Alumni Make Their Mark at DIFFA in San Francisco

NYSID alumni Karen Villaneuva and Paul O’Rourke recently collaborated on an installation for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) Dining by Design, an annual charitable event where top designers create one-of-a-kind tabletop installations, with all proceeds going to HIV/AIDS services. The duo represented their respective firms, Villanueva Design and Paul O’Rourke Design, at their first high-profile design event.

Karen and Paul conceptualized a space that reflected the essence of San Francisco's contemporary urban built environment, its lush natural surroundings, and the diversity of the city. Organic materials such as natural driftwood, air plants, and recycled woods juxtaposed with manmade elements created a warm dining atmosphere. The designers made their installation interactive by inviting guests to write messages in bottles that were placed on the shelves. A number of guests wrote to individuals who have been affected by HIV/AIDS and shared inspiring words. The bottles will be sent to the Positive Health Program at the San Francisco General Hospital, tying back to the theme for this year's event: “Forward the Cure.”

Karen started her design business earlier this year. She said, "As a designer, I believe it is the duty of creative individuals to help others see the world as beautiful and inspiring by sharing our talents with our local community. In response to a shared desire of contributing to this great cause, my talented project collaborator Paul O'Rourke and I put forth our complimentary skills to design an installation as a labor of love. The experience of participating in DIFFA was intrinsically rewarding and deeply resonated with my passion for design."

"I believe we hit a home run” said Paul. “This event marks our introduction to the Bay Area design community and a very successful collaboration.”

The pair’s creative installation was featured on CasaSugar: 20 Wow-Worthy Tablescapes from Dining by Design (view images 7-9).  Congratulations to Karen and Paul!

Phyllis Greer