Innately stylish, interior designer-turned-event designer Ramsey Prince lends a timeless design to his events: “I create residential looks—your wedding will be styled like it’s meant to be published for a magazine,” he says. With a flair for the eclectic, Prince plays with layers upon layers, a melange of textiles and textures, and elements at differing heights: “Centerpieces alone just don’t make a room feel finished,” he says.
At Chicago-based event design and décor company Kehoe Designs, Prince savors his initial consultation with potential clients. “That meeting lets me into their personality—from what they are wearing—the reactions to our Design Studio installations,” he says. “I really love an opinionated person, especially when they show their dislikes.”
Kehoe Designs’ intrepid creative services team imagines a series of inspiration boards to send event designers like Prince into inspired flights of event fantasy. For his latest installation, he chose the trend “Phantom’s Playground,” a retro rock ‘n’ rollers livin’ rich dream—definitely not for wallflowers. “Black and gold are my personal taste,” Prince says. But, think “Rocket Man”-era Elton John: ironic oversized gold sunglasses, lamé bomber, metallic Mercury-winged sneakers. Luxe lighting. Pale pink roses. The seventies vibing: mod tables, personality-laden chairs suited up with lush, velveteen upholstery, a bold geometric-shape pattern parade. And don’t forget humanism—the unflinching, unapologetic, and yes, titillating display of the nude body. “There are lots and lots of layers, and things on top of things, and a balance of dark and light colors—that spoke to me,” Prince says.
“The client who’s going to love this is edgy, modern and bold,” Prince says. “They are not looking for sweet, petite and pretty. They will have a beautiful wedding, but with a twist on the typical and traditional.”
Modern Retro. A little bit glam. Sensual. Tactile. Prince approached his multi-layered, explosively sensory installation as a whole living space. “We basically live in front of screens—I wanted to get away from unnatural elements like technology,” he says. “I said, ‘Let’s use décor that reminds us we’re still people.’”
That’s why Prince first grounded the setting with a natural brown brindle cowhide rug juxtaposed with the table’s welded gold metal branch-shaped base. “That branch pattern’s replayed in the upside-down, gold-painted trees adorned with blooms that I hung above the table. “This is where I turn nature on her head and give a whole new depth to layering,” he says. “The light corals and peaches, dusty rose and a touch of Millennial Pink balance out the dark brown tabletop, transposed with dark aubergines for even more play between dark and light.”
The furniture reads retro in its shapes and profiles, but also skews modern: The table’s satin matte walnut finish shows off the wood grain. Reupholstered vintage chairs, in buttery-soft, up-to-date fabrics. “The florals feminize the masculine table,” says Prince, who worked to create a gender-inclusive space. In a wedding setting, he’d build out different table shapes, chair types and even some sofas as banquettes. “I’d do a lot of mix and match for a universal feel,” Prince says. “So, not the same chair, but the feel of the same chair, over and over.”
Prince takes the residential concept in wedding event décor to a whole new tactile and visual level.
“Your Own Personal Garden of Eden”
Prince gets almost giddy talking about the charmingly cheeky golden torso at the back of the table display. “It’s like your own personal Garden of Eden—you are apart of the flowers, and there he is an Adonis-like figure,” he says. “A surprise in the trees—you don’t notice him right away.” The entire table display sits as a feast for the eyes: intricate geometric etching on gold decanters and candle holder, florals patterned in the glasses and plates. “It’s a working process to place and remove items on the table,” Prince says, “to get it exactly right.”
He’s got endless ways for days, Prince says, of replaying the gilded torso out in a wedding or corporate event. Classically inspired sculptures on display during the cocktail hour. Full-size mannequins with lampshades on their heads ironically lit up next to the band. Printed backdrops scaling behind the bar. “My superpower: running with a theme and making it interesting,” he says.
The body-celebratory torso speaks to adding a personal element to a life celebration. “The diaphanous flowers, and then the human sculpture,” Prince says.
A Truly Custom Design
Prince’s almost delightfully nonchalant about the custom gold chandelier he designed with creative director, Bridget Frizzie, at Kehoe Designs—built from scratch exclusively for this installation. “We just couldn’t agree on an existing piece that was quite right,” he says, “so we took inspiration from a chandelier with peacock fringe and sketched a chandelier with a gold chain instead.” In about a nanosecond (OK, more like a week), Kehoe Designs’ onsite metal shop produced the custom piece replete with an old-timey Edison light bulb. “We could do a whole series of these custom lights to hang above the tables at a wedding,” Prince says. “The ceiling doesn’t limit us since we can bring in a whole lighting rig.”
With Kehoe Designs’ event design and production services, this custom chandelier is only a taste of stunning, atmospheric lighting: Prince would go all the way, washing the entire room in light coral, with an amber candlelight feel (“it would be like walking into a warm blanket, enveloping you in a whole-room experience,” he says) highlighting florals and tables.
“Here’s how you get that wow—hanging elements above your table, and those light corals and peaches mixed with gold and black tones,” Prince says. Nodding at the natural elements trend, Prince says that marble’s huge in weddings, from tabletops to dance floors. “The Kehoe Designs’ team can print graphics that look just like marble,” he says.
‘You’re Not in the Ballroom Anymore, Dorothy”
In the year ahead, Prince says this installation will play out in weddings—even corporate events—transporting guests outside the traditional ballroom. “We’re creating weddings that make people feel at home—like they’re looking at shelter magazines,” he says.
Ultimately, Prince’s installation reads both elaborate and incomparably cool. “There’s a lot going on in my display—it’s the ‘wow’ factor of seeing lots of items that inspire you,” he says. Whether amping it up or going 180 degrees for a must-have-blush bride (“we’d do hanging white cherry blossoms and a soft, ethereal look with different materials,” he says), this wedding won’t look like anyone else’s.
“The clients who come to Kehoe Designs want something completely different,” Prince says. “They know we can think outside the box and have the resources to fulfill that dream readily.”
Prince’s installation shows a luxe theme that’s portable for both weddings and corporate events.
On the Hot Seat: Ramsey Prince
What inspires you on a daily basis?
RP: Fashion and interior design trends. I stay on top of what’s happening in the coming seasons because these trends eventually trickle down to what we do next in event design.
What 2019 wedding trend are you most excited about?
RP: Clients are finally taking the leap and using color again. The all-white wedding is always pretty, but I endlessly adore couples who take a risk and shows their personality using color and décor.
What color combos are you kicking it with right now?
RP: I’m into using soft peach and coral tones with grey-greens and deep burgundy and eggplant to balance it out. I also like the more vibrant coral and tangerine tones highlighted with hot pink, peacock blue, and vibrant green.
Follow Ramsey: @rjpdesigns