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Setting The Table

By Leila Jones - August 24, 2021

Iris Dankner, founder of Holiday House Hamptons, celebrates life & tablescapes in a new iteration of her mission to showcase the best in interior design and to raise critical funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 

Photography By Eric Striffler

Table designed by Andrea Stark

Back in the late aughts, an interior designer named Iris Dankner decided it was time for her industry colleagues to come together and contribute to the fight against breast cancer. Dankner had a vested interest in the matter, having received a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of forty after a routine mammogram. Following treatment, she was a delegate at the first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® in Egypt at the Ginza Pyramids and was instrumental in bringing that event to Israel. (“We turned the ‘Wailing Wall’ pink,” she says.) In 2008, Dankner created the first of a series of designer showhouses to raise money for breast cancer research.

She called her charitable initiative ‘Holiday House,’ because, as she said in a recent interview, “When you survive breast cancer, every day is a holiday.”

Dankner’s outfit may have been local, but it attracted talent from across the country. It was the first of its kind in New York, and in 2013 she inaugurated a summer iteration on the East End of Long Island called ‘Holiday House Hamptons,’ setting up camp at some of the most enviable real estate listings on the Hamptons market.

A showhouse takes about six months to create. Dankner assigns a room to each designer participant and likes to give them an invented backstory about the future occupants, typically involving a young couple who love art and wine and tennis or an elderly couple who are exchanging a big house for smaller, cozier digs. She also chooses the color palette. Most designers follow the rules, but invariably a few will deliberately try to color outside the lines — attempts that Dankner briskly routes. “My job is to troubleshoot and make the house as coherent as possible,” she says.

The Hamptons edition, naturally, is a bit swankier than its Manhattan sibling. In 2013, it was hosted at a Bridgehampton house that was featured in a ‘Real Housewives’ episode. In 2016, attendees were treated to the sight of Venus Williams hitting balls on the rooftop tennis court of the Water Mill house where the event was held. The 2018 event took place at a $10 million barn, also in Water Mill. And then, Covid.

This summer the event was back, albeit in abbreviated form. (You didn’t think a charity founded by a cancer survivor would let a world health crisis interfere with its mission, did you?) But rather than a showhouse, Danker asked designers to create tablescapes, to be shown during a gala to raise funds for its partner, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, at the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. The contributors included Campion Platt, Christina Nielsen, Melanie Roy, Sarah Lederman, Debra Geller, Elsa Soyars, E. Lily Home, Root Cellar Designs, Cambria, The Lewis Design Group, Brittany Marom, Brett Helsham, and others. Organic, earthy textures and materials were much in evidence as were bright colors, boho-chic accoutrements, and smiles all around.

The message was, “After a year’s separation, we’re together again, at our tables, celebrating life,” says Dankner. We’ll drink to that!

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