Solutions: Dining display mixes cultures, lifestyles

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

It takes a keen eye for detail to create a distinctive dining room. At the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) annual Dining by Design benefit in New York City, Corey Damen Jenkins, principal of Birmingham-based Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates, did not disappoint.

Beacon Hill fabrics inspired by Rio de Janeiro set the tone for his “Branching Out” theme. “It has a very distinct bohemian look with vibrant colors and textures,” Jenkins says. Hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper panels lend a lovely backdrop.

“It speaks a lot to my personal aesthetic of mixing different textures, cultures and lifestyles,” the designer says. “It’s elegant and soft on the eye, but vibrant.”

On the main chairs, the unique fabric resembles fireworks. “It’s festive and energetic,” says Jenkins, who railroaded the zigzag pattern on the table skirt to create a chevron effect.

A pair of chairs with contrasting fabric keeps it from being too monochromatic, while a series of pleats break up the tablecloth, giving it a “nice cube look,” Jenkins says.

“It also has a little bit of give when people are seated.”

A rug from Stark in Troy brings some extra color to the composition.

Branches, birds and butterflies are in keeping with the theme, like the lamps on the table that feature a branch motif. “They’re organic and the theme represents new beginnings for spring, and optimism,” Jenkins says.

Holes were drilled into the plywood table to hide the wires, but Jenkins says you can also cut X-shaped holes in your fabric that are easy to mend. Then, run the wires across the table and down the side.

The dreamy place settings brought a traditional element to the space. Custom jewelry draped around the bowls adds some “glisten and glamour,” Jenkins says.

“Fashion and design are like two cars on the same highway heading in the same direction to the same destination,” he says. “They give people a way to fashionably dress their bodies and their homes.”

Costume jewelry can be a good substitute that serves as favors for guests.

For men, try banded bow ties around the bowls. “It’s a decorative element that’s unexpected. It’s fun and thematic and it can set the stage for what’s to come. They’re great conversation starters,” Jenkins says.

“It’s all about the application. It’s very fun and chic.”

Beds of fresh moss fill the bowls. “Moss is a very hardy material. It’s beautiful and organic and it required no maintenance during the event,” Jenkins says. Lavender succulents that add another layer of color can also be given as favors.

The hand-painted wallpaper panels can be emulated by painting MDF to make the molding and placing wallpaper within. Let the bolt width determine the width of your panel.

Jenkins suggests placing scenic patterns closer together for less interruption. A muslin backing applied with a special adhesive can protect the wall.

Lastly, the custom Granny Smith apple green paint color invigorates the space. “It’s very happy and joyful,” Jenkins says. Just like a gathering place should be.

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Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at