WRITER | JEANINE MATLOW
Whether it’s the middle of winter or any other time of year, you can transform your interiors with some inspiration from Mother Nature. Just follow the lead of Afaf Batayneh, a Bloomfield Township-based interior designer and event planner who loves to entertain. In fact, she completely changes the main areas of her home when preparing for a special occasion.
Through the years, nature has been a guiding force for her creative soirées, like the garden party she hosted during the summer. “I create the feel with the look,” says Batayneh, who installed wallpaper with a bold floral pattern in the entryway that sets the tone for the entire home.
“Nature is beautiful and timeless; with trees and flowers, it can’t be outdated. It’s different than any other theme,” she says. “For a garden party, you can use outdoor furniture indoors and indoor pieces outside as a way to pull everything together.” For instance, Batayneh creates different seating areas on her deck for a room without walls. “The walls are the trees and nature,” she says.
As she explains it, seasonal party themes don’t have to follow the calendar. You can have an indoor garden party in the winter or any other time of year.
For her gatherings, Batayneh likes to take colors from nature, such as various shades of green. In her breakfast room, she reupholstered the chairs with green and white fabrics. As for accents, a birdcage becomes a centerpiece with decorative birds, green moss, and candles, while olive branches hang above the kitchen counter. “It’s important to tie the whole area together,” she says.
Another party at her house had a fall theme that featured a large container of apples from a local cider mill placed right outside her door. “When guests left I told them to take one. An apple a day keeps the doctor away! That made me happy, and I didn’t have to lift a lot of apples,” she says.
Batayneh likes the idea of simple party favors, such as photos of your guests taken at the event that can later be presented to them in a frame. For your invitation, you might also include an image of your seasonal décor as the background for a hint of what’s to come.
For a party that was inspired by an ice storm, a winter-white color scheme featured such details as a shawl draped over a table and strands of jewelry and crystals hanging from draperies and light fixtures. Lighting is important when you’re entertaining, says Batayneh, who recommends candles and likes to wrap string lights around a tree.
Fresh flowers add a lovely touch and can be placed in every room for a special celebration. You can also create a vignette on a kitchen windowsill that consists of a miniature table and chairs and some moss. For her nature-inspired gatherings, Batayneh blends antiques with more affordable items. She also likes to repurpose pieces by using them in new ways.
Keep in mind that your inspiration can come from anywhere. Her lemon-themed party was conceived after seeing the brightly hued fruit fall out of a bag of groceries onto the table. “It looked great,” says Batayneh. “From a lemon to an apple to an ice storm, when you think about it, everything comes from nature. Our job is to choose the right colors and add our personal touch.”
I once attended a forest-themed party. We were instructed to wear a hat that fit the theme. It was amazing to see the creativity in decorating and in the variety of hats that were worn, and it was a terrific way to get conversations started. I will never forget the candelabra the host created using wire and ivy. Incredible!