In 20th year, Dining by Design triumphs with usual whimsy

An 11-foot-square space was transformed into a secret glade by the Language Dept. for DWR’s dining room at Dining by Design. Photo by Jonathan Pilkington.

The annual Dining by Design event, held March 16, was again a big success as one of the signature events of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Now in its 20th year, the event not only raises money for DIFFA’s mission but provides a chance for designers to pull out all the stops to decorate scores of dining rooms on behalf of a range of supporting sponsors. Many if not most are whimsical imaginings, but whimsy doesn’t begin to tell the story, as designers  do things like suspend a room full of red chairs or detail a room entirely in white, as if a crew armed with spray guns had just passed through.

Design Within Reach, a proud supporter of DIFFA and Dining by Design, worked together with the Language Dept., a NYC design firm, to create a mossy secret glade inside an 11-foot-square dining room.  Comments on Instagram gauged the reaction:

One user said, “That looks awesome!” Another said, ”Wow.” And still another, “Thats amazing.”

Melt Pendants by Tom Dixon and Front Design lighted the table. Beetle chairs by GramFratesi for Gubi provided seating. Photo by Jonathan Pilkington.

“Ten people having dinner on a staged set is so simultaneously real and not real, we became interested in the hyper-reality of this experience, the senses we could engage, the edges we could blur,” says Jenn Cash, a partner at Launguage Dept. “The small footprint led quickly to ideas using reflection and illusion. We wanted to make an extra-sensory space of endless green – a shockingly lush experience inside a staged box.”

To create the illusion, though, the team borrowed from good old Mother Nature.

“All the plant matter is 100% real, including at least three kinds of layered moss, many flats of ferns and succulents and hand woven vines –to create the front green ‘living curtain’,” Cash says. “The ‘plates’ are antique mirrors cut in ovals to mimic pools of water.”

Tanya Quick, the other partner at Language Dept., says the team chose Melt Pendants by Tom Dixon because they are “like campfires and fireflies – elegant and magical.”

The designers even called upon creatures of the forest to complete the illusion.

“A special treat for those attending the dinner was a ‘sound track’ of field recordings of tree frogs, crickets and summer nights mixed with artificial synth,” Quick says. “Like the booth’s visuals, it blurs the edge of manmade and natural.”

Quick says the company was delighted to have the chance to create an experiential design for a great cause.

“As graphic designers with major respect for interior design,’ she says, “it was a privilege to watch the industry engage with our imagined world.”

Place settings were whimsically conceived as woodland ponds. Photo by Jonathan Pilkington.
  • Whimsical really is the only word fitting enough to describe this scene. It’s like walking into another world entirely. Absolutely extraordinary.