Thursday, March 24, 2016


DIFFA and Dining by Design have always been close to our hearts. DIFFA, Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, began with a covert meeting back in 1984 when AIDS was only mentioned in whispers. A group of concerned industry personalities got together at textile designer, Pat Green’s office, to try to figure out a way to help other industry members who were succumbing to this mysterious disease. The organization has grown over the past thirty plus years with a national presence and having raised over forty-one million dollars in the fight against AIDS. We started our relationship with Dining by Design with our own table in 2004 and were given the opportunity to continue for the next three years designing tables for the New York Design Center one of the most prominent supporters of the event ever since its inception. We followed that up as mentors for the New York School of Interior Design the first year student tables were added to the mix.
Every year since I’ve made the pilgrimage to each new venue to see the amazing creativity put forth all in the name of this worthy cause.
The event has had its major sponsorship jump around from one shelter magazine to another. The torch has been passed from Elle Décor to Architectural Digest to its present torch holder Interior Design magazine and the guidance of Cindy Allen. The venues have changed as well from the Hammerstein Ballroom to the Tunnel to the Piers and its alliance with the Architectural Digest Show. The event has shrunk a bit but the quality hasn’t diminished. 
Technology has become a testing ground for some of the new entries and as always the Rockwell Group is at the head of that vanguard. The LAB at Rockwell Group partnered with Lightwave International and installed a mist wall that they then were able to project on creating a gossamer curtain of bubbling lights reminiscent of city lights reflecting off of wet pavement. It was impossible for most people walking through the exhibit not to run their hands through the curtain of mist as they walked by.
White worked for Benjamin Moore when they chose Simply White as their color of the year. They continued to play this up with their table this year where the art on the walls was nothing more than crumpled paper painted various shades of Ben Moore whites.
The result of the whole room was irresistibly sophisticated and elegant. The mid-eastern inspired chairs from Global Views and the white candelabras made for a table set for a sultan.
Not to be left on the dark side Crate and Barrel concocted their version of the white room. Their fluffy faux fur seating was in direct contrast to their back wall exploding in broken shards made from porcelain dishes.
Far from the white of Benjamin Moore and Crate & Barrel, Ghislaine Vinas created a deeply eerie dinner setting with an indigo blue room for Sunbrella fabrics. A canopy of blue leaves dripped a trio of banana bunch light fixtures spreading their light onto a plateless table top. The moodiness of this tableau was mesmerizing and enchanting.
Continuing around the color wheel Arteriors chose agate green with brass accents for their salon. The stone inspired wallcovering along with the velvet covered benches reflected in the circular mirrors provided an ambiance of haute cuisine.
Architectural Digest decided on a very African inspired direction with their table. Their use of juju hats as wall décor along with African mola applique art add to the free trade hand-crafted appeal of their table.
I arrived early on Thursday afternoon, the day the event opened. The cocktail event was scheduled for that evening. What I was surprised to see was some of the tables were still under production. One was the second Rockwell table, an entire room scribbled by Jon Burgeman. The fact that the table was a work in progress may have been the intent here. It gave all of us a chance to see Jon at work making his very famous doddles.
Another table still under construction Thursday afternoon was Kravet’s entry. This one may have been the result of miscalculated time rather than an opportunity to see an artist at his craft. The chairs, all done in Kravet fabrics were designed by a Canadian wedding dress designer making all the chairs bride’s maids with billowing skirts and flowing trains.
Like many a bride’s maid there were some last minute fittings necessary to get all of those corseted bodices securely sewn in.
One of the stalwart supporters of DIFFA and an annual presenter at Dining by Design is the New York Design Center. They chose Antonino Buzzetta to design their birthday table in honor of NYDC’s ninetieth birthday. Set in a New York City backyard complete with graffiti walls the food here is already on the tables and it is sweet.
From the funky to the classical, The New York Times table employed the design expertise of Lladro and Darrin Varden. With classic marble panels, hints of gold and silver and topped with Lladro chandeliers and sconces this was an exceptionally traditional entry into the fray. The royal red doesn’t hurt either with cementing this very classy room.
And now for a trip from the classic to the whimsical, Robert Allen’s table designed by the very talented duo of Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of Madcap Cottage renown. Known for their eclectic design and putting pattern on pattern you can’t look at their table and not breakout into an ear-to-ear grin.
Their new line of fabrics referencing the floras and geometrics of the 1930’s and 40’s has a spirit defined by joy.
As I mentioned earlier student tables were a concept pulled into the mix several years ago. One of the goals with these tables was to show the young talent ready to enter into the design community as its next generation. A second goal was to show what could be done with a limited budget and that good design is not contingent on the amount of money one has to spend.  A great example of this is the table by Parsons The New School of Design.
The goals of this event have always been to generate awareness of the disease and to help develop a plan for creating a cure for a disease that for decades was a death sentence.
With the help of organizations like DIFFA the disease is no longer a ticket to the graveyard. Thousands of people are now able to live full lives while living with HIV and AIDS but many more are still unable to get that necessary help. There are still many hurdles to jump for the disease to be only a part of our history and until that happens I’ll be supporting DIFFA and the Dining by Design event.
Please consider contributing to this remarkable organization.

AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Washington Mall

From the National Institutes of Health


  1. Hello there! Just wanted to inform you that the student table you have listed in your blog is actually the work of Parsons School of Design, not NYSID. Please kindly update your information! :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thank you for the correction. Our sincere apologies to Parsons. Please note the mistake has been corrected.

  4. This place is stunning. The architecture is beautiful and the decoration is spectacular. Environment was transparent and resonant and warm and immediate. I loved these event venues Chicago and my experience here was very exciting.