Northwestern Connecticut-Fine Dining Deep in the Woods.
A sense of place is the primary perspective from which I love to design. I don’t like to fight the surroundings. I much prefer to create something that feels as if it belongs and that the design is of the place. This “destination” wedding in northwestern Connecticut nestled on 100 acres was smack dab in my design wheelhouse.
When you have a massive tent- the floor surface becomes a key design opportunity. We white washed the tent floor-which takes a good 3 days. We then wrapped the tent poles in linen sleeves and hung linen flags from rough hewn rope to create a sense of soft movement. Bamb00 chairs were the obvious choice with natural linen table clothes. We also scattered wooden farm tables thoughout the main tent to tie-in the farm tables which anchored the open air kitchen and wait stations.
The owners of the land where the wedding was held were willing partners and allowed me access to their grounds staff and gardeners. That amount of property requires much maintenance and I made sure we got ahead of their schedule to clear fire paths and the annual clean-up from winter so that I could cull a fair amount of gorgeous wood to showcase in the design. The results remain a favorite of mine. I worked with Ira Levy from www.levylighting.com to create a modern feel with the lighting fixtures.
I am obsessed with the wood “chandelier” rigged over the destinaton bar. It ran the entire length of the bar and was finished with airline cable and oversized metal fixtures. There was also a hand-lashed chuppah of multi-colored branches-chic and simple.
I LOVE a chalkboard. In fact, my entire kitchen wall is chalkboard paint. We framed chalkboards in indigenous wood indicating what farms we bought the food from as that was a crucial aspect of the process for this client. We basically framed anything we could get our hands on- even the coffee signs!
There were some obstacles to overcome …like what to do with the 8 foot wooden bear by the tent entrance…You know that www.stamfordtents.com would never allow smoking under that gorgeous tent so “voila…it’s the perfect smoking area!”
The bridal flowers were a combination of things we found on property and jewels of the season. The mother of the bride had saved a birds nest over the winter for one of the boys, who would walk down the aisle, and what else would be the natural compliment for his partner in crime but a hand-made slingshot.
Other subtle choices were wood discs for the cake stands and of course wooden salt and pepper dishes. I dislike most salt shakers with the exception of silver, so for me salt is always in a dish. We also made a stamp with white ink on craft paper for the soup liners as another way for guests to understand better what was being served. Aside from having chalkboard love- I also LOVE an ink stamp.
Although this blog post is about natural design elements it would be inpossible to overlook the design of the open air kitchen. It took me a bit to understand Chef Jeremy Stanton’s vision of www.fireroastedcatering.com for the layout of the kitchen. We quickly came together to address, flow, function and of course-design. He literally cooks over open fires and slow roasted the main course of sides of beef. The open air kitchen is meant to be the showcase of the guests experience and after having witnessed it first hand-trust, it’s a big crowd pleaser. In true Michelle Rago Destinations style, the service and plating of the meal was a well orchestrated machine. It will also be of no surprise to any of you that I love an open fire!
The result was a beautiful pop-up restaurant deep in the Connecticut woods. The waitstaff worked in teams from the farm tables perched at the edge of the kitchen and served each table with simultaneous drop service… that… and a sommelier in the woods…Heaven.
And last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to Marco Olmi and Jen Stone who were my amazing production team and design partners. Design is my first love in this business and I am very, very involved when it all goes live. I could not have enjoyed a creative partnership more. Between Jen’s down to earth approach to life and Marco’s tireless energy and creativity…not to mention the italian accent- I can’t wait to see what we get to create next.