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Red-themed Heart Ball in Chicago is One from the Heart

Red-themed Heart Ball in Chicago is One from the Heart

A monochromatic color scheme, dramatic lighting and budget-savvy decor transform Chicago's Navy Pier into an elegant, intimate event space with heart

Nothing makes a statement quite like red. Bold and romantic, it is the color of power, strength and love, which is why event planner Debi Lily of Chicago-based A Perfect Event chose the color red — and all that it signifies — as the theme of the Heart Ball, the annual fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

“The Heart Ball is meant to be branded in red, the color of the heart,” Lily says. With a monochromatic color palette her inspiration, she set about turning the cavernous Grand Ballroom of Chicago's Navy Pier into a dramatic yet intimate space where guests could spread the love — and raise some money. But first, she had to spread the decor budget.

“To make such a vast space appear intimate and warm, the decor had to encompass every single area of the room,” Lily says. Lighting became the crucial cohesive element, and it was “Red, red, everywhere red!” Lily says, including beam lighting, uplighting, ceiling and stage washes, and custom gobos around the stage and on the dance floor, as well as hundreds of candles on just about every surface. “There were candles everywhere you looked — in registration, in the cocktail area, on the dining tables,” she recounts. “The lighting and the candles created the drama and intimacy that we needed.”

Since the April event was a fundraiser, budget was always in the forefront of Lily's mind. “To create big decor on a fiscally responsible budget, we needed to add as much drama as possible in the most cost-effective manner,” she notes. “Candles, specifically soy candles, are a very green design element. They burn cleaner and longer, and can be reused from one event to the other. One candle can last through six or more events.”

Indeed, candles played an important role in the decor, especially in the centerpieces, which included both tall and low pieces. “A low centerpiece is always more cost-effective, as the scale and volume of floral is less,” Lily says. “However, with a two-story domed ceiling, you cannot have all low centerpieces.” Lily decided to go half low and half tall, the latter of which were made locally from repurposed wrought iron.

So that the low centerpieces would match the contemporary look of the tall, angular candle towers, Lily and her team combined square glass vases in varied heights and sizes and alternately filled them with red floating candles and monochromatic, single-flower masses of red roses and tulips. Limiting the floral to just a few types of flowers also allowed Lily to negotiate better prices with her growers.

To break up the space and further enhance the intimate feel, Lily and her team created a lounge area for cocktails, which included vintage love seats, settees and sofas covered in chic white “pleather” accented with red silk pillows, white chairs, glass coffee tables and white flokati area rugs. In the ballroom, silver chiavari chairs accompanied dining tables covered in red silk linen. “We turned a dark, massive, corporate-feeling ballroom into a stunning, flickering, romantic dining room,” Lily says. And with impressive results: The 900-guest event raised more than $1 million.

A Perfect Event, 773/244-9333, www.aperfect

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