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Secrets from tabletop designers

A Moroccan fantasy, a cowboy poker game, the innermost thoughts of desperate singles out on dates--all are fodder for the imaginations of tabletop designers. And 10 great examples of their work made up this year's Tabletop Gallery, on display at The Special Event in January.

For the entry "Speed Dating 101: Searching for Mr. Wonderful," the creative team at Wilmington, Del.-based Planning Factory International re-imagined the dinner table as a bar, complete with bar stools and self-help books (such as "The Rules") at each place setting. "We played off the male and female stereotypes by creating fictional characters whose place cards were mock personal ads," the designers say. "Because we couldn’t have real people seated at the table, we created ‘thought bubbles’ that represented comments that each participant may have been thinking. One 'male' bubble leered, 'Hello, girls … ' while a 'female' bubble fumed, 'Hey, creep, my eyes are up here!'"

The team from Williamsburg, Va.-based the Catering Co., took a famous quote from "Hamlet" ("All the world's a stage ... And one man in his time plays many parts") to create the tabletop "The Eight Ages of Man," with a setting for each stage of life from infancy to old age.

Catering Co.'s Craig Reeves explains, "We then began to brainstorm about the various stages of life, and decided to represent infancy (complete with a bottle and jars of baby food), young childhood (with a segmented plate and kid-sized utensils), the teenage and college years (with fast food and a cell-phone at the ready), a young adult’s first apartment (furnished entirely from Ikea and Target), a newly-married couple’s dinner table (set with the china from their registry), a special anniversary dinner (complete with crystal and candlelight), and finally a dinner at the rest home (with institutional plates and glassware)."

Along with humor, the tabletops also displayed great beauty. For "Moroccan Nights," from Minneapolis-based Design Group, the team used chocolate-toned sheer mosquito netting edged in miniature jewels to create a canopy covering the entire table. The design picked up the winner's trophy in the category "Tabletops $1,000 and Above Each."

For the full story, see the May issue of Special Events Magazine.

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