Tag Archives: Design Inspiration

Dinner for 175 – Art Deco Style

I guess you could say I love history. But while I love it, I think it is fair to say that I am not a history buff in the true sense of the word. Admittedly, it is not actual historical events that fascinate me as much as it is “lifestyle” through out history. How did people live? What influenced them? What did they value, create, do?

So maybe, I am really a Social Anthropology buff. I know I am an “Anthropologie” buff so that would just make sense.

Breaking it down even further, what truly peaks my interest the most is the style and design that so prominently and uniquely defines each period in history.

Okay, so right now you might be rolling your eyes and thinking something like “wow, that’s deep”. Or maybe you are just thinking “oh, my gosh, I LOVE Anthropologie too!” – in which case I would say “I know, right! Did you see those gorgeous vintage ’40’s red shoes?”

The style of an era tells a story about that period of time. It truly does. Music, art, architecture, décor, clothing; every element of design has evolved from the experiences and lessons of the preceding times. Style is not random nor is it frivolous, it is a reflection of mankind’s desire to keep moving forward and even to break free of what came before. To set a new standard, to be innovative, to leave a unique and lasting impression on history.

What is really interesting is that eventually, all that is old becomes new again which is most often due to the historical events and experiences that create in us a nostalgia and desire for the past. You can see it in a simple Art History timeline. Take a look. Do you see how each movement almost does a 180 back to what had come before? Baroque to Neoclassical, Neoclassical to Romanticism, Romanticism to Realism, Realism to Impressionism; each “opposite” movement taking bits and pieces of the past forward with it.

Steps toward the future often bring back the “best” of what has past. Well, mostly. Bell bottoms and orange shag carpet not included. I’m sorry, the ’70’s was not humanity’s best effort and I have a master bathroom to prove it.

I think what fascinates me so much about style and design throughout history is the ingenuity and talent God has placed within humanity. It is evidence to the fact that we have a God of great imagination who values beauty and creativity and wants us to enjoy the majesty of His creation, to be inspired by it and to in turn create for His glory and pleasure. And yes, He has forgiven us for the 1970’s.

So what does all of this have to do with dinner?

In my world, a lot.

In July, I was asked to plan and pull together a staff dinner for our church. This dinner’s purpose was two-fold. It was to be an informative celebration of sorts as we kick off the planning and direction of our church’s future, the “movement” forward or MVMT as it has been creatively tagged.  But this dinner was also to be a thank you for all of the hard work and dedication of our staff and board members who have sacrificed greatly during the incredible growth our church has experienced. With spouses, the final dinner count came to 175. Not a small event but an amazing opportunity to serve and give back to those who do so much for so many and ask so little in return.

Throughout the coming week, I will share this event with you from planning and preparation all the way through dessert; a gelato bar you won’t want to miss. To start with though, I wanted to talk about the inspiration for the dinner’s “theme”.

When I do an event, big or small, I really like to have a theme to work from and to inspire each aspect of the occasion. No, I don’t want that theme to take over (unless it is a kid’s party then I let the theme run wild) but I want it to influence every detail in such a way that it creates a cohesive and well thought out end result

There are several things to consider when coming up with a theme.  What is the purpose of the event? The mood? The desired effect? What is the venue/setting like? Who will be coming? Who is throwing the event and how can their “style” be represented and reflected?

In the case of the MVMT dinner, it needed to be elegant and special but not stuffy and formal. We are definitely not a stuffy and formal group. In fact, the vibe at our church is quite the opposite.  It is a pretty cool place and by cool, I mean cooool with kind of a “hipster” vibe and that is what I wanted to capture.

So, how did I do it?

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 5

I went Gatsby.

Okay, so I know what you are thinking. A church event doesn’t exactly scream “Gatsby Party”, allow me to explain. While the “lifestyle” of Jay Gatsby isn’t something I’m advocating, romanticizing or looking to replicate, his “style” or more accurately, the style of the era is another story.

Art Deco design is a particular favorite of mine. While the Art Deco movement isn’t reflected in my personal design choices, I am absolutely captivated by it. From the Chrysler Building (the most beautiful building ever constructed)  to the “modern” and industrial geometric shapes that inspired the beautiful patterns so indicative of the period; it fascinates me and inspires me.


The Chrysler Building, courtesy of a Google image search.

The Art Deco movement was born out of the end of the first world war as the desire to leave the tragedy and hardship of the recent past behind led to an almost over the top opulence and high style. There’s that 180 again. The movement originated in France around 1925 and was in it’s heyday throughout the 1930’s.

“With its symmetrical angles, black and gilt ornamentation and Eastern influences, a new design style, Art Deco, spread from France to Britain and America and provided the perfect backdrop for Bloomsbury poetry readings, impromptu jazz concerts and speakeasy rendezvous. Although Art Deco would dominate the design scene until the 1950’s, the party it bolstered wouldn’t last forever.” – Elaine Phillips from Well Styled Home

I love these classic Art Deco Patterns.

The Art Deco Movement may not have lasted forever but it’s influence certainly has and while the Great Depression knocked the era down, it did not knock it out. The Art Deco influence carried into the 40’s and 50’s and shaped what we would now call “old Hollywood glamour”. Love that too.

While I didn’t turn our church’s family center into a Speakeasy or ask our pastors and elders to dress up as flappers and gangsters – restraint and good judgment can be helpful tools in the use of a theme – I was most definitely inspired by the style of the era.

Let me show you some of that inspiration (all images were found on the internet and are not my original photos)

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 6

This table just about says it all. If it is possible to be in love with a table cloth, I am in love with this one.

Art Deco Restaurant 1

I love the lighting here, this is the exact ambiance I wanted to create not dark but intimate with a warm amber glow. I also love the screens in the background and was inspired by this to create a stage vignette where Pastor Mark would sit and share the MVMT vision.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 4

Text book art deco and the inspiration for the menus.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 3

When I think of Art Deco décor, I see a room filled with gorgeous leafy green palms.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 2

Did I tell you how much I love the geometric shapes and how the Art Deco movement uses them so artistically and beautifully.

speakeasy decor 1

Feathers are definitely a nice Art Deco touch but unless you are throwing a true theme party, they are best used subtly.

Art Deco Tablescape 1

This Art Deco tablescape is from Ruffled Blog.

Art Deco Style

I can say nothing except … be still my heart; and where can I get that dress? Probably Anthropologie. These photos are from Easton Events.

I am looking forward to sharing with you my interpretation of the Art Deco theme this coming week. I hope you will find some inspiration.

The Great Gatsby is not one of my favorite stories – yes I know it is a literary classic but I was forced to read it in high school (which almost automatically makes a book dead to me) and a story has to have more than one redeemable character to make my “favorites” list. Even so, I will be watching the movie when it is released on Blue-Ray next week as I did not go to see it in the theater. And I promise you, I will be looking right past “Leo” to the wallpaper in the background.

Hey, he was in Titanic too. Another one I suffered through just so I could take into my being the period clothing and set design. We do what we must for the sake of art.

Thank the Lord for Downton Abbey.

I would love to know some of your favorite design periods and influences. Be sure to leave a comment and share them with me.