When I moved to New York from Cleveland a few months ago, I vowed I would be a real adult and hang art on the walls, own matching furniture, and create a design aesthetic that would mimic an Anthropologie catalogue. Yet, upon my arrival to my boyfriend’s apartment, those dreams quickly faded. Instead, a hodgepodge of found objects, items left behind from his former roommate, and furniture from my parents litter our apartment. So much for whimsy; our apartment is more of an island for lost Ikea furniture.
So, when I was tasked with being the point person for Hospitality Design’s Social Hub at this year’s HD Expo, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For months I had been working with our exhibitors to see if they would be able to donate furniture that corresponded with the vision of Morgans Hotel Group, and luckily they pulled through. (A very special and appreciative thank you to our social hub sponsors: Arteriors, Bernhardt, Design Within Reach, D’style, Durkan, Kalisher, Palecek, Restoration Hardware, and Valley Forge Fabrics.)
And I thought that was the hard part.
But when I arrived at Mandalay Bay and walked the show floor the Sunday before it opened, I was gobsmacked by how much work was left ahead of us. The 30- by 40-foot blank canvas would require days of work to transform into a relaxing refuge from the show floor. In retrospect getting the furniture into the space was the easy part. Once it was all there, splayed erratically in the diminishing space, the task of designing came into play.
The booth’s original concept had to be revamped, and Tony Machado—my design fairy godfather and associate vice president of development for Morgans—spent time drawing and moving furniture to fit his new vision. When I asked him what the thinking was behind his on-the-fly concept, he explained to me that symmetry in this space just as much as the lighting, was key to making the area look lived-in but still chic.
As if he were putting together a puzzle, Tony moved furniture from one side to the other, testing out ideas. Tables that seemed fine in the middle of the booth were placed near lounge chairs on the sides, creating an inviting atmosphere. And benches in front of the stage became a welcoming sitting area when cocktail tables were placed near them.
As far as my role—finding batteries and light bulbs, unpacking fragile objects, and taking more trips to Home Depot in two days than I have in two years—was minimal compared to the work that Tony did to transform the industrial warehouse space to a modern, relaxing but aesthetically pleasing spot in less than two days.
It was certainly a learning experience, and Tony patiently answered my questions—”But how do you know that chair should go there?”—reminding me there is beauty in any design style, even one that includes a free ottoman with cat scratches found on a Brooklyn sidewalk.