DIFFALast winter, New York City interior designer Charlene Keogh was invited to participate in DIFFA’s Dining By Design Fund Raiser at the Architectural Digest Home Show.  It’s a big honor and a great cause–Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS is one of the top HIV/AIDS funder service organizations in the world.

It was no easy task.  For an eleven-by-eleven foot space, Charlene needed to put up $10,000 for DIFFA, and she needed at least another $10,000 to create the room installation.

So, the first thing Charlene did was call her friends.

Charlene and Adeline Olmer have been friends for almost two decades. Adeline, who was born in France, designs interiors, creating and sourcing products for home and fashion, combining French flair with American ease.  Adeline: “when we’re together the world opens up and creativity flows.”

When Adeline and Charlene first started talking about this project, it was Adeline who came up with the notion of creating a boudoir where the room’s owner, “Madame,” would host a few intimate friends for a meal.  The idea came from a design for a chaise that Charlene wanted to build – Adeline thought they needed a room where the chaise would be the focal point.

And as two BA50s, Charlene and Adeline had seen, done and experienced a lot–this room is a tribute to the “Madame” in all of us.

Madame is sometimes powerful, sometimes naughty, sometimes weak, sometimes confident, and sometimes the one who doesn’t want to get out of bed.  As individual and complex as each one of us, Madame has a strong sense of style and beauty and wants to share it with the world.  Thus, when asked why a party in her boudoir, Madame smiles, and says simply, “why not?”   Women over 50 don’t need “permission” anymore to do what they want.  Hence, Dinner in le Boudoir de Madame.

Now there is a man-friend in this threesome.  A few years ago, Charlene met Blane Charles, a model and wardrobe styling consultant.  Charlene had just lost a parent, business was not good (think economic downturn) and generally did not feel too good about herself.  Blane offered to come and help her with her wardrobe and her closet, worked some friendship magic, and Charlene began to return to her former self.  She credits Blane with helping her readjust her attitude to her work, her husband, her body and her psyche.  Who better, then, to help make Madame’s Boudoir stylish and chic?

One of the really good things about being over 50 is that you’ve had time to make lots of friends–good friends.  Countless friends, as well as clients and suppliers stepped forward to donate not only money, but the expertise to build, paint, and furnish the Madame’s Boudoir.  Friendship helped raise $15,000 between September and January (with a big interruption thanks to Hurricane Sandy).

The number of friends each of them gained from working together tripled– three times as many people to donate couture gowns, take photographs, print their brochure, make architectural renderings – all the pieces that a big, splashy project like this needs, but costs so much.  And these individuals and businesses who helped them were drawn to their example of friendship and collaborative spirit.

And throughout the past year, while raising money for this project, while also trying to keep their “real” businesses going, while spending days last November with no power, they’ve become much closer friends than before they started.  They have learned how many friends they do have, and how much they mean to each other.

As Charlene says, “it takes a village… and some duct tape.”

Could they have done this when they were in their 20s or 30s?  I think not.

Come to DIFFA’s Dining by Design March 21 to 24, 2013,  and meet the team.  To find out more, click here.

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