Living Entertaining:

Dinner with Farrow & Ball

Art direction and styling by Athena Calderone.
Photography by Sarah Elliott, wallpaper by Farrow & Ball, florals by Putnam & Putnam, meal by David Mawhinney, event space: Haven’s Kitchen, linens by Rough Linen, production by Local Creative

Creativity has always fascinated me – how the mind flashes with a variety of thoughts, and why it settles upon one concept and not another. Immediately after deciding on an overall direction, a jumble of disparate ideas unite as though they were one cohesive vision from the get-go. In your mind’s eye, that tangled mess of notions magically sorts itself into a thing of beauty. I think this idea holds true for any creative outlet – painting, cooking, putting together a fashion collection, composing a song, designing architecture. The list goes on and on, but every endeavor begins with two things — a vision and a series of abstract ideas.

Last week, 3 months of ideas culminated in one breathtaking dinner party for the dreamiest of partnerships with Farrow & Ball. The company contacted me in August to ask that I collaborate with them for the launch of their 70th anniversary wallpaper collection designed by their incredibly talented Creative Director, Charlotte Cosby. They were releasing three wallpapers, all inspired by the 1940s, their founding decade, and they decided to combine food, design, and entertaining to celebrate. This fit just perfectly in my swoony world, as EyeSwoon teeter-totters between those very three arenas. The artful task at hand was for me to choose one of the wall coverings and bring it to life on the table for a dinner at cooking school and private event space Haven’s Kitchen. Chef David Mawhinney was to also create a 4-course meal inspired by the wallpapers! The idea sounded intriguing, indeed, but also SO MUCH FUN – I’d be stepping through the portal to the Art Deco era.

Upon seeing the three designs, I instantly chose their Arcade option, with its soft and scalloped, curved-edge motif. The pattern felt sophisticated and romantic and the colorway of mauve-y pink with dotted golden yellow translated perfectly to a variety of tablescape concepts. While some find constraints confining, I actually prefer guidelines to help focus my eye and all those rapidly-flashing visual interpretations. And so, this abstract idea began to take shape. I knew I wanted to bring on an artist to create custom watercolor artwork for the menu. I worked together with Anouk Colantoni to bring the arcade design to life. As always, I loved the experience of collaborating with other creatives on a new medium. Then, after searching and searching online, I discovered glassware with a similar etched gold design. The trail of ideas continued to materialize as I found gold flatware with scalloped edges – score! The largest translation of the wallpaper, which truly tied everything together, was the floral design and art direction. For this I worked with the dream team that is Putnam & Putnam. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me — I asked that they create a repetitious arc wall garland using blooms in the hue of the wallpaper, and they executed this directive with artistic grace that far exceeded my expectations. I also desired gold accents on the table to mirror the delicate dots in the Arcade design motif. We opted for varied, hammered bowls as floral vessels and had them weave their way down the table between elegantly oversized taper candles, all atop beautifully layered linens from Rough Linen. Finally, a piece of the actual arc wallpaper was offset to the left under each guest’s plate and the gold flatware and each guest’s watercolor name card sat on top of it. Design lovers and editors were able to experience both the literal wallpaper as well as my abstract interpretation of the design expressed on the tablescape.

And then there was the matter of the other two wallpaper designs, Enigma and Gable. I decided to create large-scale mood boards of these wallpapers to hang on the walls at Haven’s Kitchen.  You can also peruse my digital mood boards for Enigma and Gable on Pinterest!

Enigma is a study in a mathematical formula. The repeating design is timeless and the wallpaper is named after the encoding machine famously deciphered by British mathematician Alan Turing during World War II. Enigma is a bold geometric design encompassing a series of interlocking rectangles – deceptively simple yet dynamic. I took this imagery and found similar concepts in everything from nature to fashion to jewelry to floor tile and pinned these visuals atop the enigma wallpaper with flat gold pushpins.

For Gable, I was inspired by the English countryside, fitting since Farrow & Ball is itself an English brand. This wallpaper depicts a charming rural scene of plowed fields, picket fences and farmyard animals. At first I was stumped on how to translate this precious, slightly juvenile design to reflect the elegance of our dinner party, but it is always in the challenge that I get most excited! So for Gable, black and white captures of houses and baby lambs, fashion shoots in the British countryside, and even woven white doilies and needlepoint made their way onto the mood board.

The entire experience of bringing this design to life was a dream. As I set the tables and pinned the boards, rushing like a hummingbird to complete everything before guests arrived, I was excited, nervous and grateful at once. Combining design and food, gathering and breaking bread with like-minded friends, and setting a stunning table are the things SWOON is made of. This is the chaotic excitement of creativity in action – a ping-pong of tens of tiny ideas somehow came together to create the event.

So I shared my journey, which was honestly an epic one. And now, I ask this of you – create your own dinner table inspired by the Farrow & Ball wallpaper collections. If you choose, order complimentary wallpaper samples, and style them on the table to share  with the greater design community with hashtag #TasteinColour and tag @FarrowandBall on Instagram. We will choose a winner, who will be offered five rolls of wallpaper courtesy of Farrow & Ball. Get swoony, get crafty, get creative!




Share this Swoon   –  

Necessary Objects

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