Friday, April 30th, 2010

David Stark Interview and Book Giveaway


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
35 Comments » | Published in Art and Artists, Design Books, Design Press, Events & Exhibitions, modern inspiration  |  35 Comments

There will be no flickr faves today as I had the privilege of interviewing event designer extraordinaire David Stark this week and I wanted to post it posthaste (there is some kind of new, lame, blogging pun in there somewhere, between “post” and “posthaste” but I’m going to leave it alone). Also, one of you lucky readers will have the privilege of scoring his new book, David Stark Design FOR FREE! Just leave us an event planning story, tip, or just tell us a go-to item you find yourself using to decorate the table with again and again in the comments section to enter. If you can’t wait or if you don’t win, click here to purchase the book. We will choose a winner on Friday, May 7.

We’ve talked about David’s projects here before; I had picked a favorite awhile back (the Metropolitan Opera, bedecked in graphics from operas past), but after browsing his projects again I realize it’s impossible. I mean, how intimidating must it be to design the event for the anniversary of Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards? No sweat for David and his team.

Event for the Metropolitan Opera

So many of your ideas go beyond my wildest imagination – What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone on how to get inspired when they are planning their decor for a party?

Open up your mind to the world of material possibilities.  Flowers are my first love and the reason I got into this business in the first place, but flowers are simply one tool in the tool box.  Paint swatches from the hardware store, Post-it notes, number 2 pencils – anything really can be lassoed to become lovely touches to or an entire, breathtaking transformations of a space.

Please share a secret or two on how to set a striking table on a tiny budget.

I always say I would rather do one or two things perfectly than 25 things in a watered down way.  If I am buying flowers, instead of buying one bunch of three different species, I buy three bunches of the same species for more impact.   The supermarket holds a bounty of centerpiece ideas.  A line of green apples marching down the table is a centerpiece one night and a snack or pie the day after.  Pin a place card to a perfect apple at each place setting to create the “exclamation point at the end of the sentence!”

For this wedding in Maine, local flora was put to use. Trees that had been cut on the property were chopped into logs to create dramatic backdrops, and pinecones were put to work as placecard holders.

Our readers are very environmentally conscious. How can we stay green when decorating for an event that will only last a few hours?

The best start is by avoiding disposable silverware, plates, napkins, and cups.  I know it is EASIER to clean up by simply tossing, but it’s not that much extra work to wash your dishes.  For centerpieces, potted plants, especially this time of year, can begin as a centerpiece for your dining table.   The next morning,  plant your centerpiece in your garden to enjoy all summer long.

If you are crafty, you can turn your trash into treasure.  I have made all kinds of topiary and paper flowers out of our office paper waste, and in fact, we are creating a whole flower shop, called The (purley paper) Flower Shoppe to celebrate the launch of our new book at the west elm store on Broadway and 62nd Street.  The store is open to the public for two days only:  May 13th and 14th and is filled with all kinds of garden-y treasures that we have hand-made from the pages of old books.

So you ever feel creatively blocked? If so, how do you break through it?

I go  for a looong walk at Target. J

What is one of your favorite indulgences?

I am addicted to the gym and the trainers that keep me healthy and in my head and my heart.

Please share a favorite project with us and tell us a little bit about it.

Oh, I don’t have a favorite project!!!  That would be like singling out your favorite child!  But . . . I am particularly fond of a gala we designed for the Robin Hood Foundation a couple of years ago where we received a million dollars worth of donated items that the program recipients needed – food, clothing, shoes, alarm clocks, blankets, and so on.  We created radical and towering installations with these materials for the event, and then after, each item went to the people that needed it most.  100 percent charity, playing double duty as art, without any waste.  I like that.  A lot.

Yup, that is a cyclone of shoes!

Thank you so much for your time and all the inspiration I glean from you!

OMG!  It is my honor to be interviewed by you!  Thank YOU!

all images from

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Emily says:

    April 30th, 2010 at 9:49 am (#)

    It’s kind of basic, but I think unscented candles, even votives, make any dinner event seem a little nicer. People look more attractive. You don’t have to stress quite as much about cleaning. It shows that the table is the center of the action. They don’t take up much storage space in a tiny apartment. I usually light a couple in the bathroom, too, so they are kind of like a nightlight and keep the mood going.

    This all kind of came to me when I was visiting Sweden. They are obsessed with white votives – even the cafeteria at the train station, at 5 a.m., had candles lit at every table and down the bar. And it made everything look nicer, for almost no cost at all.

  2. Jessica says:

    April 30th, 2010 at 10:39 am (#)

    It may seem funny, but for a smallish table, a pashmina — that most of us need a new use for — makes a great runner. They are typically vibrant and unique. I love upcycling even when it comes to dated accessories!

  3. Vivienne says:

    April 30th, 2010 at 10:55 am (#)

    I like pine cones and bare branches as decorations in the winter time – spread the pine cones or paint them gold/silver and combine the bare branches with other plants from the flower shop.

    I was inspired by a picture Sweet Paul posted during Christmas. There was a huge branch hanging over a set table and there were beautiful Christmas ornaments hanging off it. It’s a great alternative for a tree.

  4. Sabrina says:

    April 30th, 2010 at 11:40 am (#)

    I love filling vases with ordinary things, fruits, vegetables, at christmas I fill them with ornaments, or easter eggs at EAster.

  5. sally says:

    May 1st, 2010 at 2:23 pm (#)

    I love using interesting and unique tile samples (squared, about 6″) as coasters when unexpected guests show up.

  6. pve says:

    May 1st, 2010 at 8:06 pm (#)

    When I am planning an event, I always seem to rely on white and black, it makes everthing so much more dramatic! Choosing a color scheme helps to add drama. Candles and place cards are always a nice touch.

  7. Audrey says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 12:27 pm (#)

    I like an interesting object called “Carré d’herbe” (greensquare).
    It can be lovely on a table, and you can grow aromatic plant such as basil, chive… then people just have to choice their favorite aroma and cut it.
    So useful, green, design and lovely.

  8. Melissa says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 12:50 pm (#)

    Love to use natural elements. Cross-sectional slice of a tree makes awesome charger plates!

  9. Jennifer Salazar says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 12:59 pm (#)

    Guests even for simple pizza dinners really like real linen tablecloths and napkins, even if not perfectly ironed. And a few really well made food items displayed on simple, yet beautiful cake or multi-tiered stands works well too. I like that the pieces are washable and reuseable too!

    I like using candles, but unscented white ones near the food, and scented ones in other parts of the home, like a dim bathroom. But haven’t used candles lately since all of our get togethers in the past 5 years have included young children, so we pass on those for now!

  10. Kerrie Mayans says:

    May 4th, 2010 at 5:04 am (#)

    I have some great clear vases that I love. In the winter I fill ithem with pinecones, or holly or evergreen. In the spring and summer, they have fruit or flowers and in the fall tjey get leaves or nuts.

  11. Urban Sherp says:

    May 4th, 2010 at 10:26 am (#)

    I definitely did a lot of hands on for our wedding decor and still use a lot of the items from the wedding (which was 4 years ago!). Instead of renting table cloths, I found some amazing ones (quite similar to the Thomas Paul fabrics out right now) at a great price (less than the cost of renting) at linens n’ things and bought them up – added instant color to the room and they’ve been used for baby showers, holiday dinners, brunch, picnics, who knew I needed 15 of the same table cloth? It’s fabulous, I loan them out to friends and family all of the time. Also because we had bright colors on the table we could go with simple floral arrangements – a single orchid in vintage tin pots I found at a salvage store. Guests were encouraged to take a pot upon leaving and several of our guests still have blooming orchids in their homes. Amazing!

    Finally another piece we purchased for the wedding were name card stands for the hand-printed table numbers – $1.99 at Crate and Barrel and we use them all the time – thanksgiving, christmas, tea parties with the nieces (they love making name cards!).

    So when thinking about party decor think outside the box, you’ll more often than not end up with a look that is more you and you might save some money in the process.

  12. Catherine says:

    May 4th, 2010 at 1:50 pm (#)

    The cyclone of shoes is crazy but great.

  13. barrie petersen says:

    May 4th, 2010 at 8:51 pm (#)

    i am in awe of his event shots
    since its usually very casual here i like using found objects from the local beach, rocks, shells and small succulents work well

  14. marla says:

    May 4th, 2010 at 11:38 pm (#)

    Love his designs!

    I am a sucker for a paper flower. Not fake flowers, but tissue paper and reused paper. So pretty and they can last a long, long time! Hoisted on sticks or strung in a row, so delicate and pretty.

  15. Nicole says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 9:43 am (#)

    Buy flowers one to two days before the event (even three, depending on the type of flower) so that they are in their prime bloom for the event!

  16. Tina says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 9:44 am (#)

    I like to use tea candles inside of scored oranges, nice aroma and adds natural color to the table.

  17. Two Quick Notes… :: Hatch: The Design Public® Blog says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 11:29 am (#)

    […] don’t forget to comment on the David Stark post for a shot at winning his gorgeous book! Right now, those who have commented have a one in sixteen […]

  18. Julie says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 12:34 pm (#)

    Butcher paper is great for a runner. You can:

    Block print it (fish prints, fruit prints, linoleum stamps, wood grain roller, etc)
    Roll your favorite color of paint down the middle of it with a paint roller for an artsy look
    Put out colored pencils for guests to draw

    There are a million uses for it from dressy-ish to rustic.
    I LOVE it.

  19. Mary says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 5:22 pm (#)

    My tip for event planning is don’t sweat the small stuff. Something will ALWAYS go wrong whether entertaining at home, in a restaurant or for a corporate event.

    One favorite story was when I was entertaining about 20 people for a dinner party of foods that were time and resource intensive to prepare. Everyone pitched in to help in one way or another so we were all running around like worker ants. The kitchen sink, in my tiny apartment kitchen (sans dishwasher) backed up to the point, we couldn’t keep cooking because we were short on pans. The plumber was called, he proceeded to diagnose the problem laying on the floor under the sink, while we worked around him. Whatever was wrong, could not be fixed that evening, so the sink remained clogged (and full of pans and murky water).

    We ended up eating, eventually, after midnight, by the time all the food was done and had to wash dishes in the bathtub. Disgusting, but memorable. And a great time was had by all.

  20. Pia Zwegers says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 6:00 pm (#)

    I love these photos!

    When in need of decorating, I always go to fresh picked wild flowers or a nice big bowl of fruit! My favorites are pears and kumquats.

    Thanks for sharing this post!


  21. elissa c says:

    May 7th, 2010 at 4:15 am (#)

    I love to use fresh flowers, whatever is in season. If there’s no flowers available, then foliage.

    Thanks for sharing this interview!

  22. Sharon A says:

    May 7th, 2010 at 9:53 am (#)

    I like putting “found” items from thirft stores as serving pieces and centerpieces.

  23. Kathy D says:

    May 7th, 2010 at 10:00 am (#)

    Reuse… when my step duaghter married her a army man we borrow the table decor of a freinds who army son was married on the 4th of July the year before

  24. Catherine says:

    May 10th, 2010 at 1:27 pm (#)

    I always use Carrol Boyes pieces to liven up the table at home. Carrol Boyes is a South African designer whose pewter/aluminum/stainless steel range uses either people or quirky graphic designs for cutlery, serving utensils, bowls, candlesticks to name but a few things you can use for the table.

    I’ve been collecting her pieces for 12 years and they are a great conversation opener at the dinner table especially if you use the ‘people’ pieces – they all have bums, and boobs where appropriate. The man and woman salad servers are probably my favourite and are great for weddings as they are so symbolic.

    Just a few pieces like the salad servers, the salt and spoon set and maybe a bowl or candle holder will definitely get the conversation going.

    You’ve got to see it to understand so if you have a chance check out the man hurricane lamp by clicking here – he’s enough on his own to make a table look great

  25. laura says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 7:22 pm (#)

    I often go to the local nursery and buy plants for the table..most often african violets… they are low so you can see over them, colorful, inexpensive nad last a long time add soem greens and your edone.

  26. Steven says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 8:41 pm (#)

    Great interview! That Maine wedding tabletop is spectacular!

    David has always struck me as a conscientious, totally righteous designer and a generally great guy.

    Thanks for sharing!

  27. Tracy says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 7:17 am (#)

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Met event tables! After seeing those beautifully designed posters for years, the type is instantly recognizable and totally sets the tone for the upscale event. Along with the simple red roses, the color scheme is at once sophisticated and romantic.

    /fans self off.

  28. maven says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 7:47 am (#)

    Having living greenery at an event totally changes the vibe. My go to solution, especially if there is a tight budget, is sprouted grass.

    Use whatever containers you have available, fill with moistened potting soil, sprinkle with red winter wheat berry seeds (buy them in bulk at the grocery store) and cover with about 1/4″ more soil. Lightly water, tightly cover with plastic, place in a sunny location and they will be ready in about 4 days.

    For more added color, use wire to stiffen the stems of flowers and stick them in the grass. Gerber daisies & tulips look really fresh and cheerful with the freshly sprouted grass.

    When the party is over, you and your guests can give the grass to your pets to munch on (use organic seed and soil if preferred).
    My cats and my neighbor’s turtle love it!

  29. Shelley says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 9:00 am (#)

    Wall coverings and chalkboard paint are great ways to add affordable impact to a not so interesting space. Hudson paints makes some fun colors if you want to go non-traditional in your chalkboard paint. And if you are just doing a small accent wall, a lot of times you can either get wallpaper scraps or old vintage pieces for really cheap.

  30. anne says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 10:08 am (#)

    I love his work. Thanks for sharing the interview.

    Potted flowers and fruit are good sources for centerpieces.

  31. Heather says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 4:11 pm (#)

    I use letterpress cards stuck in wine corks (with a slight slice in the top to hold the card) and I love to wrap the napkins in whatever aromatic herb I’ve used cooking. Unwrapping a napkin wrapped in rosemary or lavender sets the tone for the entire meal. In the winter I hang a random evergreen branch from the chandelier so it hangs above the table, but not in anyone’s way, decorated with odd ornaments from my childhood.

  32. Kristen says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 4:53 am (#)

    huge fan of his work!

  33. Emily says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 1:10 pm (#)

    I love these ideas! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book.

  34. Motile says:

    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:34 am (#)

    Super beautiful!

  35. Andres says:

    November 25th, 2012 at 7:19 am (#)

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s
    the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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