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Magazine    December 2001

Dining By Design

Elegant Picnic at the Beach, designed by Forchielli-Glynn for Kneedler-Fauchere

Photos by Cathy Blaivis

For four years, DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) has been quietly—and not so quietly—holding a party called Dining by Design in New York and in the past two years the fund-raiser has been staged in several other cities in the United States. Billed as "the Cannes of tabletop," an observation made by filmmaker John Waters, the event is an imaginative and entertaining display of round and oblong dining tables decorated to the hilt by a creative bunch of local designers. In New York, fashion designers dominate the gala, while in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Kansas City interior designers take center stage.

Last month in Los Angeles, the cavernous Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, where the L.A. Antiques Show and other large-scale events typically are held, contained 39 over-the-top tables, from Sex & the City's space ship hovering over a luminous round white modernist table to Hutton Wilkinson's Indian Shangri-La with a 40-foot-tall backdrop painted to resemble the Amber Palace in Jaipur (below). With L.A. being the entertainment capital of the world, the event featured musical selections from the pop operas Aida and The Lion King sung by the lead roles, as well as a silent auction and lots of dancing. Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge and Elle Decor were sponsors.

The interior design firm Forchielli-Glynn designed a table on the theme "Elegant Picnic at the Beach" (top) that was sponsored by and furnished with items from the Kneedler-Fauchere showroom. Framed by four columns and urns (from Stone Yard in Los Angeles) that contained tall, curly willow branches spray-painted red to look like coral, the focal point of the installation was a shell-encrusted chandelier by J.F. Chen that dazzled like crystal against the dark of the airport hangar.

Virginia Paca's and Dolores Kroop's artistic accents
Barbara Lockhardt's Getting to Know You table

Architect Virginia Paca collaborated with interior designer Dolores Kroop to create an Asian-inspired pavilion. The pair enlisted fashion designer Peter Lai to make silk-like napkins and a damask tablecloth bordered with antique brass American beads (above). Paca and Kroop, artists at heart, got very creative, painting the undersides of glass plates with the same lotus pattern motif found in the tablecloth, and they took simple wine glasses and painted their stems deep purple, bronze, blue and gold using metallic colors from Easy Leaf in Santa Monica. Rattan balls dipped in metallic red paint and Chinese lanterns spray-painted gold were thrown on a long bed of moss in the center of the table as accents.

Barbara Lockhardt sheathed two connecting oblong tables with red tablecloths topped with an elaborate runner made of fresh green leaves (left). Her centerpieces: two four-foot long displays of dozens of tied bunches of red tulips in oblong glass boxes that were filled with fruits and vegetables for decoration.

The next Dining by Design event, in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom from February 2 through 5, will feature 65 tables designed by companies such as Tiffany, Ralph Lauren Home and Scalamandre, and a number of high-profile interior designers and architects, including David Rockwell and Jamie Drake.

Typically each DIFFA chapter that stages a Dining by Design event makes the tables available for viewing by the public at a nominal admission fee, usually $10, and each chapter holds a dinner party where table sponsors invite guests or sell tickets to friends to attend and dine at the table. Several additional tables are designed for people purchasing single tickets.

Hutton Wilkinson's Indian pavilion, with the Amber Palace in Jaipur as a backdrop

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