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DIFFA's Dining by Design now in Atlanta

For Dining by Design, it's not about who's coming to dinner, but what's on the tabletop that counts. The celebs of this three-day soiree benefiting HIV/AIDS causes are the fantasy-filled tablescapes. Sponsored by the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, Dining by Design is a caravan of table-settings created by artists from across the country. Now in Atlanta, the event is a series of cocktail-wielding gatherings culminating in a $500 ticket-per-person gala, all to benefit HIV/AIDS advocacy, education and service missions.

Dining by Design also travels to New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Kansas City and Columbus. Behind the creations are some of the industry's biggest headliners, including interior designer Jamie Drake, this year's honorary chairperson for the Atlanta event; fine china designer Marc Blackwell; and fashion designer du jour Jason Wu, who created a tablescape for Elit by Stolichnaya.

Drake, a longtime supporter and participant in Dining by Design, says this is no place to look for tame decorating ideas. "For design aficionados this is a chance to see something that's wonky and creative, elegant and surprising," he said. Drake's table, which debuts today, is designed around the theme "Life's a Game," which he describes as a "swell mix of classicism and witty fun." He used an antique table from Deadwyler, of Atlanta, and his own fabric line with Schumacher to create the chess-inspired red, white and black design.

Blackwell's tablescape, part of the national tour and sponsored by Castillo de Gabbiano wines, evokes a sexy, intimate cellar with a farmhouse-edge. He designed gold awning-striped china with his upholstered French bistro-styled chairs, echoing the winemaker's trademark striped logo. Boxwoods and heaps of oranges atop a massive copper table make for a classic centerpiece. This is Blackwell's third turn at designing a national sponsor's table. Both he and his design have traveled to each city for the event. "It's an amazing thing to witness all of these people come together to have a chic, wonderful evening that they've created and built from start to finish," he said.

Local designers include Michael Habachy, of Habachy Designs, who envisioned a magic carpet ride on behalf of rug-dealer Moattar Ltd. The booth-like seating is wrapped from ceiling to floor in what appears to be a "wind-swept" Persian rug, he explains. (read more)