Designing a Fantasy Room and the Culture of Giving Back

One of the first charitable experiences I had in the world of interior design was participating in Housing Works Design on a Dime event in 2013. Design on a Dime is an annual event in which about 60 designers get together to create unique vignettes of all donated items. The featured items are then sold with the proceeds going to Housing Works, who work tirelessly in support people living with HIV and AIDS. It is an incredible and noble cause and an amazing experience as a participant. And it is incredibly energized and fun to boot! 

Design on a Dime 2013. In my completed vignette on opening night. Proud, happy and TIRED! 

Design on a Dime 2013. In my completed vignette on opening night. Proud, happy and TIRED! 

It takes months of planning and coordination on all sides to pull off this incredible event. And it all culminates in a frenetic weekend in which consumers are able to purchase high end designer items at an incredible discount. Opening night is a veritable tornado, where a well heeled crowd grabs things with unbridled gusto and occasionally a slightly scary, psycho eyed aggression. What else would you expect? This is New York City after all.

As a designer, there is an incredible freedom in designing this space. It is all about fantasy and getting as much as you can donated. The goal is to raise money. Period. And if you can do so by meeting some aesthetic goal at the same time then kudos. And even if you try to design as you would a normal project it doesn't really work out that way. The reality is that you accept what you are given with gratefulness and a sense of relief that you won't be standing in front of a empty stall. You put it all together and hope that you have a space that looks deliberate and not some hodge podge mess. But the reality is the goal is to raise as much money as possible. So hodge podge mess or not its going in! And as you will see, my first year out, I was very lucky! 

It all began with a vanity. Bungalow 5 was the first to say yes and with this vanity an idea was born. 

It all began with a vanity. Bungalow 5 was the first to say yes and with this vanity an idea was born. 

All gonna fit? Unclear. 

All gonna fit? Unclear. 

The glitz, the glamour… the process. My long time installer John Fasano came through. Installing this amazing AphroChic juju wallpaper square by square… (don't be scared if you love this paper. It normally comes in rolls)

The glitz, the glamour… the process. My long time installer John Fasano came through. Installing this amazing AphroChic juju wallpaper square by square… (don't be scared if you love this paper. It normally comes in rolls)

My plan started with the gold and black juju hat wallpaper from my friends at AphroChic and a fantastic mirrored vanity from the generous team at Bungalow 5. With those two donations in place, I came up with the idea of "designing" an Urban Girl's Dressing Room. I thought of so many ladies who would love to have a place to primp and prep. It was to be a fantasy room for a cool urban chick. I also decided to do a space that would reflect my own eclectic, bohemian sensibilities and taste. I would go bold. I would use rich color. It would all be a wonderful experiment. 

As the donations came in things got interesting. And against all odds a clear vision emerged. More donations came in from Bungalow 5, including their gorgeous mirrored Shanghai chest. An incredible rug designed by my friend Malene B. and donated by Surya, brought in another layer of graphic texture. And a vintage chair, lamp and black sculpted console table from my long time upholsterer brought in a sense of classic elegance. The generosity of so many was simply staggering. The willingness of people to give beyond heart warming.

Soon a layout emerged...

Soon a layout emerged...

Lighting from Aero Studios, my fellow Design Star Jordan Capella, and Lulu & Georgia. Sconces from designer Tammy Bolden. Pillows from my design crush Michelle Varian. Assorted furniture from my other design crush Inga from Area ID. And a wood block stool from my other other design crush Tucker Robbins. Black velvet furniture from The Company Store. An incredible, super high end mirror from Cliff Young. Accessories from Palecek and my friends at Newlywish. A vanity mirror from Clayton Gray and a juju hat from my friend at Authentic Africa. A lucite ultra chic vanity chair from Plexicraft. And dropdead gorgeous jewelry from the amazing ladies at Stella & Dot. And my dream, wish upon a star, green velvet sofa from Room & Board came in at the 11th hour. It was mind blowing and head spinning all at once. What did we get? What do we need? Does it read dressing room? And how the hell is is all going to fit? 

My Room & Board Sofa below Vogue prints and a chinese panel from my mother. 

My Room & Board Sofa below Vogue prints and a chinese panel from my mother. 

A vintage chair meets the beautiful Bungalow 5 Shanghai mirrored chest. Patterns a prints reflected beautifully. 

A vintage chair meets the beautiful Bungalow 5 Shanghai mirrored chest. Patterns a prints reflected beautifully. 

And then the coup d'etat! The donation that took it all over the top. The artwork. Conde Nast had recently set up a new business, Conde Nast Trade, with New Era Portfolio to sell their artwork to designers. And they were willing to donate anything I wanted. Wait what?!? Anything? Anything!!! Let's just say I was in heaven. Vogue photography and me… yeah this was gonna work out just fine. Fashion, art, color, pattern, jewelry… DONE! 

As friend Patrick Hamilton said, "Float it!" Bursting at the seems I brought some furniture out to the front. 

As friend Patrick Hamilton said, "Float it!" Bursting at the seems I brought some furniture out to the front. 

Stella & Dot jewelry vignette on a vintage console. And the Emerald eye Vogue print brought the color palette together. 

Stella & Dot jewelry vignette on a vintage console. And the Emerald eye Vogue print brought the color palette together. 

My dream team… Ari and Sarah. They made it all happen and still looked cute for the opening party. 

My dream team… Ari and Sarah. They made it all happen and still looked cute for the opening party. 

The calm before the storm… all tagged and ready to go. 

The calm before the storm… all tagged and ready to go. 

And then the opening night party… or shall I say Par-tay! When the proverbial whistle blew people descended on my space like crazed vultures. They had been hovering around the edge for about 30 minutes prior to the start but nothing prepared me for the bum rush and sheer annihilation of my space that ensued. My beautiful, pristine, jam packed vignette was picked apart inside of about 45 minutes.  Photos taken from the wall. Pillows grabbed. Chairs dragged away. It was beautiful madness. They were people after my own heart in search of a small precious thing at a great price to help an even greater cause. Go forth and purchase people! Go forth! 

Meeting Sabrina Soto for the first time…. and on camera. Notice the missing artwork.

Meeting Sabrina Soto for the first time…. and on camera. Notice the missing artwork.

Watching the madness with the every colorful Daisy Lewellyn. (Check out the Clayton Gray duck mirror in the foreground… so good)

Watching the madness with the every colorful Daisy Lewellyn. (Check out the Clayton Gray duck mirror in the foreground… so good)

And then the friends. There are so many new friends I met over the course of the Design on a Dime week that I now consider old friends. It was an amazing community coming together for something beyond ourselves. We got to do what we love in the spirit of creativity and giving back. And at the end we got to act like giddy fools! 

Me and Rio Hamilton! As you can see fast friends and always just as ridiculous together. 

Me and Rio Hamilton! As you can see fast friends and always just as ridiculous together. 

My first time meeting Joy Moyler! And it was on camera. Who knew we would now be dinner buddies and design confidants. 

My first time meeting Joy Moyler! And it was on camera. Who knew we would now be dinner buddies and design confidants. 

Antonino Buzzetta aka Mr Chic. His room was to DIE for! When can I move in?

Antonino Buzzetta aka Mr Chic. His room was to DIE for! When can I move in?

Nicole Gibbons, Malene Barnett, and me in Nicole's classic space. Amazing how so many relationships were solidified here. 

Nicole Gibbons, Malene Barnett, and me in Nicole's classic space. Amazing how so many relationships were solidified here. 

Jeanine Hays of AphroChic, Tanika Ray, Sarah Taylor and me! My girls rallied in support. 

Jeanine Hays of AphroChic, Tanika Ray, Sarah Taylor and me! My girls rallied in support. 

Like most people, taking time to look back and reflect on my life and accomplishments is not something I do on a regular basis. But, I have to say it is cathartic as hell. And also pretty encouraging as I gear up for Design on a Dime this year. Seven weeks and counting folks. I am so excited to reveal where this year's journey takes me. I'm ready for round two. 

Until next week… 

xx

d