Dreamy Tablescapes Inspired by Dining By Design 2018

Inspiration for creating dazzling table environments abounded at Dining by Design 2018, which took place in conjunction with the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York. The event is a creative showcase and fundraiser for the DIFFA, The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Brands and designers pulled out all the stops this a series of dreamy dining rooms focused on themes that range from political and societal statements to simply luxurious settings for hosting a memorable meal.

Each one was as dazzling as the next, reflecting a wide range of styles and color palettes. Here is a sampling of some favorites that offer up a wealth of ideas for creating your own distinctive tablescape, from the centerpieces to the dinnerware and surrounding decor.

Alessandra Branca for Benjamin Moore used its color of the year, Caliente, as the anchor for a Moroccan-themed table. The setting featured a mix of middle eastern flavored elements, such as brass lighting fixtures and a trellis-like enclosure. Seasonal red tulips combined with the more exotic paisley printed tablecloth, red drinkware and scenic printed plates. The sum total was a dramatic yet  casual scene that had just enough alluring flair.

A bold, earthy red hue is perfect for an exotic tablescape.View in gallery
A bold, earthy red hue is perfect for an exotic tablescape.

Crate and Barrel, known for its chic and affordable home furnishings and products, presented this luxe, modern dining area. The black and white graphic backdrop is perfect for the fresh green hue of the sumptuous velvet upholstery. With the bold statement set by the green, the rest of the decor keeps to the same color family. Texture and dimension come from the plants and greenery on the gleaming chrome shelf and in the centerpiece. Limiting the bold color to a single choice keeps the setting chic, as does the choice of understated dinnerware.

Black and white graphics work best with a single bold color added.View in gallery
Black and white graphics work best with a single bold color added.

This room by Donghia transports diners to the forest in every way. From the thick carpet of greenery underfoot to the upholstered furnishings whose textile pattern resembles lichen-accented tree bank, the setting presents an organic experience. Designer Bennett Leifer was said to be inspired by France’s Anjou region in creating his Whimsical Pear Garden. The mirrors on the wall are an iconic Donghia design and are flanked by the Renaldo Sconce. Instead of chairs, Leifer chose the Curve sofa and unique tri-cornered stools.

Creating an entire dining environment is a very dramatic choice.View in gallery
Creating an entire dining environment is a very dramatic choice.

The tablescape itself sticks to an organic feel, with a forest of greenery and limbs making up the centerpiece. The gold-rimmed tableware has a simple yet opulent design that resembles the morning dew, dotted across the surface. That and the golden flatware are the understated touches of bling accenting the table.

This gilded dinnerware works well with organic elements.View in gallery
This gilded dinnerware works well with organic elements.

A number of art and design schools also created spaces, including Parsons School of Design. The focus of this dining space is the very dramatic and dominant fixture above, which emits light that is meant to signify the hope for a future without AIDS. The Japanese joinery interlocks as a symbol of solidarity. Finally, the shadows cast are meant to represent people who are HIV positive or at a high risk and who do not receive the help they need.

From a design perspective, with so much drama above the table, the place settings and centerpiece reflect an Asian sensibility and rely on simplicity. The sake cups and mix of plate shapes are appropriately combined with western style flatware rather than chopsticks. By confining the drama to the light fixture and using a minimalist tablescape, the setting is more meaningful.

Such a dramatic light fixture calls for a minimalist tablescape.View in gallery
Such a dramatic light fixture calls for a minimalist tablescape.

A dark and dramatic dining room by Jeffrey Beers is dedicated to the iconic alter egos of David Bowie as well as his contributions in the fight against AIDS. The homage to Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane combines elements of glam rock and kabuki in this red and black space. Abstract graphic lines punctuate the walls and the space centers on the comic yet luxurious light fixture. On the table below, individual flower arrangements are paired with a dramatic box of light that runs down the center, spilling crystal gems at the end. With such a dramatic centerpiece, the place settings are purposefully dark and simple — and Asian-inspired. Mustard-colored upholstery on the dining chairs adds another earthy element to the setting.

Create drama with bold colors and understated lighting.View in gallery
Create drama with bold colors and understated lighting.

Even if it’s still cold outside, guests can enjoy a cheery brunch or dinner in this bright and lively space by LUXE magazine and designer Jeffrey Moon. “I Dream of Spring” was created as an “ode to the serenity of the season,” a quiet cocoon that embraces diners with the warmth of spring. An abundance of flowers in the wallpaper print, on the table and overhead surround the space in blooms. A spring green banquette surrounds the table and is full of bright, cushy pillows. Lighting behind the seating lends extra warmth to the alcove and dinnerware adorned with beautiful butterflies adds a lively element.

Turn a dining alcove into a seasonal retreat.View in gallery
Turn a dining alcove into a seasonal retreat.

An intimate dinner for four gets the glamorous treatment from Michael Aram, who created this refined yet simple table. A table overlay with plenty of texture is embellished with a beaded design and paired with simple white napkins and chair pads. Understated tableware, adorned with butterflies, is combined with silver twig-handled flatware. A tall, silver vessel filled with wild greenery and sprays of dainty blooms anchors the setting. The dandelion sculpture to the side of the table repeats the wild and carefree feeling of the centerpiece.

An intimate setting for four mixes texture and a little bit of bling.View in gallery
An intimate setting for four mixes texture and a little bit of bling.
Natural motifs like butterflies add light-heartedness.View in gallery
Natural motifs like butterflies add light-heartedness.

Architecture firm NBBJ created this dining space to represent love of all kinds. The casual setting is neutral and easygoing. Multiple vases hold a profusion of spring flowers in bright hues that draw attention to the center. Large white blooms hang overhead and shine from behind the sheer curtains that surround the dining area. Chairs and a large, comfortable sofa serve as seating for the versatile space.

Lighted blooms behind sheer curtains add drama to a setting.View in gallery
Lighted blooms behind sheer curtains add drama to a setting.

The New York Times teamed up with One King’s Lane on this nature-inspired dining space. From the earthy colored walls to the natural elements used in the tablescape, it’s refined without being fussy. Illuminated by woven pendants of various shapes, the table repeats the basket-like element on the vessels that hold palm fronds or candles. Cacti and fruits serve as embellishments and each place setting is accented with a gilded, lidded bowl in the shape of a pomegranate. This is an ideal theme for a relaxing dinner party.

Globally inspired elements work well for a casual setting.View in gallery
Globally inspired elements work well for a casual setting.

Pratt Institute created their dining space to reflect the impact of a positive HIV diagnosis and the fact that it is a heavy burden to bear. “Bringing this topic to the table sets the stage for addressing the elephant in the room,” writes Pratt. The abstract walls in moody hues only serve to highlight the elephant hanging over the scene. The drama of the space is enhanced by the LED-illuminated chargers under each plate and the Philippe Starck Ghost chairs.

A social or political statement makes for a conversation-generating design.View in gallery
A social or political statement makes for a conversation-generating design.

It’s no wonder that Ralph Lauren’s dining space is so chic: It is modeled after the brand’s restaurant in Paris. Casual yet exceedingly refined, the setting features dining chairs that are a more comfortable take on the traditional bistro design, especially with the classically striped textile covering. Underneath a grand chandelier, the table has a blue and white color palette, with no detail left untended. The tableware is a mixed yet matched array of patterns that surround a large and lush arrangement of bright springtime blooms. Silver chargers and flatware add a bit of shine to the setting.

French chic is always in style for a memorable setting.View in gallery
French chic is always in style for a memorable setting.
Mix and match dinnerware within one color family is elegant.View in gallery
Mix and match dinnerware within one color family is elegant.

Italian tile group Florin designed this setting that features a spectacular table of segmented concentric circles. With a table like this, the center piece must be simple, enhancing its design. The arrangement of smaller vessels that hold white blooms and are surrounded by modern glass candelabras, anchoring the setting. The silver tinged glass tableware also keeps attention on the table as does the lack of chargers or placemats. Napkins are ringed with watch, a novel usage that puts the focus on time as a societal statement on HIV and AIDS.

Dramatic patterning on a table requires a more understated setting.View in gallery
Dramatic patterning on a table requires a more understated setting.

The 400 strands of hand-dyed carpet fibers suspended around this oval table form an elliptical veil around diners. A joint project between the Rockwell Group and The Rug Company, the dining experience was inspired by the work of rug weavers in Nepal. On the outside of the veil, a partially woven rug hangs at the end, highlighting the Lola rug that was specially designed by David Rockwell and his daughter, Lola. The glossy table features understated vessels filled with greenery and Asian inspired place settings atop hand-dyed placemats.

Minimalist table settings are calming yet dramatic.View in gallery
Minimalist table settings are calming yet dramatic.

This bold and color-soaked space is by Rottet Studio, S. Donadic Inc and Fendi Casa. The dining room has a contemporary style but is filled with living blooms and natural elements meant to create a monochromatic environment that features rich botanicals, accented with Dutch still life paintings. The contrasts of boldly hued walls with the profusion of fruits and plants makes for a dining space with an abundant feeling .

Try mixing style genres like contemporary with old world abundance.View in gallery
Try mixing style genres like contemporary with old world abundance.

A more formal, traditional dining table is made personal with the monogrammed chair covers from Sunbrella. More dramatic than place cards, the chairs create a very welcoming dinner table in this space by Peter Pennoyer Architects. Urns stand in front of draped archways, creating a dramatic backdrop for the table, which set with russet-toned floral centerpieces and abundant greenery. The tableware sports a Greek key pattern, carrying through the theme set by the urns and arches.

Try adding a touch of something different to a traditional formal setting.View in gallery
Try adding a touch of something different to a traditional formal setting.

The School of Visual Arts created a dining space that is soaked in drama — and red. The students intended for the space to be a  creating a visual representation of the HIV/AIDS awareness movement, and the cylinders in the design aim to convey unity and a “celestial aurora” that puts forth a feeling of hope and prosperity. The intimate table is set with a modest vessel that holds simple orchids, illuminated under the oversized light fixture. The seating consists of stools that feature a pattern of lines, more complex that those lining the space as a whole.

Deep, saturated colors make a space intimate yet bold.View in gallery
Deep, saturated colors make a space intimate yet bold.

Each and every space created for DIFFA’s Dining by Design has inspiration for your next dinner party. Whether you choose to create an entire environment or just incorporate some tablescape ideas is up to you — and how much of a statement you want your event to make. Which are your favorites?