On Design: Preston Bailey, Dreaming Into Life

On Design: Preston Bailey, Dreaming Into Life

January 29, 2010

If you count yourself among the rich and famous, who do you call to design a truly momentous event? Preston Bailey, for sure. At the top of his game and proud to have his creations deemed “over the top” (his view: “More is better!”), Bailey is the mastermind behind the jaw-dropping settings for such big days as Donald and Melania Trump’s wedding and Oprah Winfrey’s 50th birthday bash. But his signature style isn’t just for royalty — take a look at 1-800-FLOWERS and his wedding packages for Sandals Resorts.  

Q: Your events are such lavish affairs — how do you get the ball rolling? 

A: I start with a long meeting with the clients, getting to know their likes and, more importantly, their dislikes. I try to get inside their heads and really figure out what their vision is of the event.

Q: Your creations are so far beyond decoration — they’re complete fantasy environments. 

A: I am very much about transforming spaces. One of my favorite things is walking into a space when it’s empty because I do see what the end result will be. Then I love that moment when I walk back into it with the clients when it’s finished and hear “Preston, oh my gosh!” That’s very satisfying.

Q: Your style has a distinctive, lush look — 5-foot elephants made of lemon leaves, 6-foot floral candelabras, a ceiling dripping with “wisteria” blossoms made of rose petals. It’s theater. 

A: I would definitely describe my work as lavish, abundant and theatrical. Lately I’ve been working on public-art installations, and one of them includes two 15-foot floral peacocks made with potted plants.

Q: What has inspired you lately? 

A: The cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and the artistry of my friend, fashion designer Biyan. His details in beading and layering are amazing. When he comes to the United States, women are going to flip!

Q: Any advice for party planning? 

A: Let the event organically flow. Don’t be strict about timing. If your guests are having a great time at dinner, let them sit there a bit longer; if they want to linger over their cocktails, let them! Have fun and relax.