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A CASE STUDY IN CHOCOLATE RAISIN: Designers solve a decor dilemma

Some design problems seem insurmountable. But creative special event professionals know that it's possible to turn a problem into an opportunity.

The Color Marketing Group, an Alexandria, Va.-based association studying color trends, unveiled its color predictions for 2002 several months ago. These hues were mulled over in a roundtable discussion I participated in at The Special Event 2002, held in January in Phoenix. Titled “Color Palette 2002: Incorporating New Pigments into Your Event,” the seminar encouraged participants to review hues that run the gamut — from Rosa Roja (a multicultural, nonsynthetic red with a strong Latin influence) to Oxygen (a blue sky as seen through a glass block). And while many attendees could envision incorporating certain colors into their events, most participants were apprehensive about using other tones.

One controversial color in particular was chocolate raisin, which is a blending of brown into black. Although the color is captivating and elegant in its richness, the audience had little optimism for using it at an event. “Why not just opt for black or brown as a color theme?” several participants asked. The answer is simple: This color combination is distinct, and each pigment complements the other. And when our clients give us a challenge, it's an opportunity for us to think outside of the box.

The following event industry professionals blend creativity and ingenuity to meet the design challenge:

Let's start with the venue. A brownstone, sound stage, tent or warehouse with minimal furnishings is the ideal setting to host this function. A backdrop of solid-color walls in shades of ivory, white or beige is recommended, and the event space should have a sparse environment.



“The challenge we set for ourselves is to take a traditionally ‘kistchy’ subject such as hearts for a wedding and use color and imagination to create a sophisticated and beautiful stationery and paper pieces. Instead of red hearts on a white background, chocolate brown, raisin and mocha are used as primary colors, highlighted with an icy pink.

“The invitation design is inspired by heart-shaped boxes of candy. Chocolate-brown printing (gouache paint instead of ink for maximum opacity) and pink calligraphy decorate the envelope. The inner envelope is a chocolate brown paper, folded so that the four corners meet just below the center with a button and string closure. Instead of a regular circular ‘button,’ the shape is a small pink heart with an eyelet in the center. Upon untying the string and opening the brown inner envelope, you find a folded square brown invitation with a simple flourish design embossed into the front (subtly suggestive of the swirls one might find on top of delicious chocolate pieces). Lifting the invitation reveals the pink liner in the brown envelope. Open the square invitation and you find a pink interior with chocolate-brown type. The reply card is on matching pink paper with chocolate brown printing. To tempt even the staunchest dieter, the liner on the brown reply envelope could be chocolate-flavored.”



“The color combination speaks to a contemporary atmosphere, with the inclusion of an arty, cool and hip feel. To achieve this look, the room would be created in shades of black and brown. I would use chiavaris in colors of black and brown to monochromatically match the table decor. The seat cushions could incorporate cinnamon tones. The room could be divided into four sections; two in black using square tables and two in brown using 60-inch rounds. The square tables are wrapped tight and taut in black spandex and incorporate square glass charger plates. The round tables are wrapped tight and taut in brown spandex and incorporate round glass charger plates. The color scheme's outcome is a checkerboard look. For the art feel, chandelier structures containing candles are suspended above each table, eliminating the need for centerpieces. To help carry out the style, the room would be completely draped in cinnamon fabric. The carpet is also cinnamon, brought in specifically for this event.”



“Chocolate raisin brings to mind a combination of milk chocolate and purple (an exaggerated raisin color). Brown and purple are a good combination, although potentially too dark or drab for a festive occasion. One option is to lighten one or both colors up to a pale shade. Another option is to liberally use a bright trimming color. The Cadbury's chocolate bar package immediately comes to mind, mixing brown, purple and bright, shiny gold. This is a great color combination for many situations.

“A well-produced confetti/streamer movement could be used as a special effect to envelop the guests. Balloon walls and inflatable set pieces can also be made to exact color needs. In addition, a full-color laser could provide a spectacular effect. The laser can produce purple colors that create mid-air shapes or projected visuals that are totally unique. The range of colors out of a white-light laser can be adjusted for nearly any use, and ultraviolet light effects and set pieces could reinforce the purple colors.”



“There are several entertainment ideas for this theme. One option is for guests to be greeted by male and female models and dancers attired in tuxedos and evening gowns that are chocolate raisin in color. Later in the evening, these dancers perform a romantic dance routine in a room scented with the aroma of chocolate. A featured band such as Liquid Pleasures or U-Neek Flavur also performs classy dinner music as guests dine. After dessert service, the band will begin the show and entertain the audience with high-energy choreography and numerous flashy costume changes.

“For a more lighthearted approach, guests are greeted by the California Raisins, the R&B singing cartoon characters that promote raisins. Each character is available during the evening for photo opportunities and can distribute chocolate-covered raisins as party favors. Also on hand are 1980s costumed characters and dancers. The raisins summon guests into the ballroom as they perform a short dance to the popular tune ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine.’ After all guests are seated, the show segues into the 1980s rock girls dancing to a revamped version of the same song performed by the band The Breakfast Club.”



“As a preview, guests are served smoked chicken crepes (smoked chicken with raisin chutney wrapped in very thin chocolate crepes with fresh chive ties). A baby greens salad follows including tempura raisin croutons and Stilton crumbs tossed with a chocolate-raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The salad is accompanied with raisin bread with a chocolate butter rosette. For the entree, roasted duck breast with chocolate sauce is featured. This tasty dish is served with chocolate raisin balsamic sauce topped with sweet pea shoots, accompanied with white and green asparagus and gold fingerling potatoes. Dessert is a crispy chocolate phyllo basket filled with rum raisin ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and fresh raspberry jewels.

“A specialty martini would be appropriate for this event — a chocolate vodka with a dark-chocolate-covered raisin drop served from a crystal sugar- and cocoa-rimmed martini glass.”

These creative event designers demonstrate how chocolate raisin — perceived to be difficult color by some — can be easily transformed into a sensational themed event.

Greg Jenkins is a partner in Long Beach, Calif., Bravo Productions, an award-winning, full-service event planning and production company specializing in staging corporate functions throughout the United States. He can be reached at 562/435-0065;

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