Finding Your Focal Point

Finding Your Focal Point

Jes Gordon responds to Jung Lee's comments, saying that sometimes less isn't more.


You taste your ingredients while you are cooking and you look at your elements as you are designing!

Something Rocco always says to the competing chefs is that it’s essential to constantly taste their food before, during, and after cooking their meals. 

It’s the same thing with design. Sadly the chefs on the show do not have the luxury of really being involved in the process of physically designing the rooms, but if you all could see how the rooms transform, you would be blown away by how many perspectives we need to get of the room before completing the environment.

I often find myself walking on top of tables, hanging from ceilings and scaling walls in order to really see how my rooms translate from every angle. 

In this challenge, The Perfect Summer Party, the chefs needed to keep their meals light, so I wanted to be sure that the décor had plenty of carbs!

I met with Ryan Poli first, the super-chill dude from Chicago with the amazing hairline! I like the direction Ryan wanted to take because it was organic and masculine, much like his cooking style. For me, summer is all about freedom and celebration, and I loved that Ryan wanted to bring the beach to the table and the table to the beach. 

My favorite design element that Ryan came up with completely on his own was the “Message in a Bottle” idea. That was really unexpected coming from him after hearing his other requested elements such as; driftwood, sand, shells, flowers, candles etc. Ryan did have a lot of elements in his design, but the “Message in a Bottle” was a wonderful focal point in the room. I found antique mini bottles and had his menu printed out on a rolled up little note that the guests had to retrieve from the bottle. This was a nice interactive element and in “real life,” I would have the wait staff remove the items so they are not in the way of the actual dinner. 

Jung Lee felt that there were too many elements on the table so an easy resolution to that is to let the guests discover the fun novelty item and then have it taken away or stored, so the guests can take it home with them or you can keep it for your next dinner party! Or… you can invite Jeff Ross over to eat it for you!Is less really more all of time? In this case, I didn’t agree…. I felt like Ryan needed some fun focal points in the room amongst all of his organic elements. Sometimes organic design can fall flat in a room. When you only work with organic tones and textures there is no pop to the environment! You need to mix country and rock 'n' roll. 

I did change out the dining table to a natural rosewood plank table, which was surrounded by natural bamboo chairs, and all of the florals consisted of pod elements mixed with real artichokes within bamboo vases and surrounded by accents of shells, and driftwood. I wanted to pump up the color a little in the room by adding really fab silk striped pillows for the back of the dining chairs and we took a plain white rug that was beneath the table and painted matching stripes on it to match the pillows. To me, this helped give the room a “KA POW” much like a superhero logo.

I don’t know if you all noticed the gorgeous huge photos on the wall amongst that awesome surfer dude painting, but those photos were actually pictures from my honeymoon in the Maldives!! There is nothing wrong with inviting your guests into your own private world at your events. Every one of your events should represent who you are as a person in some form or another in a digestible way. 

For Ryan, I felt that he definitely needed a surf element in his room, but I decided to not go the surf board/dining table route, the shape would be a nightmare to eat at! Instead, we sourced some really organic surfboards to just hang out in the corner of his room to bring the surf vibe in full circle. It’s cute that a guy from Chicago was so “beach-centric.”


For such a messy girl, her design scheme was super-chic and neat! Jen wanted to channel that ethereal and sexy vibe that you get from all of the super trendy Miami hotels and nightclubs. She secretly told me that she also wanted this look for her upcoming wedding and that her dinner party was a perfect place to try it out.People tend to think that the only way to look chic and trendy is to do everything in white. This is not true… in fact, the use of accent colors are the ultimate way to make a statement in any room. I wanted to give Jen that clean white effect, but I also wanted her guests to have a feeling of celebration and summer in the room as well. 

I created the white base of the room by draping most of the terrace with white scrim fabric. Scrim fabric is literally hospital gauze and it's really cost-effective. I then brought in an uber-chic square dining table that was lit from within with clear LED light technology. This light makes people feel really sexy and modern. I love the fact that Jen wanted some fire elements (thank God she let the tiki torch idea go!)

I rented two white self-standing fireplaces which created the ethereal ambiance the room really needed. If you go too white and too chic, the room gets intimidating and your guests may want to leave before having the chance to ease into the ambiance. 

Then I was thirsting for color so BAM!! I added some lovely aqua blue elements to the lounge seating pillows, and to the silk runner on the table. I brought in a few summer tones of orange and yellow into the room on the lounge seating as well. The real stunner of the night was the deep violet-colored Phalaenopsis orchid sprigs that floated in water on the table and draped across the corners of the fabric treatment. A little secret here is that Rocco was obsessed with these flowers!! He couldn’t take his eyes off of them and he actually pronounced Phalaenopsis perfectly the first time LOL! I surrounded the floating orchids with real blue rice paper and capiz shell votives.

I loved both of these rooms. Honestly Jen’s room is something I have seen and done a lot before, but that is OK. If something works design-wise you should repeat it. Why not? Ryan’s room was a little more original to me, just because you don’t see it every day. Some folks like things they haven’t seen before and others are not comfortable in those environments. What type  of person are you? 

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