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March 01. 2013 8:30PM

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Table settings are for more than just meals. They create atmosphere, even a story.

Nearly a dozen stories are on display this weekend at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, host of the third annual “Dinner by Design.”

Professional designers spent hours this week creating their exotic table settings in various rooms of the cultural center for all who come to indulge in the elegance. The event began Friday night and continues today and Sunday. Its purpose is to raise money for the center and the Lackawanna Historical Society.

Veteran designer John Mackey, one of the show’s founders, planned to transform the space in the Casey Library into dining elegance.

“We’re actually building a canopy over the table completely covered in flowers,” he said last week as he prepared for the show. “We’re doing a spin-off of Shakespeare, of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ “

In a description he wrote about the design, he says, “The play is set in a dreamlike world of the forest under the light of the moon, where fairies and woodland spirits come to life. My design draws on the deep, rich colors of the forest and the serenity of a night illuminated by the energy of its inhabitants.”

Mackey, who has been designing for 17 years and holds degrees in architecture, interior design and event planning, said he likes symmetry in table settings.

“Things don’t always have to be a match. I like when things do repeat; it keeps people together. …Whatever you’re doing on one end of the table you do on other.”

Judith Sweeney of Scranton, who is seeking a publisher for a book on “tablescapes” she did with her daughter Rachel, a photographer, is displaying a “tablescape” design for the second year at the cultural center. She did the spring-themed tablescape with her daughter as well.

“I realize how the idea of dinners and family are connected to child development,” said Sweeney, who is director of student teaching at Keystone College in LaPlume and a former kindergarten teacher.

Her book on tablescapes is intended to show how to use elements from the home to make the table a warmer and richer place.

“We put 12 months of tables together,” she said of the book.

Sweeney said she got involved with the show when she was asked to enter a table last year. Her goal is to make a tablescape inviting and warm. People should look at it and say they’d love to eat off the table or become inspired to do their own table at home, she said.

“It’s just the idea of making it a place where people want to come and sit and share their conversations,” she said.

John Phillips of MCR Productions, Kingston, was looking forward to participating in the show for the first time.

“We look to create a modern atmosphere that is very NYC style,” he wrote in an email earlier this week. “The only hint that we will give away is that we base many things around light for our event.”

The MCR design will be in Shopland Hall because it needed a lot of space.

A musician for many years who also has worked in the catering industry and production, he also credits his wife in the design work.

“When it comes to design, my wife and I are a team that feed off of each other’s creativity and strive for a captive appearance at all events,” he said.

Julie Falzett, owner of “overthemoon baby, home, dog” in Scranton, in business since Oct. 1, is another first-time participant.

“The theme of her tablescape is ‘Just Married,’ and it will showcase an intimate table for two and a table for their ringbearer and the flower girl,” said Falzett’s mother, Anne Falzett, who works at the gift shop and bridal registry and serves on the cultural-center board. “That (latter table) will kind of focus on or showcase some of the children’s things she has in the show. The other will showcase china, crystal.”

She said interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s collection for Pickard China was the inspiration for the Just Married tablescape.

“She uses a kind of neutral pallete mixed with metallic,” Falzett said.

She hoped people will come to see the four floors of table-setting designs in the cultural center. The event benefits two good organizations, said Sweeney, whose late husband, Alan Sweeney, was a longtime president of the historical society.

“It promotes local business as well,” she added.

Rachael Fronduti, the cultural center’s public relations and marketing coordinator, said 11 designers and their assistants were signed up to fill the four floors with their designs. The show raised more than $10,000 last year, which the center and historical society shared, she said.

“We split it after expenses,” Fronduti said.


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