hue.

“You can’t go wrong using ‘something blue’ in your invitations. It works with every style, from traditional to modern,” she says. “For quiet elegance, use pastel tones such as light turquoise, powder blue and peppermint. To infuse drama, use rich hues like sapphire, ultramarine, and indigo.”

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Blue Velvet

Dazzling Blue is a serious jewel tone. Consider mixing it with others of its kind for a regal, luxurious, and striking combination. Case in point: the dignified but still decadent décor of New York’s trendy Gramercy Park Hotel penthouse, which would be a fabulous honeymoon destination after a blue-hued celebration.

Gramercy Hotel

Trend Report: White on White Wedding Theme

One of the biggest trends in wedding décor right now is as classic as it gets: all white. At first thought, white-on-white might sound kind of boring — after all, these days brides are using electric color combinations, and accent hues ranging from wine to chartreuse to poppy orange.

But perhaps that’s why white is having a moment: it’s elegant and timeless. It’s also adaptable to myriad moods and styles. Whether your wedding is on the beach or in the city, ultra modern or relaxed and casual, you can do white in a distinct and unforgettable way that feels just right for you. Check out these examples to see what I mean.

Simple and Sweet

In my opinion, this cake by Sweet and Saucy Shop is a master class in how to do white-on-white right: texture plus gorgeous sculptural details make this confection simply unforgettable. No color needed!

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Revel in the Details

An all-white invitation can wow just as effectively as any Technicolor rival. Christine Traulich, Founder and Creative Director of RedBliss , recommends enlisting varied finishes and textures as well as layered materials to make an all-white invite that shines.

Incorporating metallic or pearlized ink for example, “adds a hint of elegance and glam without feeling overly done,” she says. These all-white invites from RedBliss employ elements and techniques such as strong graphics over a mirror finish, textures such as silk and croc-embossing, and lovely black calligraphy to create striking —and all very different —pieces.

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Urban Glamour

Of course, white is perfect for a traditional wedding, but the hue can deliver high glamour with equal ease. This image is from a wedding I designed at New York’s Mandarin Hotel. White cloth panels, pedestals, and orchid blooms and garlands created an urbane and sophisticated mood.

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Rustic and Regal

Don’t forget that inspiration can come from anywhere: this dining room  from Elle Décor features a lovely blend of ornate and feminine details   — a whitewashed wrought-iron chandelier, inlaid mother-of-pearl, and French provincial chairs — with an earthy oak table for an overall rustic but still elegant feel.

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Singular Sensation

Going all-white all the way too much for you? Try doing just one element in pure white. I created the bridal bouquet pictured here for a lakeside autumn wedding in Westchester. Both the surrounding foliage and the wedding’s floral arrangements were rich, fall colors, and the bride’s all-white arrangement of orchids and roses provided lovely, and pleasantly surprising contrast.

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A Plum Idea

Here’s another take on white from Martha Stewart that has a modern, almost surreal feel: centerpieces composed of white papier-mâché fruit and silver millinery leaves. Unlike flowers, these won’t wilt, and you can even display an arrangement for years to come if you like.

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Puff Piece

A contemporary take on the fairy tale wedding: White dinner-plate dahlias meet light-as-air tulle pom-poms in this festive and fanciful tableau from Martha Stewart.

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