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Make It Personal!

The Challenge:

To incorporate the client’s collection of rustic brass and elephants into centerpieces for her birthday party - an outdoor event during our hot summer rainy season.

Ceva has fabulous tastes - her home is bursting with her collection of goodies that has transformed an ordinary, cookie-cutter town house into a vintage-African-inspired showplace! Animal prints, hand-carved wood beams, brass candelabras, feathers, ornate wall hangings, rich upholstered sofas and oversized chairs, massive rustic armoires and trunks and tall, large-leafed plants burst from every corner of her home. Years ago, she asked me to help her place things in her living room and had mentioned how wonderful her collection of brass would look in centerpieces at one of our events at the farm...

When her son asked to have her birthday party here at Agua Linda Farm - a multi generation event in July, I asked him, "What would you like for centerpieces on the tables?", "Something lovely and perfect." were the only directions given. Hmmmm... I immediately thought of Ceva's collection and wondered how I could incorporate some of it into centerpieces and decorations for her party. It was going to be hot - any greenery or flowers needed to withstand some heat. It would be outside during our monsoon season so it could get windy, even under the tent and couldn't be too formal or fussy. I started to formulate a design that I believed would work - then I called Ceva to see what she thought - she was thrilled and I met her at her town home with crates to gather pieces she selected - brass candelabras, elephants, copper pots and more.

On the morning of the party, I grabbed a large basket and a pair of garden clippers and foraged around the farm - harvesting cuttings of Dusty Miller, Variegated Pittosporum and Purple Heart. They were all very hardy choices that would do well in the heat with no water. I pulled small aloe and succulents right out of their pots - I will replant them later and they would fare just fine out of the soil for a few days, if need be. I also purchased two bags of moss, a bundle of yellow billy-balls and a dozen yellow and orange Protea Pin-cushion flowers at the local florist - I spent about $40 on the whole thing, decorating 10 tables, the bar and a guest sign-in table! Slices of mesquite limbs from the last tree trimming job on the farm were the base for most centerpieces with some sections of smaller branches, bark, feathers and even a few rocks. With the crates filled with Ceva’s collection and a glue gun, I set to work.

This was a tented outdoor event in the middle of our monsoon season, so I was a little concerned about wind blowing the moss right off the tree limb slices so I dabbed a little hot glue on some to adhere the moss, but mostly I used the weight of the brass pieces, Ceva’s elephants and some rocks to hold the greenery in place.

Most of the plant cuttings just sat on the tree slices admist the moss and rocks, but for a few pieces I needed some florist foam to secure the plants. I even wedged small chucks of foam into candle sticks and to hold greenery and feathers instead of candles in some holes. Taper candle would blow out and drip on linens, so I used hot glue to attach wine corks cut in half to the base of votives to use on instead.

For linens, I picked a very Ceva color - deep purple that would compliment the greens and orange/yellow tones of the plants as well as the brass.

Ceva had some antique letters that spelled "Nana Ceva" that she had found at a favorite antique store - these I glued to a board I had been saving for some unknown purpose like this and, after staining it, I added a smooth piece of wood painted with chalkboard paint. This served for guests to sign - though - the most important signatures would be those of Ceva's grandkids.

The result of my efforts, her collection and, (I must give credit to my mother-in-law's green thumb!), all the fabulous plants on the farm, was beautiful! And - even more importantly, I believe Ceva loved it! She enjoyed pointing out to her guests pieces that she collected and sharing the stories behind each one and even drew attention to a few that were past gifts from people attending the party!

Most importantly, everyone had a great time. Mother Nature generously gave us an over-cast sky with a few sprinkles (instead of pouring rain or sweltering sun!). Family and friends visited and ate great food. Stewart played Ceva's favorite music and the younger guests - there were about 40 kids - spread out playing frisbee and UNO and wandered into misty, green pastures to pet horses and catch baby toads.

Incorporating personal items into the decorations for this event made it not only attractive, but more special and personal than most "themes" ideas can!

Happy birthday, Ceva!

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