Bioluminescence Shines at DIFFA’s Dining by Design NYC

April 6, 2012 – by Katherine Hurley

It wasn’t just that the MADS dining room at DIFFA’s Dining by Design event stopped traffic as visitors stood taking pictures of its bioluminescent theme. It wasn’t just that the walls shined like that night on the Cartegena sea that inspired Marie Aiello’s design of a room that shimmered with details like Swarovski crystal chandeliers and Maya Romanoff wallpaper of glass beads.

What made the biggest impact of Marie Aiello’s room was the sparkle in the eyes of the people who saw it, the ones who said, “Wow,” as they looked into the dining room that shimmered back out at them and transformed their afternoon to a starry night at sea.

“People kept coming up to us and saying, ‘You guys are the ones that everyone keeps saying you’ve got to go see!’” Aiello said following the event sponsored by Architectural Digest that brought thousands to Pier 94 in Manhattan in late March to see, in part, dozens of designers’ concepts for dining rooms.

But it was Aiello’s bioluminescent themed-room that really shone.

“It was extraordinary,” Aiello said of both how the room turned out and how the public reacted to it.

To illustrate just how popular the room was, Lisa Blecker from Resource Furniture, which sponsored the room along with Manhattan Magazine, was able to take an entire photo album of other people taking pictures of Aiello’s dining room. And each onlooker after the next remarked on how striking was either the room as a whole or took the time to note one or several individual pieces in the room.

Lawrence Levy, who recently joined MADS as principal and designer of the firm, commented, “Great design comes from when there is a strong center idea that is fully realized, and this was realized.”

He said while standing near the MADS dining room he kept hearing people say how cohesive the design was and how the room just sparkled in every meaning of the word.

“There was a strong central concept constantly being enforced by every element,” Allen said, “and to hear how many people got it was really satisfying.”

“The effect is dazzling,” reported Tom’s Eye View, which went on to call Aiello “one of NYC’s most talented designers.”  and was only one of many blogs and press agencies to cover Aiello’s design, including The New York Times and next month’s issues of Architectural Digest and Manhattan Magazine.

“Everybody worked hard to make sure their part of it really worked,” a grateful Aiello said, noting her sponsors and the kind generosity of the many  who donated their talent and/or pieces to the room.  She says, “Every person and piece contributed to the ‘wow factor’.  The NanoLumens screens were powerfully engaging but every piece down to the rock candy stood on its own along side it.”

Ron Barth, owner of Resource Furniture said, “We had such an amazing experience working with a designer who is so talented and so nice.”
“And the innovation of the room she designed was truly distinctive,” Barth said.

And to each one of those people that Aiello overheard who stopped to take pictures or remarked on the design that shined at this year’s DIFFA event, Aiello had one overarching thought for the day.

“I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you for getting it,’” she said.

During the Gala Night Dinner

Marie Aiello, Eric Ripert, Lana Lenar of zeroLux Lighting & Lisa Blecker

Rick & Karen Cope of NanoLumens, Paul Boardman, and Lisa

The beautiful Sandra Ripert

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DIFFA’s Dining by Design 2012

Inspiration in a Million Points of Light:MADS for
DIFFA’s Dining by Design
 March 22-26, 2012

 March 5, 2012No matter what our profession, we all need inspiration in our designs. Sometimes we turn to a single point of illumination to guide our way, and sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we can turn to a million points of light.

This is exactly what Marie Aiello draws from in her latest design titled, “A Bioluminescent Evening at Sea”, a dining room she created for Dining By Design, an event put on by Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) at Pier 94 in Manhattan, NY this month. While the footprint is an 11×11 room, what Aiello of the Marie Aiello Design Studio (MADS) creates feels like the size of an ocean.

“I love the feeling of being in water,” Aiello said, who used to be a diver in some of the worlds most beautiful locales. In fact, the whole room is inspired by a single evening aboard a friend’s boat in Cartagena, Columbia, a night that Aiello describes with gratitude and wonder.

While having dinner with family and friends aboard the boat, there was a twinkling blue light that played across the sea.

“Someone yelled, ‘It’s plankton! Let’s swim in it!’” Aiello recalled, remembering the whole dinner party diving into the sea to “play” with these tiny creatures shimmering a thousand echoes back up to the moon’s light.

As she ran her hands around the water, this bioluminescence chased after her arms, tracing bright blue, sparkling lines in the sea. As leading marine biologist Edith Widder said in a recent interview with the New York Times, “Animals converse with each other in these arrays of light,” and that night, Aiello was part of the conversation.

That evening is what inspires Aiello’s design, entitled “Bioluminescence,” for the upcoming charity event. In every aspect of her design she says she seeks to capture that fluidity in motion, and having seen her drawings, Aiello achieves that goal and then some.

With Resource Furniture as her sponsor, Aiello utilizes many of their exciting and progressive designs. The first she points to is an amorphous tabletop—“organic and natural in feel,” Aiello notes. The table, which seats ten, boasts a translucent top in order to show off the legs underneath, reminiscent of flowing hands, abstractions loosely holding pearls.

“The table should almost disappear,” Aiello says, leaving behind the five acrylic chairs on each side of its oblong design. The chairs give the look of sparkling water that envelops the table, and one imagines, the diner in this sea of beauty and natural design. And on the table, is sure to be a stunning display with glassware from William Yeoward, china from L’Objet, and placemats and napkin rings from Kim Seybert, Inc.

Behind the breathtaking table, two high-definiton NanoLumens screens (content supplied by Pixelfire) will be playing a looped clip of The Beach, the 2000 Danny Boyle film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and features a gorgeous love scene between DiCaprio and the female lead kissing underwater as the ocean swirls around them in the same dark blue light that Aiello describes of that Cartagena evening. And in The Beach scene, plankton plays above the lovers in the same shimmering explosions of light.

A dazzling array of effects are highlighted by Zerolux Lighting Design, creatively lighting custom wallpaper depicting a nighttime ocean, covered in glass beads by Maya Romanoff. A landscaped corral reef created by Zone 6 Design will sweep down the center of the table, and below it, Tectonic Flooring Systems grounds the viewer on an imaginary floating sea. However, as Aiello reminded of each design element, “nothing should feel completely literal.”

Suspended above and echoing the shimmering sea light will be Swarovski Crystal Palace’s branch-like Blossom chandeliers by Tord Boontje. That design element harkens back to the designer’s focus: bioluminesence and that night on the sea just off the coast of Cartagena as the plankton, and the people, played.

“I hope that in this room you have the feeling I had during that wondrous night on a moonlit sea,” Aiello said.

Dining By Design runs March 22-26 and is open to the public over the weekend at Pier 94 in Manhattan. The DIFFA event is sponsored by Architectural Digest, The New York Times, Manhattan Magazine, EFFEN Vodka and LXTV OPEN HOUSE.  This year the event is held in conjunction with the Architectural Digest Home Design Show. For tickets and more information, please go to

MADS would like to acknowledge the rest of the extraordinary team: Duggal Visual Solutions, Pietra Viva, William Yeoward Crystal, Maya Romanoff, Plexi-craft, Lites on West, Prolume, Forbes & Lomax,  and Philips Lightolier.

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MADS’ Holiday Gift Idea!

Who doesn’t love a gorgeous coffee table book exhibiting some of our favorite pass time activities? I know I do!   
Well, I have the PERFECT gift for all you wine lovers, and you’re going to want to show this one off! Give the gift of pure beauty and sophistication with what the New York Times calls, “A photographic trip to the cellars of our dreams.”  Living with Wine by Samantha Nestor and Alice Feiring indulges all of our senses.  Featured in the chapter “First Flush”, MADS is honored to be a part of such an extraordinary work of art!
Oh merry, merry…. 

Be sure to share a glass of Holiday cheer before the end of the year!
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Giving Thanks

This year I have a lot to be thankful for. Not only was I incredibly fortunate to have spent a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family, I was also lucky enough to have had le chef extraordinaire Eric Ripert in the kitchen with me! (Thankfully I didn’t make a fool of myself; my popovers rocked!)

Setting the mood…
And the pay-off…
Now, what to do for Christmas?
Big Kiss, Marie
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A Bittersweet Farewell…

It’s with bittersweet sorrow that I say farewell to Metropolitan Home.  Bitter because as one of the premier magazines on modern design, it’s hard to believe it will no longer be on our newsstands, no longer left on my doorstep.  It’s Sweet, however, because this year’s Metropolitan Home Showtime House is graciously featured in the December 2009 issue, the final run.  Thank you to Met Home, Showtime and all my fellow designers for the experience of a lifetime.  We’ll always have our memories!

Warmest regards,

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Marie Aiello Design Studio’s blog WinkWink will start soon.

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