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Dining by Design 2009

by habituallychic

03 . 29 . 09

Someone recently left a nasty comment on another blog chastising them for having a party in this economy. I think a party is exactly what everyone could use right now, especially one that employs hundreds of people and brings designers together for a worthy cause. Last Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Cocktails by Design party for the 2009 DIFFA Dining by Design event which I have to say was one of the most fun parties I’ve been to in a while!

For those who don’t know, DIFFA stands for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS and each year in different cities, designers and sponsors get together to create amazing dining tables for a Gala Dinner to benefit DIFFA. It is an event full of creativity, thoughtfulness and fun with designers coming out to support other designers.

I went to the event to support my friend, interior designer Brad Ford who designed the most talked about table at the event! His theme “Change is Good” was conceived with the notion that everyone has spare change in their pocket that they could contribute to support DIFFA, hence the piggy banks!

As you can see in this photo, Brad created a bamboo table with a lucite top, with the help of Siegfried’s Basement, Inc., in which slots were cut in front of each place setting so that money could be dropped into the table as well as the piggy banks. The base which you can’t see was created by Morgik Metal Designs.

The napkins were custom embroidered by Copper Pig in Russelville, Arkansas, Brad’s hometown! I was thinking that Brad should start a furniture line. I’m picturing the table in a beach house with sand and seashells under the top. The glassware from Roost is available at Gracious Home.

Here is my friend Kelly Reynolds making a donation into one of the slots. On a side note, look for a post about Kelly and her roommates who have created a line of hair accessories, one of which she is wearing, that they will be selling soon! You can also see the fabulous leather and suede campaign chairs in this shot that I loved! They were designed by Jim Zivic and are available from Ralph Pucci. The folding screens are from Richard Wrightman Design, who also has a beautiful line of campaign furniture.

All of the piggy banks were collected by friends and family and also found on eBay. Brad mentioned that they might sell them after Monday’s Gala Dinner but there is a rumor that since the response to the table was so great, DIFFA has asked if it could travel to all of the Dining by Design cities. I’ll keep you posted!

As I walking through the event, who should I see but Kansas City interior designer John Rufenacht and his partner Richard Lara! What a fabulous surprise! John founded Dining by Design in Kansas City and I was lucky enough to meet him while I was there last June. Kelly and I had a great time chatting with the men about the tables, art, design and “kraft” night (inside joke)!

They also happened to be standing in front of another wildly creative table that to me looked like a formal dinner party that Jean-Michel Basquiat would have thrown!

As we were admiring the table, I was delightfully surprised to find out that it was designed by Michael Tavano! I first met Michael at a dinner party thrown by Mathew White of White Webb and now we keep running into each other all over town! He was asked by the New York Design Center, where his showroom is located, to design their table and was inspired by the New York Delft Tableware from Lovegrove & Repucci that features scenes of New York and grafitti.

Here is a close up look at the china and Street Napkins which are also from Lovegrove & Repucci. The sillver is from Christofle and the chairs are from Baker, Knapp & Tubbs.

Michael named the table “Fine Dining. Urban Living.” and set out to combine design elements from the NYDC showrooms with edgy street art. He contacted artist Christian Avila and explained his plan. Christian was very thoughtful in his design for the artwork in the space. He used floor plans as his canvas and “metaphors to express his interpretation of DIFFA’s cause.”

Christian depicted AIDS as a Ninja, the silent killer, while the Japanese symbol for life above it represents how far we have come in fighting the disease.

The gorgeous chandelier from Schonbek was from Metropolitan Lighting Fixture Co. and added to wonderful tableau.

Another favorite table was part of the Student Design Initiative and created by New York University, Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama. They were advised by interior designer Miles Redd who I met for the first time at the party and who couldn’t have been nicer. Under his wonderful tutelage, the students created a wonderfully fun pixelated room.

I’m not sure if you can tell by the photos, but the walls are chain link and have interlocking plastic pieces inserted that create a decorative pattern. I have no idea what this product is called so if anyone knows, please feel free to share. I did find the patent information online so you can see how it works. I love the pixelated Van Gogh painting and wine glasses on the table. Very creative!

Another fun and colorful table was designed by the students from Parsons who were advised by interior designer Vicente Wolfe.

The table from Kravet was a mix of fun fabrics and beach buckets and fine china.

The HP table matched it’s new Vivian Tam mini laptop with a mix of reds and pinks.

Another favorite table was designed by fashion designer Tracy Reese. It had inspiration board walls and chairs wearing pretty dresses.

One of the first tables you saw when entering the venue was by Tracy Stern. It was a riot of color and tea sets since Tracy has a line of teas and is opening SalonTea Bar on the Upper East Side.

It was fun checking out all the different china patterns!

Italian winery and DIFFA sponsor, Castello di Gabbiano had a beautiful Tuscan table that was designed by Marc Blackwell who also designed the china. My favorite part of the table were the side panels that looked to be plexiglass and were printed with sepia tones scenes of Italy and the vineyard. They were hard to photograph at the evening event which was a shame.
I love that the table evokes the feeling of an Italian winery that relates to the sponsor.

The Center 44 “table” or in this case, chic little sitting room was designed by interior designer Susan Lawton. I wasn’t sure how they were going to eat dinner without a table. I was picturing them balancing little bamboo trays on their knees like Nan Kemper used for dinner parties in her home.
This table was designed by Ralph Lauren Home and represents their new Black Sands collection.

This spring table with mushrooms and birds was designed by Eric Warner. There were many more tables that I missed and I’m sure they will be on the DIFFA website soon. It was a wonderful party to celebrate a wonderful event that benefits a wonderful cause and we all had a wonderful time! I applaud all the designers and sponsors who participated in Dining by Design this year and I can’t wait to see what everyone does next year! This one will be hard to top!

Comments Closed

  1. Renee Finberg March 30, 2009 | 1:08 pm


    i know you had a blast, it looked like such fun.

    you are correct in making ‘SOME PEOPLE’ aware of what some of these FUND RAISERS are really for.


  2. Style Maniac March 30, 2009 | 2:02 pm

    Isn’t it interesting how parties are so often portrayed as a frivolous waste of money in the press? No mention of all the people and organizations the events provide income to: caterers, florists, valet parking concessions, servers, venues (often non-profit). And of course the charitable groups that benefit. No one seems to mind the money involved in producing sporting events but god forbid you do something pretty. Plus do these critics realize that most designers not only do these events for free, but pay out of pocket to produce a stunning vignette?

  3. A Gift Wrapped Life March 30, 2009 | 3:37 pm

    Some people are no fun…..whatever the economy is doing.Looks like a fabulous event and the tablesettings are astounding!

  4. Blushing hostess March 30, 2009 | 3:42 pm

    Im in the process of sep posts on each table atr BH Entertains. Jose Cazarolla was my hands down fave… oh, could I live under that mushroom canopy?! Be well…

  5. Jill March 30, 2009 | 3:54 pm

    Great tables! I really like the informal table setting with the animal print pillows. We do something like this too…it’s called tablescapes. I wasn’t able to participate this year, but last year was a lot of fun. Great post!

  6. Musette March 30, 2009 | 5:10 pm

    What fun! and a great cause.

    No chastising re parties, especially parties that ‘give back’! However, ‘give back’ or not, this wack economy should not be used as an excuse to try to bludgeon people into marching to a particular moral tune (wow, the metaphors are flying – sorry:-) and you’re right, parties like this employ tons of people who, if Nasty Commenter had his/her way, would not’ve been employed via this event. More parties!!!!

    Looks like a wonderful event.

  7. Ivy Lane March 30, 2009 | 6:03 pm

    Wow that looks like it was a great party! I love the fact that DIFFA wants the “Change Is Good” table to travel to other venues with them. What a great cause and what stunning tablescapes! I can’t believe someone would chastise another for having a party….. These are the times when friends and families should be the closest and celebrate whatever and whenever they can! Happy Monday!

  8. jenny andrews-anderson March 30, 2009 | 7:35 pm

    i love parties. fancy ones that give back, fancy ones that don’t, modest ones with take out food and a game on tv, ones with sangria’s and chips, ones with charades and weed, ones with kids and a pool, ones with adults and a pool…parties i DO NOT LIKE?…ones attended by assholes.

  9. ArchitectDesign March 30, 2009 | 8:05 pm

    Wow, these are so imaginative, over the top and fabulous! I wish I had been there!!

  10. Cherish March 30, 2009 | 9:52 pm

    What a beautiful event!! DIFFA provides a much needed boost to a charity that needs our help regardless of the state of the economy.
    Kudos to all involved!!

  11. Kelly March 30, 2009 | 11:39 pm

    I love all of the different tables. It is especially cool that aspiring student designers got a chance to share their work.

    I couldn’t agree more with you about the need for parties. Aside from the guests and charities, so many companies were able to send employees to work to this party. That keeps the employees at work a all of the companies (serving, linen, valet…) in business.
    I also get hope for our future seeing that people continue living and arts are continuing to be valued. This is not an excessive party either.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Bernadette March 31, 2009 | 1:52 am

    So since you started the post w/ the comment about the nasty commenter, I will start my comment by commenting on them: (and please forgive me in advance for the *profanity*) F them H. There always will be someone(s) suffering somewhere. So, no parties ever then, hhhm? No fun? I say to you sad commenter, wake and see the light! Having said that, I neeed those Scalamandre leopard pillows, and as a general rule of the known universe, Ralph Lauren can do no wrong. Love your blog. Pour yourself a martini on me.

  13. Love Where You Live March 31, 2009 | 1:19 pm

    Kravet’s was soooo unexpected….so quirky. I think I enjoyed that one the best. I know of DIFFA but never attended one of these events. Now, I want to! thanks, -susan

  14. Love Where You Live March 31, 2009 | 1:19 pm

    Kravet’s was soooo unexpected….so quirky. I think I enjoyed that one the best. I know of DIFFA but never attended one of these events. Now, I want to! thanks, -susan

  15. Shelly March 31, 2009 | 10:59 pm

    About the NYU table…
    The product is called “put in cups”
    The web site has the whole history of the product and it is quite amusing.
    (I was the NYU students faculty adviser… and I had my own table at the event with the inverted umbrella chandeliers)

  16. Habitually Chic March 31, 2009 | 11:17 pm

    Renee – It was so much fun!

    Style Maniac – all of these great events and show houses do cost the designers a lot of money so it’s very generous of them to participate. They also employ many people and companies. Everyone wins including the charity!

    A Gift Wrapped Life – There is always a spoil sport. The creativity was amazing!

    Blushing Hostess – I loved seeing the tables I missed on your blog! Thanks!

    Jill – I need to find out who did the seating area. I was wondering if they were going to eat on bamboo trays like Nan Kempner.

    Musette – spring is all about parties so I can’t wait! Kips Bay should be great this year too!

    Ivy Lane – the table is definitely traveling now! Woo hoo! Brad was excited because Whoopie Goldberg put some money in the table during the gala!

    Jenny – I concur!

    Stefan/AD – you should come next year!

    Cherish – it’s such a fun charity event so it would be a shame if it wasn’t around!

    Kelly – thanks for agreeing!

    Thanks Bernadette! I hope I stay on your good side!

    Susan – I loved the high/low mix at the Kravet table. Everyone outdid themselves! You should definitely check it out next year!

    Shelly – thank you so much for the name of the product! I loved that table/room! I’m not sure if I saw your table. I didn’t realize until after that I had missed a few tables. I will see if I can find it online. I’m sure it was great!

  17. Paul Plumadore April 1, 2009 | 8:28 pm

    Please let Jill and your other followers know that the “informal table with the animal print pillows” was created by designer Susan Lawton, http://www.susanlawton.com, for Diffa sponsor Center44. Center44 is 75 vintage an antique dealers in 25,000 sq. feet of showrooms located at 222 East 44th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Ave. Ms. Lawton created a “virtual salon” utilizing material from 25 of the Center44 dealers. Our Gala dinner guests included designers Amy Lau, Robert Passal, and Donald Schermerhorn, as well as music producer and WFMU DJ Monica Lynch and Senior Editor of Metropolitan Home, Arline Hirst. It was a tremendous honor and pleasure to be part of this year’s Dining by Design event.

    Paul Plumadore

  18. Pigtown-Design April 1, 2009 | 10:11 pm

    Gotta love the pigs! 😉

  19. ...love Maegan April 2, 2009 | 8:05 pm

    those little piggies are such a great idea!!!

  20. citysage April 14, 2009 | 4:44 am

    Love that Tracy Reese table–it really is the perfect translation of her fashion sensibility into homewares!