April 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts April 1999 Current Issue
April 1999
Short Cuts:

Say it without flowers

Silver bells swing suspended from the branches of a “tree” fashioned of glass and clothespins; papier-maché animals a giraffe, a rhino, a monkey stand sentry in bright, primary colors; large crystalline snow globes blow never-ending blizzards over sleepy mountain towns... And all right at the center of the table.

Although floral arrangements still can be the basis for centerpieces, planners are learning to forgo the flowers.

“I think a lot of people just automatically think flowers when they’re planning the decor for an event,” says Benjamin Liu, a New York City-based independent event producer. “But sometimes they just look hokey.”

Liu, whose work includes photo exhibitions, fashion shows and parties for companies like Emporio Armani, Elizabeth Arden and Metropolitan Home magazine, believes that although flowers can be beautiful, often they are best employed in nontraditional ways.

“Flowers can be used in sculptures or suspended from the ceilings. In the past, some people have fashioned them into topiary trees.”

Recently, Liu was hired for an event at the Chinese Dim Sum Palace in Manhattan’s Chinatown. “It’s one of the area’s newest frontiers for nightclubbing,” he says. “I wanted to avoid predictable Chinese props like paper fans or chopsticks, so I convinced the client to have glass bowls with goldfish in them.”

On 40 tables, the results were impressive. “People could see movement and color on all the tables, and it looked beautiful.” He adds, “Of course, we allowed the guests to take the fish home with them after the party.”

Often, simple artistic pieces can stand alone. Jonathan Adler Pottery, based in Lower Manhattan, is a shop with wares that lend themselves to high art and high impact. “The pottery makes for lovely centerpieces with or without flowers,” says Michael Whitton, director of sales, marketing and product development. Adler’s “couture” line is handmade in his Soho studio and provides atmosphere for places like the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills and Boston’s Radius restaurant. A less expensive Pot-a-Porter line is mass-produced and sold to outlets like Neiman-Marcus and Pottery Barn. Styles here include the Flea Market Collection, comprising pieces inspired by ’50s and ’60s Scandinavian furniture; and Stripes, a signature line of simple, white pottery with black or beige stripes.

Another smart and cost-effective alternative to the lavish bouquet: Think small. For a recent Clinique event, Liu created a simple Mapplethorpian arrangement: six callalilies in a bowl. “It was very conceptual,” he says, “and it went along well with their cosmetics, which are very clean and simple. It was a real case of ‘less is more.’”

Liu’s other tips for a dazzling event? “Lighting is a key element to remember for a beautiful party,” he laughs. “I mean, let’s face it, not all of your guests are attractive.”


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