Tablescape Talent

DIFFA's Dining by Design event to raise money for HIV/AIDS research


We've all been to a dinner party or two. Put on a classy ensemble and pull up a chair, place the linen napkin in your lap, compliment the flower arrangements — you know the drill. But if you attend this year's fourth annual DIFFA: Dining by Design event, your idea of a dinner party will be turned on its head.

This year's three-day event, sponsored by Opportunity Detroit, takes place Sept. 26-28 at the former Federal Reserve building on West Fort Street in downtown Detroit. Although the building has been vacant for about 10 years, a raw but revived mezzanine will make its debut, ready for guests to enjoy, says event co-chair Jennifer Gilbert. "It's under construction now," she says, "but they're opening it up and it's going to be a big surprise."

Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) partners with the Michigan AIDS Coalition to raise money for both preventive education and people living with HIV/AIDS. This year's event is expected to raise more than $200,000.

A smartly arranged tablescape has the potential to transport diners to a dream world, and every year at this event, table sponsors and their teams try to outdo each other, creating innovative spaces by building their own walls and even planting live trees to create breathtaking vignettes for 10 to 20 people.

Last year's auto sponsor, Lincoln, sponsored a table for $20,000 and worked with designers to create a sleek, futuristic space.

"We're always thinking of ways to bring awareness to AIDS research or the people living with the virus," says Meredith Vyn, an interior designer and adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies.

The past three years, Vyn has allowed her students to spearhead a table design.

A happy hour and silent auction kick off the event; tickets are $100. More cocktails and an ArtWorks-curated exhibit/auction round out day two; tickets are $75. The final night's gala dinner lets attendees feast at the tablescapes for $250 per seat.

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