Designers Go Avant Garde for Horticultural Benefit

At the Horticultural Society of New York fund-raiser, the theme and the honorees-artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude-encouraged the assembled event designers to get a little edgy.

April 28, 2005, 12:00 AM EDT

At the Horticultural Society of New York's annual benefit, Susan Edgar put boxwood hedges under a glass-topped table decorated with green napkins wrapped with preppy-colored ribbons, mirrored spheres and boxes, cube-shaped orange candles, and boxy glass vases filled with stones, limes, and pale green orchids. The hedges probably didn't make for comfortable seating for women in dresses, but the odd mix of influences and materials made it one of our favorite designs of the night.

The theme for this year’s Horticultural Society of New York benefit—where a group of floral and event designers fashion different tabletop looks each year—encouraged everyone to get a little edgy. Titled “Flowers & Design: the Avant Garden,” the event honored “The Gates” artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, although there was nary a saffron-colored tarp in sight at Cipriani 42nd Street.

The society’s director of special events, Sally Nelson, planned the event and worked with design chair Chris Giftos, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s former manager of special events, to lure an assortment of designers to work on the event. Several of the tables were sponsored by fashion and luxury goods companies as well.

The past few years, the designers assembled for the benefit have created more and more elaborate set-ups; this year, while a few tables had extravagant flower arrangements placed on simple white tablecloths, most were decked out with matching linens, tableware, candles, and place cards to create entire unique table settings. And although many designers used the same chivari chairs (some with covers, some without), some tables were surrounded by more modern-looking seating, including a few oft-used Philippe Starck designs.

The whole thing was less over-the-top than the annual Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (Diffa) Dining by Design benefit, but it was a showcase for some great designers that kept the focus squarely on the flowers. This year, peonies, tulips, and roses were the most-used buds—probably because they’re fresh, of course—and the predominant colors were pink and orange, and the shades of coral and salmon in between.

Some designers used various ploys to make their creations stand out in the room. A live model painted white posed in a tunic over a Grecian-inspired table by Rod Winterrowd. Renny & Reed topped their table with a large rectangular box covered in grass that looked a bit like a giant boom mike, or a British Royal Guard’s hat. And a white peacock—the bird being an apt metaphor for all the designers showing off—perched above the table by LMD’s Lewis Miller.

Elizabeth Ryan did a takeoff on Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”—a toilet he submitted to a 1917 art show—by recreating the commode in tightly packed spray white roses, and put a card on each plate to explain the piece if anyone didn’t get it. (“That’s great,” whispered one woman in a Victorian-looking black waistcoat and knickers.)

After checking out the designs during cocktails, guests sat down at the tables for dinner catered by Cipriani. And later, nonprofit Flowerpower delivered leftover flowers to the Rivington House.

Chad Kaydo & Anna Sekula

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