Friday, January 29, 2016

...about sailing into Design on a Dime 2016: what’s in a theme?

It’s that time of year again, where I make the rounds, (large) hat in hand, looking to curate a selection of generously donated goods for Design on a Dime, the annual (and now, TWO city) charity fundraiser to benefit Housing Works.

A big part of the fun, aside from helping break, then smash and surpass the $1 million mark of funds raised, is the pure folly of designing without practical parameters beyond sale-ability: everything we solicit is meant to be sold off, at 50 to 70% off retail value (hence, the “on a dime” part).

It’s the perfect storm of showmanship, a charity for a cause I truly believe in, a real bonding experience with designers with whom I’ve become fast friends, a group of staff and volunteers that feel like family each time I return, and one of the most fun, exhilarating and bargain-riddled parties of the year here in Manhattan. Plus, and no offense to my lovely clients, it’s super fun to design without yuze guys. So, yeah, I’m in it for my sixth consecutive year.

But where will I go with the design this year? I have ample rooms-without-a-home floating around in my head (pretty sure most/all designers do), but they were all fuzzy mirages, still developing like a photo print in a chemical bath. What would it take to snap something into focus, and give me a direction and filter through which to run all my wish lists, asks, and ideas?

In years past, I started with the walls... every year except for last, I’ve been able to start with an amazing wall covering, twice from my friends at Koroseal, once from Schumacher. In 2013, in a post-Holiday House haze when the January DOAD invite arrived, I thought, “If The Shade Store says yes to their white string panels, I’ll do DOAD again.” They did, and so did I.

And each year, close on the heels of the wallcovering, there’s been art: Babette Herschberger’s simply-not-so-simple color field square the first year, a giant parakeet courtesy Australian artist Leila Jeffreys a little later, and Drew Dogget's traffic stopper last year. They all kicked off the color palettes and vibe for the three-walled room in a way I wish more people would build rooms: from a great piece of art, out.

In 2013, Dan Romer’s “Lord Ricky” image sent me down a wickedly wonderful path, part Game of Thrones, part male Maleficent ... and, against those shimmering, shifting Drag Race-y, fringe walls, "Wicked Queen" was born.

You’ve heard me (and New York Spaces) sing the praises of Dan Romer once, twice or thrice before. I’ve been tremendously motivated by his exceptional use of color in past Design on a Dime installations, where he has been uber-generous to me every year since I first tracked him down, and his work enlivened both my Modern St. Patrick’s Day and Derby Deconstructed rooms for Holiday House.

A few years back, I was lucky enough to see a room full of Romers, at the Leslie Lohman Basement Annex, where Dan co-starred in a two-man show with also-stellar colorist, anatomy-draftsman and RISD grad Chuck Nitzberg. It was the very first time I’d seen Dan’s work en masse, if you don’t count the impromptu donation/loaner selection meetings, when colorful portraits, swarthy gents with bedroom eyes, and rippling nudes spilled from his portfolio like gemstones from a jeweler’s bag.

At that show, I first met Dan’s “Rocky Seas,” the angle-eyed sailor man, and it was love at first sight. While racking my brain for some divine Design on a Dime inspiration, my mind kept wandering back to Rocky. A Facebook PM to Dan got a quick confirmation that a custom print of Rocky would be mine (fingers crossed my friends at Steven Amedee Custom Framing will once again do a Romer piece full justice...)

But where to go from there? Well, the process unfolds pretty much like it does when designing any room around one given piece, art, rug, sofa or heirloom... although we're limited to what vendors will donate, or generous friends will purchase to donate off my annual Design on a Dime Donation Registry. I’ll be sharing more of the process a little later.

In the meantime, in our hashtagged, screen-named and abbreviated world, I love giving these ethereal vignettes (buyers at the opening night gala pretty much loot the place beyond recognition) a permanent but short-handed (and hopefully, memorable!) name... the aforementioned Wicked Queen, last year’s Adventurer’s Lair cases in point. And while “Rocky Seas” is the perfect title for the inspiration piece, it seems to tempt the fates just a bit in an event that needs to run as smoothly as humanly possible, both during the months of prep and the implausibly short two-day set up.

So, good gents, lovely lasses and the happily uncategorized, I’m proud to reveal this year’s theme: “Hey, sailor!”. Following the lead of Dan’s hot seaman with the rakish sailor’s hat, the theme sets the tone for a cheeky, nautical-and-naughty but nice, beachy room, that allows me to interpret a theme ripe with possibility, while steering clear of the usual pitfalls of theme-y decorating. Plus: So. Many. Puns.

And so much inspiration: aside from Dan's always-inspirational but previously-unconsidered color palette, the oceanic theme inspires a world of its own: navy blue (doing a navy blue room has long been on my personal wish list) ship-shape brass, lots of “intentional white,” and earthy, rope-y textures. Part yacht club-clubby, part yacht-modern. Inspired by my Miami and Mangrove roots, an homage to the interiors of Allison Spear and the sexy vibe of Querelle. A little Mr. Roberts, a little Village People. And a lot sexy cruise-y. Can. Not. WAIT.

But Dan and Rocky don't get all the theme cred: my wondrous friends at Currey & Company (have you ever met the force of nature that is Bethanne Matari??) said yes to donating a shell-encrusted, sailor's Valentine of a piece that meant, this year, the heavens were aligned to bring to life a theme that's been stuck in my head like a schooner in a bottle for more than a few years now. 
The theme is also very much in synch with some other amazing new-season pieces already committed to by amazingly generous donors Bernhardt and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Plus, I’m DEEEELIGHTED to announce that my amazing friends at Jayson Home are on board with donations, after two years of doing their very own booth for DOAD. I wish Wisteria would come back on board, too, since some of their amazing range of home accessories are also perfect. Maybe next year.  

DOAD NYC 2016, anchors, away!

So, come aboard Design on a Dime 2016, and get ready to meet Hey, Sailor! We’re expecting you.

Any predictions of what will give this room a healthy dash of sea salt? I'd love to hear from you, here and on Twitter. Use the hashtag #heysailor when you do!

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