In October, we had the distinct honor of creating the decor for the annual Give the Shirt Off Your Back!! Gala held at The Rittenhouse for the Foundation for Breast and Prostate Health (FBPH), a world-renowned nonprofit foundation and think tank that serves as a catalyst to advance breast and prostate cancer research and treatment. In addition to sponsoring a series of International Consensus Conferences, the Foundation is dedicated to developing the talents of a new generation of physicians by initiating Breast and Prostate Cancer Fellowships, and advancing the scope of scientific research through grants to pioneering doctors.
This was the 15th edition of the Gala and Evantine’s 15th year of designing a spectacular setting. After last year’s rich, elaborate and colorful Venetian-themed Gala, we decided to return to the classic-yet-dramatic palette of Black and White, calling to mind the Black and White-themed balls from yesteryear with an updated edge we could embrace. Everything from the invites to the programs, menus, place cards, flowers, linens, draping and chairs was Black and White. Even the guests were invited to dress in their finest black and white evening attire.
But first things first. Normally, the grand ballroom exhibits champagne, gold and ivory; a wonderfully luxe environment for many society gatherings. But we wanted to change it to something totally different, with as little fuss as possible. We started by draping the walls from floor to ceiling in gorgeous black velvet, after which we installed a shiny black dance floor. PRESTO CHANGO! An immediate and dramatic environment was created just with those two simple elements!
Then, the existing round hotel tables were substituted with long feast tables to showcase the room with a crisp new floorplan. We then draped the dinner tables in white, silk, pleated linens to create a consistent foundation on which to build alternating black and white design schemes with accessories. At some of the tables, we used black and white damask chair covers with black and white damask napkins atop black charger plates. On other tables, we used black velvet napkins on black and white damask chargers.
Statuesque black glass vases held luscious mixed bouquets of white hydrangea, roses, lilies and orchids. Low masses of flowers in rectangular black vessels were placed between black cut-glass and black frosted-damask votives.
Our collection of polished black candelabra and candle holders held classic tall white tapers. We also installed beautiful lighting on dimmer controls to wash the tables and flowers in flattering light. And wide sections of white fringe drape were hung in various areas of the ballroom, to frame the all-black central bar and to define the edge of the black dance floor.
Above, a table set with black charger plates and black and white damask patterned napkins.
Below, tables with alternating black and white napkins atop black and white damask patterned charger plates! Just before the doors opened, the waiters set the tables with our black water goblets which completed the design of each table.
Our favorite moment of the evening was as guests entered the room to the magical sounds of the Eddie Bruce Orchestra. As usual, Eddie was right on target with his selection of music. Rather than starting with the sound of pulsating, loud rhythms, he wisely chose to dance the guests into the room with classic standards like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “I Get a Kick Out of You“– PERFECT for the setting! Of course, once everyone had time to soak up the ambiance and enjoy a couple of courses, Eddie packed the dance floor while moving the party into high gear. Around10:30 pm, Eddie killed them with the most current pop and hip-hop tunes as 75 young Friends of the Gala entered the ballroom to join the party!
The Rittenhouse did an outstanding job with the food, creating a menu that was striking in its visual presentation AND absolutely delicious to boot! And of course, our dear friend Phil Kramer took these awesome photos, capturing the magic of the lighting and mood of the room. It is amazing to us that Phil can capture exactly what we create without distorting the lighting or ambiance already existing in the space. Thanks Phil! You are a genius and a great friend!