LAKEVIEW — David Hopkins lives in the closet, but for a good cause.
It's not that the 32-year-old interior designer doesn't have space in his Lakeview apartment, he just prefers to sublease the bedrooms and save his money to throw really elaborate parties.
"Jews at a Chinese Restaurant" Christmas, a 1950 socialite's funeral and, coming this spring, an afternoon tea and croquet party with a sodded field in the back alley are just a few themes of get-togethers Hopkins loves to host.
"I’ve always been happier having people come to me than me going to people," he said. "I'll sneak myself into the closet, rent out the bedrooms, and that will finance the parties."
Ever since Hopkins decorated his childhood home in Indiana with custom black curtains and an aubergine ceiling, he's set up his spaces to host dinner parties. Now Hopkins has transformed two ground-floor apartments and the accompanying basement in a seemingly bland courtyard complex into a highly curated, well-decorated potential party spot.
One of the kitchens boasts a well-stocked, ornate liquor cabinet, and chairs in a dining room are festively lined with long, black goat's hair. A custom wooden table in the basement is right near a catering kitchen Hopkins has set up just for visiting chefs, since he is "hopeless with cooking" himself, he said.
Meanwhile, the walk-in closet with a twin bed filling up half of it, wall-to-wall, is his bedroom.
"I think I've finally gotten into a groove," he said of the apartments.
Hopkins throws one or two dinner parties a month and at least one extravagant one every year, with costs ranging from $50 for small ones to $6,000 for big ones. The themes are non-traditional—"Jews at a Chinese Restaurant," for example, featured a chef that cooked Chinese dishes with Jewish ingredients, like gefilte fish potstickers.
"My housekeeper says 'I never know what to expect'," he said. "Sometimes it’s pristine and clean, and other times it looks like a bomb just went off."
But to talk of decorations is to miss the point. Hopkins throws parties to surround himself with interesting people. His friends and acquaintances are a mix of "high-end fancy people and low-end but interesting people," albeit a bit gay-centric, he said. He's aggressive about introducing himself, and plus-ones with crazy stories get invited again.
For example: An elderly woman from suburban Kenilworth, once a plus-one at a party long ago, was invited again to Hopkins' "Jews at a Chinese Restaurant" Christmas party and did not disappoint. She arrived with a Hermès Birkin bag filled with homemade triple-chip weed brownies wrapped in parchment paper, with red bows on top. She went around the party giving them to men, whose company she preferred to women.
Elsewhere, the head of a financial institution — who had, undoubtedly, been a recipient of a brownie — was leaning over the wooden dining table in the basement, taking a bite out of an apple stuffed in the mouth of a three-foot steamed fish, Hopkins described with a laugh.
"It's gotta be interesting," Hopkins said. "I also like the bragging rights of [these rich people] were at my party, and I got them to talk to this transvestite from Brooklyn."
As Hopkins settles into his what he thinks will be his final party-hosting space, he's planning to offer up the apartments — and his party expertise — to host benefit dinners. All his money goes to decorating and parties, so the space is what he has to offer up to good causes.
That may mean more people around, but the parties don't bother Hopkins' roommates. One of the three tenants, Tate Jacobs, just moved in last month from Miami. The apartment may have been decorated with Hopkins' lifelong dinner party obsession in mind, but it's actually also quite homey, Jacobs said.
"He makes it feel very comfortable," he said. "I've been telling all my friends — it feels like a home, even though it's his place. It's nice to come home and relax."