Design on a Dime NYC

“I wanted my room to feel like a “real” room although it was three prefab walls, no ceiling, door or windows so I added a fireplace mantel and a chair rail to bring in some architecture,” says Tamara.

There comes a time when we all want to give back to the community and Tamara Matthews-Stephenson does it often.

Recently, she was one of the 60 designers who contributed their time, energy, efforts and money to create their own vignette-room in  Manhattan’s Chelsea District last week for the 10th annual’ Design On A Dime’ Event which raises money for Housing Works, a community organization for those living with or affected by AIDs.  Their battle cry is to end homelessness and AIDS and to provide lifesaving services for those who suffer with it.

“My Design On A Dime room came out as well as I had hoped.  I raised over $60,000. worth of donations from companies like Farrow & Ball, Thos. Moser, Mecox Gardens, Pearson, Restoration Hardware, VIYET, Arteriors Home, Troy Lighting, Circa Lighting, Bunny Williams, J Pocker, Teters Art, Carole Gratale, Bungalow 5 — and the list goes on and on.    I also donated some of my own personal vintage collection of antique Limoges plates and tabletop Bakelite fish knives and more.”


We asked Tamara to take us behind the scenes on what goes into being involved in a project such as ‘Design on a Dime’.


Housing Works

Tamara Matthews Stephenson in her room

The Daily Basics: Tamara, what attracted you to Housing Works’ cause?

Tamara Matthews-Stephenson: So many of my favorite design friends take part in this event every year and I have written about it for years on my blog, NestNestNest … when I received the invitation I knew immediately I wanted to get involved.  Their reputation in the design community is stellar and since everything has to be donated to the room, it makes it easy to get great wares.  Brands all want to be part of it because it is truly one of NYC’s most coveted design events each year..

The Housing Works charity is such a giving/loving cause and works with individuals who may be homeless and/or suffering from HIV/AIDS related illnesses.  To me, this is such grass-roots efforts and so important to help people in this way.  The entire team at Housing Works is so supportive and helpful to the designer – picking up the items for you, helping to set up, clean up. They all work so hard to make this event come together — it’s refreshing!

TDB: When you sat down to design your space, what was your primary focus and inspiration?

Tamara: Since I write a great deal about entertaining and cooking on my blog, I knew I wanted to design a beautifully set table and create a festive atmosphere.  I also knew that adding great tabletop items would be a way to provide many take-away items for sale during the evening.  I was able to showcase my stylist skills well with edited layering.  The French-inspired theme came after I found a beautiful French Limoge antique set of fish plates which started me in that direction.  Once Thos. Moser donated one of their beautiful handmade tables, I kept thinking about their company which makes their products in the sea-side state of Maine….the direction soared from there.

Design on a Dime

The piece over the mantle was created by Jerry Teters especially for this event

TDB: You have some really interesting pieces of art in your booth – how did you select them? (I hope they all sold!)

Tamara:  Almost every piece of art in my room sold.  Some big name designers actually snatched up a few of my pieces.  I was very fortunate to have been given beautiful art by several local artists.  I was also happy that J. Pocker framing donated their framing services and framed a lovely painted mylar piece from Karen J. Revis (a Brooklyn artist).  Additionally, Jerry Teters of Teters Art created the large piece above the fireplace based upon what I wanted.  He asked me about the feelings I wanted to conjure in the piece, the colors and the imagery. Although it is an abstract it came out as I imagined.  It was the star of the room.  My very good friend bought the piece, which warmed my heart.  I actually bought another painting which was donated by painter Sarah Harris as a gift for my son since he loved it!

TDB: Are you working on any interesting projects now? 

Tamara:  Well, now that Design On A Dime, Blogtour Milan and my most recent interior design project are behind me, May is all about an event I am co-chairing with fellow International Furnishings and Design Association board member, Lisa McMahon called ‘Take A Seat’.  It will be on May 14 (days before ICFF) here in New York City and held at the Room & Board showroom in Soho.  We’ve invited over 25 interior designer and artists to creatively decorate and donate a chair, which we will display in the SOHO showroom leading up to event and auction off.  Designer Libby Langdon will MC our event, New York Cottages & Gardens magazine is our media sponsor, with proceed going to a great cause, Habitat For Humanity!  I will be writing posts on the IFDA blog all month about each designer and their inspiration We hope to garnish lots of attention for this event and it is only our 2nd annual time putting it together.  We are very excited to have this amazing media sponsor of course and as I type this we are working on some great goodie bags.

Tamara’s Design Take-Aways

Inspiration:  the French Seaside and it’s colorful palette

Design Foundation: Traditional with vintage and unique pieces juxtaposed with modern art.

Great Design Ideas:

  • Tamara chose a round table for this square space which gives it charm and allows for plenty of space to move around the room.
  • The floral damask in French blue above the chair rail and French green below sets the mood for the room
  • The art hung in an organized grouping on the wall with a splash of a red print in the middle adds layers of interest as if the works were collected over the years
  • A pair of urns on low plexiglass boxed birch logs covers a dormant fireplace
  • The tables setting is a mix of antique Limoges and different sized and shaped vases filled with greens and fresh flowers

How You Can Help Housing Works”

Click here to go to their online auction on Paddle8 where you can bit on any of the  50 pieces of art donated by celebrated artist.
Proceeds from Design on a Dime Art Auction will benefit Housing Works’ newest supportive housing development, the Hull Street Residence. Hull Street is a from-the-ground-up housing development project that will transform a vacant 6,000 sq ft. lot into a beautiful and safe home for 30 single, formerly homeless adults living with HIV/AIDS.