After a seemingly endless Chicago winter, Chicagoans love to soak up every bit of sunlight and warmth that starts to appear sometime around mid-May. Whether it be jogging along the beach, catching a baseball game, or throwing an outdoor gathering of friends, Chicago residents have an acute appreciation for a beautiful, warm summer day.
On Wednesday afternoon I attended a lovely gathering, aptly titled a “Peony Party” in the beautiful Scholars’ Garden of Pagoda Red in Winnetka, IL. Although it was a bit chilly and the peonies were not yet in full bloom, a great many were in attendance to listen and mingle with Tom Kehoe of Kehoe Designs, who shared ideas and inspirations for entertaining in the garden. Tom’s work is nothing short of exquisite. With the ease characteristic of someone who is truly gifted in their craft, Tom shared with us simple yet ingenious ideas for our upcoming summer parties. We were even lucky enough to see some of Tom’s original floral arrangements and photos of his events! What dazzled me most was Tom’s use of the “unexpected” in his events. Aiming to engage all of the senses, Tom strives for gatherings in which the guest leaves feeling that it was an “overall wonderful experience” yet not due to a single, obvious factor. Tom advises the host to create an experience that literally involves touch, taste, smell, sound and sight to create this well-balanced event.
Tom wowed the audience with his fabulous designs and creativity for events such as this “Gothic on the Beach” theme ten year corporate anniversary, which featured a performance by Bon Jovi. Tom inspired us all with his ingenious synthesis of rock n’ roll chic and simplistic elegance.
Tom advised to not “overdo” it with colors. Pick a couple strong colors and repeat them throughout to make a strong yet polished statement at your event. Additionally, Tom emphasizes the importance of creating a color story that is indicative of the event’s purpose. As exemplified at his “Worldly Affair” held at the Field Museum in Chicago, Tom chose rich greens, reds and yellows and repeated them throughout to “capture the feeling of a journey around the world.”
The takeaway message that the audience garnered from Tom’s words of wisdom was that more than anything, utilize your space wisely and play up its assets. Whether it be highlighting the white sands and blue waters of Lake Michigan’s shores with contrasting black features, playing upon the worldly nature of the Field Museum with architectural and design features from around the globe, or using sleek, modern accents as well as natural ones to mimic the modern structure of the Calatrava designe Art Museum in Milwaukee (at a wedding seen below), Tom Kehoe engages all aspects of the senses to create uniquely unforgettable experiences.
What are some of your most exquisite, memorable events? Have Tom Kehoe’s words of party wisdom inspired you to throw your next fabulous get together?