Thursday, May 1, 2014

...trendshopping: Design on a Dime 2014.

It’s all a blur... months and months of planning, begging, waiting, coercing, begging some more, two fast but lonnnnng days of set up, LOTS of unpacking (where Housing Works volunteers whisk away mountains of cardboard), last minute Plan Bs and Tim-Gunn-esque “make it work” moments, one whirlwind of a party (where lucky and energized bargain hunters pick your booth clean right before your very eyes), two days of public sales of whatever managed to survive the party, and it’s over... that’s the delightful craziness that is Design on a Dime, the annual benefit for Housing Works

Now in its tenth year, the event broke the million dollar mark last year, and this year, sailed to $1.1 million raised. A community facing the dual realities of homelessness and HIV/AIDS is the primary beneficiary, but in a way, the interior design community also reaps the rewards of this event that brings newbies and veterans, art, antique and artifact from around the globe, and designers from all around the country together and creates a lovely sense of community and camaraderie, with a tiny bit of healthy competitive sport thrown in.

I’ve participated for four years now, and each year, the event gets bigger, better, the bar is raised, and I make more friends of fellow designers, volunteers, and even buyers. This year (somehow!) I also had the chance to get a quick tour of the entire event, in one of the RARE moments of calm and quiet between set-up frenzy and party time. I’m happy to share some of the MANY home runs, by friends and neighbors, that also make this sale a wealth of design inspiration, and a mini barometer of taste and trend. There's plenty to take home even if you missed the sale.
First Time's a Charm
I knew, knew, knew Tamara Matthews Stephenson, prolific blogger, interior designer, stylist and all-around generous and lovely lady would rock this event. And she did. Tamara gets straight As in all columns: execution, styling, sellable goods, social media, promotion, buzz, and donor recognition.
Her sunny, beachy, sophisticated dining set up captured coastal Connecticut chic, and also gave buyers a wonderful selection from which to peruse, pick and pounce. Tamara also works social media brilliantly, and she made sure her extensive list of A-list vendors were recognized in the weeks leading up to opening night, while giving eager shoppers delightful sneak peeks to whet their appetite.
 The phrase “fully realized” comes to mind with Tamara’s vignette. And were it not for the fact there’s no ceiling and only three walls, you’d swear this space was a room fully ready for a sunny summer lunch. Love, love, loved it. 
You can also tell Tamara did not settle for just any donation. This booth was designed. And believe me, relying solely on donations while holding fast to a design scheme is no easy feat.

And the lovely, laughing and connected Tamara was the perfect addition to the event, overall. Hope she’s planning for next year already!!
At the Westminster Kennel Club, they give an award for “Best of Opposite Sex” to honor the second-but-equal top judge’s pick. I’d give that ribbon to top dog Ron Marvin, the pedigreed designer of past Apartment Therapy “Smallest Coolest” competition, dubbed a New Trad Designer a few years back, and favorite of the folks at Domino, where his own swank apartment was just featured.
He’s another designer I knew would (as our friend Matthew says) "turn it out." Ron's style is theatrical but approachable, he’s a master tablescaper, and his layered, art-driven look is a perfect extension into an event where raising money with merchandise is the ultimate goal. 
His moody jazz-age gentleman’s lounge, against a coppery geometric wallcovering from Cole & Son, was pure Ron. Deep woods on pieces both older (from Wyeth) and new (that sexy and perfectly scaled bar, from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams), new lighting with the patina of vintage, must-have accessories, and a skilled mix of lustworthy art, including a large textured canvas from Victor Raul Garcia (a steadfast supporter of the event, and a past donor to my own vignette), a piece from Jefferson Hayman (a generous loaner to my own room at Holiday House) and the (adorable!) Canadian photographer Simon Normand behind the lens of one of the night’s most talked-about pieces, that large photograph over the sofa.

Marc Houston created a deceptively simple but also fully-realized vignette that could have easily become a full apartment. Smart, chic, tailored, against a gorgeously-draped wall by The Shade Store. (I am SUCH a sucker for a draped wall... a brilliant way to camouflage rental paint color, lose an airshaft “view,” hide an outdated pass-though or mirrored wall, balance out odd architecture, anchor a bed... the list goes on!) 

His room was confident, relatable, sellable and sexy. And if you’ve ever seen Marc, sexy is definitely a plank in his well-constructed, um, brand platform.

Another great showing from a DoaD first-timer was Tim Croneberger from Halcyon Design, LLC., who now has me obsessed with, and possibly purchasing from, artist Gregory Hayes.

Other Design on a Dime newbies of note: Travis AbbottJennifer Flanders, and Robert Nassar. Canadian design guru Karl Lohnes created one of his signature "painted Queen" portraits for Travis' maiden voyager in Design on a Dime waters.

Photo courtesy Quintessence 
In the Brand, Outside the Box
Several designers worked with single major donors, and it’s always interesting to see the products of venerable brands through the fresh eyes of designers, especially in this event that allows great experimentation, a fun and fleeting existence and several ways into the event (True room? Styled vignette? Mini-shop? Art installation?)

Handsome, charming and perennially-smiling Neal Beckstedt (a past top performer at Design on a Dime and Kips Bay) is generally known for quiet and stylish rooms that mix incredibly curated vintage finds, lush menswear-inspired fabrics, and sculptural upholstery, so it was interesting to see him work with Arhaus, known for a more layered, eclectic and bohemian-industrial look in their furniture showrooms (the Meatpacking district location was the host to the Design on a Dime Kick-off party this year).

Neal went all multiple, and you could tell had a blast doing it. A stack of trunks, a murder of crows, and a wall of mirrors all made his vignette his most art-installation to date, in an attic-inspired room that you’d swear Tippi Hedron was just nervously putting the key into with trembling hand. Neal’s eye was still evident, though, with a lust-inducing wood chair, smart picks, perfect styling and cohesive presentation.

Friend, gentleman, Ronald McDonald House room designer, Lenox guest stylist, one half of the recently rebranded Marks & Tavano and handsome-hilarious Michael Tavano, took on Roche-Bobois, another slightly unexpected pairing that brought out the best of all possible worlds, against a palatial tromp l'oiel wallcovering, and another draped wall that hid a giant full-moon of a mirror like the after-image of a Broadway spotlight.
Photo: Rick Lew
Michael told me that the two Roche-Bobois lines he pulled from were generally separated in their showrooms, but it was the mix that made it magic. And Michael most certainly shined through, with gutsy pops of color, a well-stocked and perfectly-propped bar, that confident mix, and his ever-present sense of humor.

Photo courtesy Nicole Gibbons
Nicole Gibbons of So Haute, in her sophomore year at Design on a Dime, teamed up with Ethan Allen (no doubt a byproduct of a successful styling pair-up late last year). It was perhaps the most closely-aligned designer-donor pairing, and Nicole made a lovely room that kept Ethan Allen looking updated, young and fresh while staying true to both brands. 
Photo: Jody Kivort
The arbiters of taste over at New York’s Nest Interiors made a stunning debut that pushed their own brand in a vibrant, theatrical way that was picture perfect for this event where you have just moments to entice and attract. Their fuchsia fantasy (which they cheekily dubbed “Barbiturate Barbie”!) was jazzy and mod. I could see it being lifted up in its entirety as the backstage dressing room of Liza with a Z or other larger-than-life diva.
Photo: Jody Kivort

Photo: Jody Kivort

I loved seeing them go big (when they’re often best known for quieter choices). And that wallpaper!! It made the edges of the tiny 10 x 12 space we all had to work with just disappear. Plus, aside from her spectacular eye and depth of knowledge about the wares of her store in West Chelsea, Lana is one of THE SWEETEST people you’ll ever, ever meet. I was a solid but casual fan before. I’m all hardcore now, having shared the process with her.

Favorite Finds
Aside from Neal’s wood chair from Arhaus (I could see it the one ├╝ber-organic note in a glistening and modern white box apartment), there were many, MANY great individual pieces. I loved the metal string-art inspired chairs in Tyler Wisler’s artsy-angsty-Goth-girl’s room (picture Carolyn Stoddard from the Dark Shadows remake, if she had her own decorating budget and lots of artist friends).
Photo courtesy Quintessence
I’ll let the pictures do most of the rest of the talking... and I didn’t even get to shoot all my favorites, like the vignettes of LEPERE (dreamy Dominic's first for this event), event co-Chair George Oliphant, the sweet and lovely Alla Akimova of ARCHIVES id, or my lovely out-of-town neighbor, Megan Winters... some being shot, polished or flowered during my last walk-through.

Stayed tuned, too, when I share my own room for this year’s Design on a Dime... and what it taught me about my own signature style!

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All photos, unless noted: Patrick J. Hamilton


  1. Patrick: Thanks for the great coverage! Great to be a part of the event this year! Robert