This weekend, two seniors from the Columbus College of Art & Design will join local pros and international design all-stars in constructing one of the lavish dinner tables that will welcome guests at Dining by Design's Columbus stop.

This weekend, two seniors from the Columbus College of Art & Design will join local pros and international design all-stars in constructing one of the lavish dinner tables that will welcome guests at Dining by Design's Columbus stop.

When Kim Priestman and Annie Scanlon were tapped two weeks ago by American Electric Power, the 11-foot-square space the company had reserved was a blank slate. By Friday night's cocktail reception, it will become a functional masterpiece that can seat 10 for dinner.

"They basically handed us the reins and let us run with it," said Priestman, who plans to focus on event design after graduation. "It'll probably be the last time that happens."

AEP put forth a few guidelines - nothing political, nothing suggestive, no static-electricity orbs - then set the students loose.

Every detail has to be conceptualized, and a table's price tag doesn't include the materials needed to transform an empty space into a unique dining paradise. Some arrangements at Dining by Design can cost $100,000 or more.

Working with a much more modest sum, Priestman and Scanlon discussed concepts with company executives, consulted pictures of past events and started developing a theme of electricity coupled with earthen elements. Early sketches showed both what to avoid and what to move forward with.

The two then found that it's one thing to draw stuff on paper - and another entirely to track it down.

They made countless trips to florists for spider mums, hardware stores for metal piping and other odd places for the small touches that define the tables at the annual charity event. They had to call in a favor from a friend at Elegant Touch Events, who rented gourmet place settings on the cheap.

"It's been a search to say the least," Priestman said. "From start to finish, it kind of consumes your life."

When AEP guests sit down to a three-course meal Saturday night, they'll see strands of copper weaving through delicate linen and smooth, twisted manzanita branches. Crystals will sparkle beneath the lights, and tall glass vases brimming with fall flowers will line corners of plush carpeting.

"It was a learning experience," Priestman added. "It's really cool to think that we're doing a national design event. We don't get opportunities like this all the time."