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February 2017

Magicians Shindig: Brakebills Cottage Soiree

We’ve been crazy big Magicians fans ever since we read the books by Lev Grossman years ago. When the show premiered last year, we were beyond stoked that it turned out to not only be good, but be everything we knew (and didn’t know) we wanted. The magic, the art direction, Eliot, the embracing of its innate nerdiness, the intelligence. We knew that we’d have to find an excuse to throw a Shindig to celebrate it. To prove our crazy love of this show to you, we will humblebrag that last year we were the first group to cosplay the show at San Diego Comic Con. And now that that revelation is out of the way… it’s time to tell you about our newest, and possibly greatest yet, entry into the Damn Good Shindig canon.

The Brakebills Cottage Soiree was a magical cocktail party masquerading as a premiere viewing party for Season 2 of The Magicians. Magic defined the evening, in the immersive not-quite-possible decorations, the colorful cocktails inspired by the show, an interactive professional magic show, and a portal into the magical land of Fillory itself. We wanted our party to blur the lines between reality and the enchanted. Exactly what the show and books succeed at so beautifully.

The Cottage

The core visual endeavor of this shindig was to give Ellie’s apartment a complete Physical Kids’ Cottage makeover. Every detail you see was specifically chosen to represent a visual portrayed on the show or described in the books. As Art Department kids ourselves, we’ve been taken with the production design and set decoration of the Cottage since Episode 1. We had a blast hunting down the wood, metal, and jewel-tone elements that make up the Cottage’s decor.

The key here was to stick to the tight color palette and source elements that felt very Brakebillian. Decorating the space with the fun details that we found while thrifting: a moth/bee hook thing, a genie’s lamp, hexagonal shelves, a Medieval Times shield, a vibrant purple and silver threaded scarf, brass skeleton keys, and a glorious selection of worn jewel-tone hardcover books. We replaced every framed poster with vintage magician posters, including the Thurston poster featured in the show. The backless shelf as a space divider is iconic to the cottage, and luckily Ellie owned one already. We moved it out into the space, and filled it with a delightful array of beakers, bottles, and books… and of course, glassware. As each guest arrived, we directed them to the shelf to grab the cocktail vessel of their choice.

Magicians cottage decor


We sourced the teal wallpaper for our TADA wall from Zazzle. It’s actually matte wrapping paper, a perfect mid-priced solution for temporary wallpaper! After our plastic sheeting debacle on our Harry Potter party, we’ve decided to only use paper or fabric products from now on for wall-covering needs. It’s not as cheap, but we’ve decided this is not the place to save pennies. Not only does it install and hang much more smoothly and quickly, it doesn’t catch light badly and give the game away, nor does it prevent air from circulating. Wrapping paper for the win!

We planned to make the marquee letters for a fun DIY project for the blog, but after sourcing all of the materials, discovered it would be much cheaper (like, by half) just to buy them from Target. With all the great crafts we wanted to do, and the fact that there are already tutorials on making marquee letters out there, we hope you won’t judge us too harshly.

The Woodier the Better

We bought out our local Dollar King’s supply of wood pattern contact paper. Then we slapped this wonderful shit everywhere, and we mean everywhere.  We covered every door, and also framed the TADA wall area with it, mounting it on foam core to give dimension where needed. For the front door (normally white), we used Alice’s checkerboard door as an inspiration. Two different tones of wood contact paper were used to do the same pattern.

Pillow Talk

A big help for the seating area was to cover all of the throw pillows with jewel tone pillowcases. We bought an inexpensive set of satin pillow cases with gold Indian-style prints from Amazon.  Our stock pile of pillows from our Feast of Thrones party came in handy, and we recovered them using the pillow cases. Luckily, Haley also has a thing for jewel-toned contemporary style pillows, so the mix and match of the pillows helped tie the eclectic aesthetic of the whole room together.

Cottage crafts

Our organ installation was a super easy DIY, crafted with cardboard tubes from wrapping paper (leftover from our hallway wallcoverings – see below), hot glue, some copper spray paint, and lots of candles. Stay tuned for a DIY tutorial!

The cat castle in one corner became our Fillory Appreciation Corner. Haley designed the Fillory book covers based on the image of Book 1 seen on the show, and inspired by the descriptions of the books from Lev Grossman. We printed and mod-podged these covers onto exisiting books (Agatha Christie, if you must know). Above the Fillory Appreciation Corner were a few dinnerware items stuck to the ceiling, due to some spell having gone awry. This corner was the source of delighted squeals of discovery –  until Gremlin the cat knocked over a candle. That’s what we get for invading her territory with Fillory.

Click here for printables of our Fillory Book Covers!

More details of the cottage pictured below:

magicians cottage details

Eliot’s Bar & Fancy Eats

The bar area had to be abso-freakin awesome, since any self respecting Cottage party needs a serious booze element.


For our shindig, we designed three Brakebillian cocktails: The House Special (An acid-green gimlet), The Key and Bee (a honey-infused Old Fashioned), and Ember’s Essence (a god jizz-inspired horchata based White Russian). Look out for our recipes (coming soon we promise!). In the mean time, check out the official SyFy Youtube, where they’ve posted some fabulous Cottage cocktail inspiration.


To achieve a backdrop worthy of Elliot’s bartending abilities, we wallpapered the wall behind the bar with prints of vintage-style magical posters. This was done temporarily with masking tape, although it was such an awesome effect that Ellie has left it up for a few weeks now. The internet in all its glory helped us compile a ton of these incredible images of great Magicians of the past.  Because we love you, we compiled the ones we used here so you can have your own set to print! Candles and a glowing gold orb set the mood for the room. We blocked off the entrance to the kitchen with a shoji screen to help the space feel more intimate.


This is one fantasy show where our characters spend very little time eating (ahem, Game of Thrones, ahem). So without much help there, we turned to the location of Brakebills, upstate New York, for inspiration. Our fancy food spread consisted of the following: cucumber tea sandwiches, steak & horseradish cream cheese on little toasts, cheese and salami platters, dates, grapes, apples, and pomegranate seeds. And of course, we needed little cakes: delicious macarons from a local bakery.

Cottage Bar Decor

Magical Photo Ops

The archway separating the bar area from the seating area became the natural (supernatural?) home for our magical photo op elements. Floating Brakebills cards and levitating books added the magical elements needed to say “you’re not in [insert your boring locale here] anymore.” Both setting the scene and acting as a curtain between the rooms, these floating items also attracting the attention of many-a-selfie-seeker.

Click here for our Brakebills Playing Card Back printable!

magical floating cards and levitating books

Fillory and Further

The entrance to the hallway was guarded by a Fillorian grandfather clock and a black curtain. Without hinting to our guests what lay behind, we waited (a surprisingly long time, considering the copious amounts of alcohol consumed) until someone had to pee and venture into the hallway to find the restroom. When it finally came, the gass and calls of “you guys, come here!” were the chorus we had been waiting for.  For what lay behind? You guessed it – Fillory.

Look for our blog on transforming a hall into a magical forest soon!

The Magicians Screening & Magic Show

Of course, we eventually all gathered around the television to watch the premiere of season 2 of The Magicians.  You know, the whole excuse, er… purpose… for our magical shindig.  In preparation for the amazing adventure that laid ahead of us, we served a round of bottled emotion shots: a vibrant magenta blood orange vodka.  With our emotions intact, we were able to sit back and enjoy the magical season 2 opener.  We won’t give anything away, but man, was it a great first episode.  Check out season 2 of The Magicians on Syfy when you get a chance!

We are fortunate to know many talented people in the world, and yes, that happens to include real-life professional Magicians.  Our friend, the wonderful Frederick Falk agreed to perform after the screening.  Fred dazzled us all with his best mind-reading tricks and each guest had chance to try themselves against his skill. We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how he did it!  If you ever want to see some real goddam magic, please refer yourselves to Fred’s Fortissimo Magic Studios.  Like him on Facebook to keep up with all his adventures. It truly is a treat to come face to face with a talented mentalist like Fred.

Our bewitching shindig wouldn’t have been complete without a recreation of The Magicians Season 1 promo picture.  TADA!

Remember there’s magic in all of us, so now go forth and show us some goddam magic-al shindigs.







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How were you able to make pages of the floating books stay spread out?

    damngoodshindig says:

    Hey Ursula! Apologies – we’re not keeping up with our blog much these days, as we’ve transitioned to a professional event design company. But our trick to making the pages spread out was running a line of hot glue between each fanned out page, right at the crease. It seemed to do the trick! For some of the stubborn pages, we used a popsicle stick at the crease in addition.

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