From stylish furnishings to tips on grilling and wine, the Historic Macon Foundation’s Design, Wine & Dine festival is back, with plenty to do and see in downtown Macon.
After all, there aren’t many events that can bring together top interior designers as well as former Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.
Historic Macon decided last year to combine its annual “Design House” event -- in which several interior designers redesign a local property -- with celebrity presentations on topics including cooking, design and gardening.
The 10-day, 15-event series, which begins Thursday, serves as Historic Macon’s primary fundraiser for the year.
“Macon didn’t have a wine festival,” said Emily Hopkins, a spokeswoman for Historic Macon. “We wanted to incorporate celebrity presenters to talk about their experience. We’ll have two days of presentations -- cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, beer tasting, even whiskey tasting.”
Dooley might seem like an unusual choice to make presentations alongside the likes of Macon artist Mark Ballard, Boston-based grill master Andy Husbands and wine expert Tim McNally, among others, but Hopkins said he’s spent much of his time in his garden since retiring as Georgia’s athletics director.
“(Dooley) has a connection through Mark Ballard,” Hopkins said. “I’ve heard great things about him as a speaker. He’s gone from being a football coach to horticulture and landscaping.”
This year’s event is designed to bring a lot of foot traffic downtown and showcase that part of the city, Hopkins said.
Given the burst of new lofts being opened downtown over the past few years, it’s only appropriate that this year’s house is a set of three lofts located at 551 Cherry St., she said.
The property will showcase the work of 14 designers: Joe Adams, Jessica Bailey, Andrea Crawford, Judy Hodgens, Valorie Lewis, Canaan Marshall, Martha McKay Maxwell, Brooke Merrill, Susan Raza, Suzanne Rogers, Bonnie Starr, Suzanne Schilling, Tracy Benton Toney and Katherine Walden.
Bailey, a designer for an Atlanta-based company, said she will be designing an upstairs hallway.
“It’s a small space,” she said. “I want to give it some character, make it feel like home. ... It’s so exciting. I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s wonderful for Macon. It brings attention to historic properties and what they could become.”
Marshall and Merrill, partners in their own firm, will be designing one of the lofts. It presents a special challenge, they said, because of the lack of walls within the studio space.
“We just have four walls and a bathroom,” Merrill said. “There’s no definition of space -- no kitchen, no eating area. We’re defining each space by the furniture layout. We want to show the public how much bang you can get out of this space.”
When they first toured the lofts, Marshall said, they were still under construction.
“You have to try to visualize the space, because there are no interior walls,” he said. “Lighting is a key element. ... I think of lofts as chic and warm. I think of the design as fashion -- it goes hand in hand.”
Crawford, who owns the design company Couture House Interiors, designed a nursery for the two-bedroom loft on the top floor.
“It’s a guest bedroom, but I decided to make it a nursery,” she said. “I wanted to make a statement that (downtown lofts) are suitable for young families. It’s a family-friendly place to live. ... I’m excited to see it come together after planning it for a couple of months.”
To develop the building, Historic Macon got support from The 1772 Foundation, the E.J. Grassman Trust, the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to establish a $500,000 revolving fund to develop properties downtown.
Historic Macon acquired the building in 2013 to be converted into lofts and a commercial storefront, which will be up for sale for interested owner-occupants.
The Design House will be open for tours March 6-15. Historic Macon also will host the Top Hat Preview Party Thursday from 7-10 p.m. at the Travis Jean Art Gallery, 530 Cherry St. Tickets for the preview party are $100, and participants will be able to meet the celebrity presenters.
Besides the Design House, Design, Wine & Dine will host three special after-hours events.
“Beer in the Courtyard” will take place Friday from 6-8 p.m. at the Blacksmith Shop, 425 Third St. Beers from around the region will be available to sample. Tickets are $15.
Husbands will host “Chef’s Table” Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Blacksmith Shop. Husbands is an internationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur from Boston. Tickets are $75 and limited to 25 people.
On March 9, bartenders from Dovetail, 543 Cherry St., will host a whiskey tasting at 6 p.m. as well as teach people the differences in whiskey, bourbon and scotch. Tickets are $40.
Besides Ballard, Dooley, McNally and Husbands, other speakers include Chadwick Boyd, a New York-based food and lifestyle expert, who will be giving a cooking demonstration; and Jessica Harris, also from New York, who will be speaking about “foodways” in the African Diaspora. Harris also will be giving a demonstration centered on rum and based on her book, “Rum Drinks: 50 Caribbean Cocktails, from Cuba Libre to Rum Daisy.”
Hopkins said hosting all of these events downtown can only be beneficial for Macon.
“For us, we wanted all of these events to be downtown,” she said. “There’s so much momentum downtown right now. To have these events downtown, we’re contributing to that.”
Crawford said she is excited to be part of it all.
“It’s about raising money for Historic Macon and putting interest into downtown,” she said. “I’m not from Macon, but I see such great potential in the downtown community. I wanted to support an organization that’s turning it into an exciting community, especially for young people.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.