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How to Transform a Raw Space

With Dorothy Draper as her inspiration, event designer Jennifer Brisman takes a loft from blank to swank.

The inspiration: a Dorothy Draper-designed interior.  

The blank box: Skylight.  

Lofts are great, but their virtue is also their drawback. Booking a big, empty box means a lot of extra work on your part. “Start with a clear inspiration,” says Jennifer Brisman, “like the retro glamour of mid-century decorator Dorothy Draper. Her aesthetic is romantic, whimsical, and has an underlying traditionalism. You need intense color moments—a foundation of black and white, plus bright turquoise and cerulean blue with gold accents, as well as stripes and black-and-white checkers.” Best of all, Brisman explains, “It’s not difficult to create this look with rentals.” It can take twelve hours to create a reception-ready space, with load-in starting as early as 4:30 a.m. “Have your rentals picked up after the party ends,” she says. “Wait until Monday, and items can get lost.”

“Serve red wine in cut-glass goblets (Cobalt King Louie, $1.50 each at Classic Party Rentals), and Champagne, white wine, and water in gold-rimmed stemware.”

“Hang Baroque-inspired plaster mirrors over the cocktail bar (mirror, $425, for purchase from Horchow,; similar black mirror, from $150 at Props for Today).”

“Mix up different gold-rimmed patterns between courses (Magnificence Gold Rim China, $1.95 a piece at Classic Party Rentals).”

“Use both round and rectangular tables; place upholstered Hollywood Regency-style club chairs at the end of a few banquet tables to anchor the room (from $250 each at Props for Today).”

“Frame a black-and-white checked dance floor (from $25,000 at Hi-Tech Events) with white oversize seating vignettes (loveseat, from $325; settee, from $200, both at Props for Today), and mirror-topped Baroque side tables ($85 each at Signature Event Rentals).”

“Use only white flowers. Vary the containers: footed bowls and cut-crystal or white porcelain vases. Keep arrangements multilevel, but none too high, and each table’s décor similar, but not identical.”

“Place cards and menus should be unobtrusive. Mrs. John L. Strong’s presidential blue liner and monogramming pair nicely with the Draper theme (150 sets of invitations, menus, and place cards, from $6,700;”

“Do gold ballroom chairs with black cushions (Gold chair, cushion included, $6.50 each at Party Rental Ltd.).”

“For impact, place an oversize charger, blue or gold, at each setting (Cobalt Blue Charger, $4 at Classic Party Rentals).”

“Put two oversized Kentia palms on either side of the band. Arrange six other palms throughout the room ($150 each at Foliage Garden,”

“Use traditional gold flatware (Gold Pearl, $1 per utensil at Classic Party Rentals).”

“Use black, silk, tone-on-tone damask tablecloths in alternating patterns (Arzino Graphite fabric by Designers Guild, approx. $132 a yard, available only to the industry at Osborne & Little).”


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