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  • Writer's pictureMalka Helft

Bringing the Dutch Masters Home: A Table Scape Inspired by 17th-Century Art

Last week, I had the unique honor of designing a tablescape for The New York Botanical Garden's Orchid Gala - sponsored by Veranda Magazine and Guerlain at the iconic Plaza Hotel in NYC. It was both intimidating and thrilling to create this masterpiece from my vision; especially as it was my first foray into such an extraordinary event! But after channeling all that energy into planning, organizing, and brainstorming ideas inspired by 17th-century Dutch Masters - time flew. Luckily, with an incredible team's help, we brought our creative concept to life just in time for one night filled with beauty and creativity.

The Florist

I hired an incredibly talented florist named Dorothy Pfeiffer, owner of Cornucopia Flowers in NYC, who brought my vision to life. She immediately understood what I wanted and took the time to visit floral markets around Manhattan in search of orchids that matched my color palette perfectly. Her expertise and attention to detail were invaluable; she was able to create lush centerpieces that genuinely embodied my design aesthetic. And, of course, her exquisite arrangements made for a beautiful centerpiece on the table!

The Props

For this unique tablescape, props had to capture the feelings of both classicism and escapism while capturing a hint of real-life - something reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch Masters paintings. After days spent antiquing throughout Westchester County, I struck gold: an urn created at the Kayserzinn factory in Germany in mid-1800s featuring a charming large spinny lobster! A juxtaposition of wealth and opulence against the mundane day-to-day life, as seen in the paintings of this inspiring period where brought to life with lush orchids, velvet table cloths, silver trimmed napkins, and crystal butterflies (thank you Yessir for the incredibly hard work!!) paired flawlessly with savory pewter details like the urn, clay plates, flatware pomegranates and one giant black ant (!)


On the day of the event, we arrived at a room full of designers buzzing with anticipation and putting in their own hard work. Watching as tables were adorned with the beautiful decor was humbling; knowing that my dear friend Yitzi Spinner had gone out of his way to help me set up made it all worthwhile! As people settled into chairs - marveling at our laborious efforts- I couldn't deny an immense sense of pride for what we'd created together: A stunning tables cape worthy enough for any trendsetter's admiration.

Conclusion: Creating this stunning tablescape for the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Gala was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as an interior designer thus far! From hiring a fantastic florist who could bring my vision to life with exquisite arrangements, and sourcing props from antique stores around NYC and vintage markets across town, all leading up to seeing this project come together effortlessly on such a grand scale - it's safe to say that despite all the stress leading up to it (and let's be honest - there was plenty!) every second was worth it! This experience taught me just how important it is to stay true to your own personal style - no matter how nerve-wracking that may be! And if anything else comes out of this story besides amazing tablescapes? It's probably never underestimated yourself or your capabilities - because you're capable of more than you think you are!


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