Next up in our “Meet the Designer” series is David Epstein, one of our incredible corporate event designers who has been a trusted name and talent among business insiders for decades. David’s love for events began at a young age when he attended (and worked!) at his grandfather’s birthday celebration inside a glamorous tent in The Hamptons. Fast forward to today where he’s now garnered over 20 years of event design experience, earning the trust and respect of Chicago’s top planners, venues, and corporations. We sat down with him to hear about where he gets his inspiration, his biggest vices, and his favorite meal. Keep reading to see the full interview below!

When did you start at HMR? 

October 1998

How did you get your start in the industry? 

My journey into events actually started as a nine-year-old at my Grandpa’s 80th birthday party. It was a huge, tented event in Westhampton, NY. Everything seemed larger than life and I was mesmerized by all the moving parts – the band, the food and, of course, the decor. I was delegated to fill mirrored cups on every table with cigarettes for guests to smoke throughout the evening (normal for the 70’s I guess!) and I’ll never forget meandering amongst the setup before the party. The excitement of that evening stuck with me. Years later I realized events were a real business with real opportunities and the light bulb went on. I said to myself, “Could I make my living creating these experiences every day?” I’ve enjoyed every minute in this industry and HMR Designs has been a tremendous support and vehicle that I’m so very proud to be a part of.

What kind of events do you design? 

Corporate events are really my passion. I enjoy the client interaction and the challenge of coming up with that cool twist that wins the business and makes the event shine. At the end of the day, I’ll jump into any event no matter the type or size… each ultimately has it’s own set of challenges and takes on a life of its own.

Photography by Spoon Photography

What’s the first thing you do when beginning to design an event?

I like to put myself in the shoes of the guest and think about shaping their first impressions. Creating that “WOW” factor is what we live for and that’s often where my process starts. Then the methodical planning side of my brain kicks into gear and floor plans and event flow take center stage.

David Blog 2Photography by Spoon Photography

What is your design philosophy? 

Sometimes the best ideas are simple and bold. I try to stay true to my gut instincts but always keep an open mind.

Where do you source decor inspiration from? 

I’m always on the hunt for creative elements to incorporate into my events, which can happen anywhere. It can be as simple as noticing an interesting pattern in a restaurant interior or interesting use of space at a trade show. Many times all I have to do is walk down the hall to see the incredible designs my colleagues are creating in real-time. Our team never ceases to amaze me with their creativity and raw talent.

David Blog 3Photography by Kent Drake Photography

What was your most memorable event? 

Creating a literal “crop circle” in the middle of a cornfield as an event space for an intimate gathering featuring the renowned Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann. The planning experience and design were quite unique and memorable, along with a tornado that missed us by about 5 miles right before cocktails began. We recovered in time for dinner and it was an amazing evening under the stars.

What event are you most proud of? 

For the last several years I’ve been the primary point person handling décor and entertainment for a major healthcare convention in Chicago. Sponsors and exhibitors come to me with their event needs, which typically translates into about 20 events of varying shapes and sizes over a 3-day period. Each year is its own marathon event workout and the results and relationships just get better and better.

David Blog 4Photography by Cindy Fandl

What is your favorite thing about HMR? 

Definitely the people. I’m constantly in awe of the amazing things we accomplish as a team. I love the daily interaction and collaboration I have with our team – whether it’s bouncing design ideas around, or figuring out logistics and production challenges.

How do you spend your free time? 

My family and I have an ever-evolving bucket list of places to visit, restaurants to try, and interesting things to do. The idea is to never complete the list but to enjoy trying!

What is your way to relax? 

A fun fact most people don’t know is that I play guitar!  As does my daughter (who plays multiple instruments). I have fun with it and I’m pushing for some father-daughter collaboration – now if I could just pry her off her phone long enough! (She’s sixteen).

Loft 21 - Spoon Photo & DesignPhotography by Spoon Photography

What is your biggest vice? 

Milk and cookies. Once I start I can’t stop. Let’s keep this G-rated!

What is your favorite book? 

Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

What’s the last band or performer you saw live? 

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Branford is an amazing jazz saxophone player.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day at work/on-site? 

I’m a news junkie so it’s often a combination of catching up on the world and collapsing into a coma!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? 

Mama’s Fish House on Maui… it is heaven on earth.