A wicker picnic basket and a red checkered tablecloth is an old-school foundation for outdoor picnics. Luxurious picnics are now all the rage.
Last summer in the Hamptons, when the wealthy set grew restless without summer galas and weddings to attend, the business of setting up elaborate tablescapes for intimate gatherings took off.
Destination Haus, a five-year-old family-owned-and-run business based in Montauk, is busier than ever planning these outdoor picnics with a glam twist.
Sisters Kendra Vellante and Carlyn Vellante, along with their mother Laureen Vellante, own the gallery and home decor store that works with select destinations from around the world. The original intent of the business, Kendra explained, was to support local communities and artisans and offer one-of-a-kind items.
Kendra works for an African conservation, wildlife safari company and travels to the continent three times a year, where she has met local artisans from tribes throughout Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“The idea is to bring the destination to someone’s home,” she said. Destination Haus also works with artisans in Mexico, Haiti and Scandinavia.
Meanwhile, the gallery represents 18 artists globally with Carlyn, who has a background in art and has curated art for commercial properties and hotels, as an art manager. Their mother is a fine arts photographer and photojournalist and is, they said, the backbone of the business.
Tabletop items were always a specialty in their shop. When Carlyn traveled to Morocco, she brought back Moroccan tea glasses, glassware and pottery. When Kendra would return from Africa she did so with items like salad servers, placemats and table runners in tow.
“When COVID hit, we had to close our retail store, obviously because people weren’t shopping,” Kendra said. “We had a lot of tabletop decor and that’s when we started offering our picnic services.”
It was a bit of a happy accident with some good timing sprinkled in. They had always done picnics for photoshoots to promote their home decor business and for events here and there, but more for select clients or friends and family.
After one photoshoot at the beach, Kendra said, “We ended up just hanging out and saying, ‘Wow, this is so fun. Why are we leaving this? We should go get breakfast and hang out.’”
They took to Instagram during the pandemic, announcing curated beach picnics. It seemed to go viral, Kendra reported.
“It happened really organically and it was an overnight success,” she said.
Those suffering from COVID-fatigue were looking for something different to do outdoors where they felt safest. But, it became about more than just lunch or dinner on the sand. They’ve done microweddings, bridal showers and birthday celebrations.
“You’re taking the entire table and changing it into this environmental structure,” Carlyn said of their tablescape creations. “So we’ll use the florals as an element, the table runner, then we’ll build on that, creating this environment for people to dine.”
“Some of our diners will want us to bring the destination to them,” Kendra explained, referring to one upcoming dinner with a Moroccan-themed dinner.
They bring in everything—poufs and pillows, glassware, plateware, tea lights, candles, tiki torches, lanterns, umbrellas, etc. It’s all customizable from color palettes to unique elements to create the perfect ambiance.
“They are moving installations,” Carlyn said. “We can set it up indoors, outdoors, backyards, front yards, beach—kind of wherever they’re looking to emulate. We’ve done secret gardens and people’s backyards all the way up to the edge of Louse Point.”
For Kendra, she enjoys connecting people with nature and wildlife through her work with the African safari company. “I definitely applied that passion towards our picnic services.”
Conservation and sustainability are important to Kendra, and they reported they use no plastics and are sure to take off whatever was brought to the beach.
For the sisters, it’s about creating a one-of-a-kind experience.
Carlyn, an art history major, said creating these outdoor fantasy picnics resonates with her. She’s always been attracted to the curation of installations. “I always geek out with that type of Renaissance … I just love the impressionistic paintings of people lounging in the park. It’s nice to bring that to life.”
Many want beach picnics, of course. Kendra’s husband is a local fisherman who will send them the best locations to set up based on the weather he sees on the radar. They consider not only the weather, but the directions of the wind and where the sun is setting to help their clients have the most enjoyable experience. They send their diners a pin the day of depending on those variables.
“One of our clients pulled us aside afterwards and was like, ‘I just want you to know that was extremely magical,’” Carlyn said.
These picnics have grown so popular that they are reserving dates months in advance. “I’m now doing picnics for people who have booked last summer,” said Kendra. They will also take clients the day of, as long as there is an opening.
This article was featured on the cover of the August issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the digital version here.