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Diffa's Dining by Design Showcases Taxidermy Butterflies and More Tabletop Trends

Some 47 dining environments at Diffa's Dining by Design event showcased the latest in tabletop trends with decorative elements ranging from succulent plants to oversize candy jars.

By Jenny Berg November 11, 2008, 10:07 AM EST

Kara Mann Designs' Table

Photo: Barry Brecheisen for BizBash

Diffa's Dining by Design Chicago
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Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS' Dining by Design event featured the latest tabletop trends in a series of dining environments that showcased the work of interior and fashion designers, artists, architects, and sponsors. Now in its eleventh year, the event—which also serves as a fund-raiser for AIDS care and education—kicked off an eight-city tour at the end of March.

After stops in markets such as New York and Los Angeles, the benefit took up residence in Chicago's Merchandise Mart last Thursday through Saturday. A series of events geared at showcasing the designers' work to a local audience included an opening night cocktail party on Thursday, a public viewing on Friday, a Saturday tasting called “Table Hop and Taste” with stations from local restaurants, and a gala dinner on Saturday night.

Though Dining by Design has passed through the Mart for the past seven years, Diffa's special events consultant, Peggy Bellar, said that keeping it fresh is never an issue. “With some events, you have to come up with a new theme each year,“ Bellar said at the cocktail reception on Thursday, which drew some 1,200 guests. “But the strength of this event rests in the design community, which constantly reinvents itself. Last year, it was all about orange and Marie Antoinette. This year, we're seeing succulent plants and jewel tones.”

Throughout the three-day event, some 47 installations stood side-by-side on the Merchandise Mart's eighth floor, creating the feel of a giant gallery of over-the-top dining rooms. Though some vignettes shared details and repeated trends, a few installations stood out for their distinctive looks or quirky elements.

In a dining environment that Jennifer Sweas created for CS Interiors, iridescent butterflies sat in black glass-covered boxes that adorned each plate. The table's moody black and aubergine hues formed a fitting backdrop for a centerpiece made out of eggplants.

In contrast, the whimsical, Alice in Wonderland-inspired vignette that Smith and Larkin Interior Design created in conjunction with MDC Wallcoverings bore oversize candy jars, a dry board tabletop featuring fake plates scrawled with colored markers, and mismatched chairs.

Simeone Deary's table for Janus et Cie set a decidedly more sophisticated tone, paying homage to Dorothy Parker's storied roundtable with a mix of modern and vintage elements. Acrylic, mirrored walls featured quotations from the famous writer while the installation's table (round, of course) bore black sequined place mats, plates elevated on crystal cake platters, and bunches of red roses in low silver vases.

Correction: This story has been updated to attribute the design of the CS Interiors table to Jennifer Sweas.

(Note: We'll be posting more photos and details later this week. You can find all of the coverage here.)

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