Sunday, July 27, 2008

VH1 July 2008 VH1 Save the Music Concert Dinner

The “Hamptons” and “fun and fabulous parties” are synonymous; gorgeous homes, fantastic food, sensational settings and great people mix perfectly to create memorable, magical events. I’m an interior designer but I love to entertain, cook and host parties just as much as I love designing beautiful surroundings. This past weekend I designed the post concert private dinner for the VH1 Save the Music Concert at Morris and Jaci Reid’s home in Easthampton, NY. 

I was thrilled when they asked me to do all the décor for the exclusive 60 person affair, not only was the evening for a good cause but there was a fun music theme and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with all the decorative possibilities! I decided I wanted the table décor to look elegant, yet innovative, while at the same time festive and hip…after all, Ne-yo was performing at the concert and the after-dinner guest of honor!!
The party was sponsored by Tanqueray No.10, so Jaci Reid and I decided that the color scheme should be made up of rich emerald greens, lots of silver tones, and a splash of red, as seen on the bottle. The red had to be subtle, because we didn’t want it to look like Christmas in July!!

From the beginning, working with the VH1 Save the Music theme, I knew I wanted to find real musical instruments to place down the single 75 ft long dinner table I was working with. It’s not that often you get the opportunity to style one long table, usually you are working with several round tables but the look of one continuous table is so dramatic. I had no idea how hard silver instruments were to come by, so I turned to a new decorating vendor….EBAY! I ordered xylophones, French horns, trumpets, trombones, tambourines and even triangle sets which I eventually hung from some of the candle hurricanes on the table. The instruments couldn’t be too big because they had to fit on the table without looking random or disproportionate to the rest of the table décor.
So many of the instruments were brass so I spray painted them metallic silver to work with the overall color scheme, but I had to be careful after they dried because they can easily scratch! I knew these instruments would be the springboard for the table scape and drive home the message to the guests that saving the music for kids in school was what this evening was all about!
The challenge I came across was finding an appropriate lighting scheme on and around the lengthy dinner table, which rested on a hill overlooking the Easthampton Marina and a swimming pool. I wanted a nice ambient light, and the candlelight on the table just wasn’t going to be enough. We determined that we needed a variety of lighting schemes throughout the property. The difficulty was trying to get enough light on the table and around the house without making it looking chaotic. Lighting is so key to creating a mood and establishing the tone of the night. I believe as long as people arrive and music’s playing, lighting is low and pretty and cocktails are standing by you’ve set the table for what’s sure to be a wonderful evening!

After doing some research on various lighting ideas and concepts we went with these very fun modern orbs that were placed organically at the edge of the yard and at the bottom of the hill. The best part about these orbs was that they used portable LED  lights, which means no cords, and that is just music to a designers’ ear…pun intended!! This helped illuminate their property, adding depth and dimension in a unique way, plus they looked super cool!! We knew we didn’t want people to really go down into that area of the yard and hang out but these orbs helped us illuminate the empty area and get credit for how large the yard was!
I used the same company to help me place angled spotlights at the bases of trees to light up their trunks, and in the greenery surrounding the house, as well as on the stairs. It is not only important to bring your party environment to life through lighting designs, but for safety purposes as well! The only other light we had came from the moon, so everything had to be nicely lit! There were existing flood lights mounted to the house and although they are super functional, they have way too much glare to work with the sexy ambiance I was trying to create. We attached three gigantic Chinese lanterns underneath the overhang of this contemporary house to go over these flood lights and they looked so beautiful and really softened the harsh light. We had the lighting designer install everything the late afternoon on the day before the event…I was working away making flower arrangements and so forth and we waited for it to get dark to see if we liked the placement and angles of all the lighting. We adjusted them all to our liking and it was so important we weren’t trying to do that the next night as guests started arriving! After testing out a few color options and lighting schemes we decided that all of the lights should be a soft white, with no green, as we didn’t want this to look like an alien invasion!! I decided it was best to keep the green on the table!!

Another element to the lighting scheme was using a plexi-glass bar that lit up, it was like a beacon in the yard that just screamed “come over here right now and have a martini”!

The pool was surrounded by groupings of tall square hurricanes, which resembled a sea glass color and texture, while the driveway up to house was lined with galvanized lanterns with pillar candles decorated with moss on the insides of the lanterns at the candle bases. The dinner was aglow with a variety of votives and hurricane concepts. It was important to me to create a soft ambient light down this long dinner table. This was accomplished by using lots and lots of votive candles, through several different designs, interspersed between the instruments and floral arrangements.

The location it set way up on a hill overlooking the East Hampton Marina and it’s an incredibly beautiful spot but with that beauty comes a breeze! I lit up and “test-drove” some of my candle/hurricane options just to make sure they wouldn’t blow out, candlelight was crucial to my overall design! I actually had ordered some tall skinny drinking glass from the rental place so I could put the small green votive holders in them…they acted as mini hurricanes!

I used a Party Rental Ltd. that not only supplied the chairs, tables, linens, silverware, plates, but also the variety of glassware and hurricanes that I utilized for this votive lighting design. I definitely used glassware in non-traditional ways, and the outcome looked fabulous!! Stylish and practical!!

Tumblers were used as mini hurricanes to hold green votives, green Martini glasses were used to hold a single lily, and cylinder vases held orchids submerged in water, while square vases displayed a mix of green flowers I had bought in the floral district. I didn’t want to see the bottoms of the flower stems so I cut a fern from the Reid’s backyard and wrapped them around the base of the flower stems and floated them in the vase. This helped make the arrangement look polished and chic. The variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of the glassware I used created a soft atmosphere through reflection and play of light. Never be afraid to use a drinking glass or vase in a new and inventive way!! I can never say that enough!

The floral district was another major resource for this event. The floral district is located down on 28th street (between 6th and 7th Aves.), it is one of my favorite spots for inspiration, and if you haven’t been there you have to go!! It’s awesome and will help trigger those design ideas in the back of your head!! I went to my favorite vendors for items such as moss, votives, silver rocks, silver mesh, ribbon and other supplies, not to mention the flowers and greenery I used to make the floral arrangements. I used the moss to line the base of the large cylinders, adding a plain glass votive in the middle and keeping with the colors of the theme! The cylinder not only acted as a hurricane, but also was a place to add some greenery. I used the silver rocks the same way as the moss, again creating a hurricane while adding breadth through reflection. The silver mesh was surprisingly easy to cut and I used 6 inch wide pieces down the shimmery silver tablecloth, acting as a modern, groovy twist on a runner. The reflection of the mesh off all the votives really brought the table to life, while adding a fun disco quality to it! C’mon, this was a night all about music, I had to!

The base of the table was an iridescent silver tablecloth and for the dinnerware place settings I used a combination of white charger, a silver dinner plate, and green glass plates for the salad and dessert courses. The layering of colors and finishes looked amazing! I then placed the menu card, which I designed and made using a faded sheet music motif as the background and a crisp bold green text, in the middle of the setting. Holes were punched at the top of each menu and a red bow was tied, giving us our little splash of red! The bow was cut at the ends, ultimately mimicking the design of the Tanqueray NO. 10 bottles. I know not many people picked up on it, but hey, I knew and for me the magic is in the details!

Large white irish linen napkins were used to help display the emerald green 4”x1” placecards that I cut. I threaded the placecards on long silver satin ribbon then tied them on cinched napkins. We had another team member that day, Morris Reid, who aided us in napkin folding, and let me just say…the man has a knack for napkin folding!! I then used silver paint pens to write the names of the guests on each card. The napkins and the long silver ribbon napkin ties trailed over the edges of the table which added to the casual, elegant feel that is so Hamptons!

I am not going to lie, the set-up of this party required a lot of endurance and strength, especially in the 95 degree, humid July heat we had to endure those two days! My assistants, Lauren and Regina, and I got quite a workout…but we rocked out to our favorite ipod mix, got the job done, and in the end it all looked just as I had hoped it would!!
People seemed to really enjoy themselves, the food, the company as well as the décor…that’s what it’s all about! In the beginning when I was on Ebay picking which instruments to order for the center of the table I wondered if it made sense or was I just spinning my wheels working on a detail that could possibly go unnoticed. My ultimate reward was at the end of the evening when photographers were snapping pictures of Ne-Yo, Matthew Modine and other celebrity guests and they started grabbing the instruments up off the table to pose with them in the pictures…it was all about having fun and saving the music and I feel like we definitely did just that!