Social in Seattle

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The Blue Room dinner table dressed in full splendor, at top, and The poetic Pisano Courtyard, two otherworldly event spaces (photos by Laurel McConnell, courtesy The Ruins).

A gem tucked close to the Emerald City’s Queen Anne Hill quartier and metropolitan center, The Ruins private dining club and event venue, est. 1993, is a whimsical habitat for the Wrack dwelling within us all.

Conceptualized by renowned Seattle caterer Joseph McDonnal, the Versailles-like locale designed for parties and celebrations of all manner likens a mini château: a charming, uncommonly decorated hideaway in the coffee-sipping city.

“McDonnal referred to members as ‘Wracks,’ playing on the phrase ‘in wrack and ruin,’” shares Eliott Peacock, director of marketing. “To become a Wrack, one may be referred by an existing member, or for those without such acquaintances, provide references. The Ruins offers five different membership levels, each includes a joining fee, quarterly dues and a nominal use minimum.”

When dreaming up The Ruins, McDonnal wished to delight Wracks with fine culinary offerings in beautifully decorated surroundings. Thus, he tapped fabric designer Jack Lenor Larsen to assure each celebration (and party room) would be one-of-akind— and animal-ornamented to boot.

“The Ruins’ walls are adorned with animals, some depicted in dapper attire and poised for socializing, others nestled in their wild, natural habitat. There is a mechanical elephant and a gold gilded horse, both life-size,” Peacock enthuses. “What’s more fun and endearing than animals?”

Attuned to your amusement, The Ruins’ alluring environs indeed blossom spritely romps worth cherishing…

Turn the lock and key, and “fall down the rabbit hole” to a mischievous world of enchantment designed for the more avant-garde bon vivant. With a membership roster of 700 at press time, the deeper one wanders into The Ruins, the more bewitched they become. Interiors worthy of a Lewis Carroll tome, turn the corner, and each room becomes more and more curious.

“Upon arriving, guests encounter a nondescript warehouse with tree limbs reaching through broken window panes from within,” Peacock divulges. “As they enter, they are greeted by a small forest of trees and foliage rising out of a cobblestone courtyard, accompanied by ferns and flowers rooted in brickwork. The cobblestone path leads to the entrance, where they are greeted by a life-size horse painted in gold gilt and lively colors. From there, a stroll through The Ruins unfolds like a journey…”

The entire house deemed “eclectic” (Peacock calls it “a place to have a good time”), four private event spaces seat up to 250. Per Peacock: “Each is thematically designed to evoke an experience of discovery and wonderment for hosts and their guests. Adding to the intrigue, a myriad of antique furnishings and artwork round out the setting and transport visitors into a lavish world.”

Enter The Ballroom. Here, hand-painted murals depicting Plateau Indians in sophisticated regalia match a royal blue palette. Deep velvet curtains and dramatic vignettes frame the room, while emblems depicting Northwest flora and fauna provide a pleasant parallel to the surrounding natural landscape. The intimate Chocolate Room, too, is as luxurious as a square of midnight cacao with rich chocolate-brown walls.

Grand floral arrangements and decorative wall treatments set the tone in the playful Dining Room. By day, soak in heavenly natural light though full windows. By night, candelabra and wall scones set the mood. Open the French doors lining the south wall, and revel in fresh air and the Pacific Northwest’s lush greenery as you dine. The smallest space, the Maisonette, was designed for bohemians with a warm terra cotta scheme, antler chandeliers and classic English dinner table. In the winter, an elegant stone ~ replace and quirky wall textures nod to Old Europe’s mountain retreats.

Romantic, as if plucked from the pages of a European storybook, the Ruins is indeed fairytale-worthy. Pause your pocket clock, and enter the world of intriguing aristocrats with personalities as amusing as the venue itself. Creative and ethereal, plausibly conceived in a dream, you’ll be charmed and delighted to explore.

Outside, hanging ivy vines, pastel-hued blossoms, stone pillars, cobblestone pathways, glowing garden lamps, and a winding iron staircase enchant the Pisano Courtyard. A fanciful butter-yellow, bouquet-lined entryway, too, is ethereal and inviting. Fragrant blooms adorn the Ruins’ entirety, o˛ ering vivid pops of color and a hint of delicacy to the entire house. France’s dainty Marie Antoinette and Carroll’s pensive Alice themselves would approve of this suave yet imaginative getaway.

Leave your mad hats at home, but bring your appetite. Wrack-only fare and fetes are where the Ruins truly shines (through the club’s private dining services). Gather in the Library and Elephant Cage, reserved for members and invited guests, for monthly lunch and dinner menus peppered with the harvest’s finest flavors.

“The Ruins is a popular stop for members enjoying a leisurely day, hosting important guests, a night on the town, or as a tranquil refuge to relax and unwind during or after a busy workday,” Peacock says. “Wracks might spend some time sipping cocktails in the Chocolate Room or the Courtyard before or after their meal.”

Seasonal trimmings ~ ll halls for holiday feasts and open houses. Penned into the Wrack social calendar, beguiling gatherings span the endearing to the humorous: wine dinners, Sunday suppers, cabaret entertainment, culinary lessons—even a lauded annual Dog Luncheon—surprise and delight.

Custom-tailored on- and o˛ -premise catering, complete with ˝ oral, decor and menu selection, captivate Wracks and cater to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Outside parties have entertained museums, fields, backyards … You name it. Nuptials are also royally fitted at the Ruins, from coordinating colors to whipping up blossom-garnished sweets.

And because we know you’re wondering, we asked…

“Members represent a variety of people who simply enjoy hospitality and merriment,” Peacock says. “the Ruins respects the privacy of its members, but yes, some Wracks are public personalities from business, entertainment, politics and civic society.”

Peer into the looking glass, and question, who wouldn’t like become a Wrack?

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