Chasing Rainbows

Last week we attended the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards. While all the attention was justifiably on the recipients, (my former boss, Michael Bierut of Pentagram received the Design Mind award and our friend, colleague, and recent Spark host, Scott Stowell, received this year’s Graphic Design award), I found myself enamored with a bunch of seat cushions gradating in color, stacked, and arched between 2 chairs, suspend from the ceiling. A rainbow in the sky.

The event design and concept was created by the fabulous team at David Stark Designs in conjunction with 2 high school students from the Cooper-Hewitt’s Lehman Scholar program. And while the overall look and feeling in the tent was an explosion of Dr. Suess colors-meets-Alice and Wonderland whimsy, the theme was actually “simply green.”

You see, everything used to transform the space from vacant tent to experience was rented service ware supply materials readily available from your typical party rental service. The assorted color seat cushions creating my rainbow, are all the shades available for rental. Ditto the chairs holding it together. In fact, those colored cushions were a theme throughout the space, including the colorful backdrop behind the main stage itself. Also hanging from the ceiling were colorful “chandeliers” made of upside down tables draped with tiered layers of color tablecloths. Downstairs, a colorful wall of blocks turned out to be cocktail napkins in various shades available to coordinate with these cloths and cushions.

The centerpieces at each table were sculptural stacks of dishes, glasses, stemware, and tea pots. The repetition and colorful ribbons pouring out of the tea pots onto the tables created the feeling that the Mad Hatter himself had come in and set the scene.

But the real pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is that unlike your typical party, where as soon as the last guest departs everything gets tossed into the trash, at the end of this tea party all of the chandeliers, centerpieces, and decorations were carefully disassembled and packed back into their rental boxes — ready to be used again. Now that is truly sustainable design.