This year, look for tent décor to get brighter, bigger and more lavish.
By Elizabeth Kephart Reisinger
In the event industry, trends take their cues from many places: economic upticks and downturns, regional styles, even the fashion runways of New York and Paris.
This year is no different. Clients are becoming more sophisticated and more willing to stretch their dollars to be chic, even edgy. And they’re more willing to follow the guidance of event professionals, from the type of tent to the color of the linens.
Event professionals are maximizing their tent space, adding more opulent accents to entice guests. Corporations are seeing the value of paying for quality service and products. Color is playing an even bigger role in events, both large and small. Lighting is no longer an afterthought or necessity; it’s becoming part of the décor itself. And, as always, polished, well-done events are always in, no matter the theme, occasion or size.
For the past few years, the tent industry has dealt with tight budgets and little monetary wiggle room, a reflection of the meeting and event industry as a whole. But while clients are still conscious of their dollars, they’re now realizing that, most of the time, you get what you pay for, and they are subsequently willing to stretch their budgets for better products and service.
“People are still looking for good value for their dollar,” says Keith Eismann, vice president of Karl’s Event Rental in Milwaukee, Wis. “In the last couple of years it has been bottom-line pricing. Now, it’s value.”
Industry professionals credit the value-based budgeting to the improving economy. Events make an impression and, in today’s competitive market, all companies want that impression to be a memorable one.
“There’s competition between event producers and between corporations,” Eismann says. “A lot of the attendees to these events feel like they’ve seen it all. It’s taking that next step, going beyond and really utilizing a venue that sets one event apart from another.”
In particular, Karl’s has seen a rise in requests for unique and customized tent sizes. The company recently fielded a request from a customer who wanted an oval-shaped tent. Tents are going up in more and more unique, challenging venues, such as custom-sizing a clearspan tent to fit on a New York City rooftop. Eismann says clients are making use of every square foot.
Additionally, he says Karl’s is seeing a steady increase in the size of its regular events—he estimated a growth of 10 percent for some of the company’s repeat contracts. It’s a familiar trend for vendors in all locations.
“The size and scope of the private event is increasing dramatically, with more income spent on events,” says Steve Frost, president of Stamford Tent and Event Services in Stamford, Conn.
Tent size is following suit. Requests for one large tent are becoming more frequent, and vendors are adding to their inventories to fit the demand.
“In our market, we’re seeing larger and larger tents,” says Alison Elliot, director at Ellco Rentals in St. George, Barbados. “We still use the smaller ones, but for the larger events where we would have put down three or four smaller tents, now we use one large one.”
Color the event
Color has played an increasingly important role in events. This year, rich earth tones, bright bolds and deep neutrals are everywhere, from tent liners to linens.
“In the Caribbean, we’re seeing brighter and brighter colors, moving away from the softer colors of peach and pink,” Elliot says. “This year, burnt orange, lime green, bright yellow and mint green are very popular.”
Elliot admits that, initially, she didn’t predict the fad would stick. “I thought they were flash-in-the-pan colors,” she says. But when Barbados hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup, she saw those colors everywhere—and the colors’ popularity has steadily increased since then.
Standout colors are popular in tent liners, too. Karl’s recently produced events with orange, blue, black and chocolate-brown liners. Stamford Tent has serviced similar events. “We’re seeing a lot of people use various colored liners, especially in strong, bold colors,” Frost says.
On tables, warm, deep neutrals are still popular, particularly in textured or patterned linens. “We’re doing a lot of chocolate brown and neutral, earthy tones in linens,” says Marianne Sutherland, event coordinator at Raymond Brothers in London, Ontario.
Sutherland, like other event planners, often pairs chocolate brown or other rich neutrals with a bright accent. Event décor trends often follow fashion, and blue has been a popular pairing with chocolate in everything from clothing to fashion accessories. Event professionals see the prominence of blue only increasing as 2007 winds to a close.
“It’s time for blue,” says Shereé Bocheneck, designer at Apr‘s Party and Tent Rental in Minneapolis, Minn. “It reflects that spa, organic feel. It’s soft, quiet and calming, but it can be exciting, too.”
Bochenek says the color trends will reflect all different types of blue, “from a light powder blue to a Tiffany blue, through turquoise and into a darker cobalt blue.” This fall and into early winter, she also sees other bright, jewel-tone colors becoming popular, including richer purples and vibrant berry colors, such as raspberry.
With all the talk of bright colors, it’s easy to forget about a classic combination: black and white. It’s still a standard pairing, both elegant and dynamic, and one that remains popular for all types of events. In particular, big, bold uses of black and white set a modern yet retro look—one that can be dramatic for any event.
“Basic black and white will always be there,” says Brenda Maynard, vice president and general manager of Event Rentals Unlimited in Atlanta, Ga. “And it always looks nice.”
Tables and themes
It’s hip to be square this year, especially when it comes to tables and dinnerware. Round tables, although still popular, are beginning to bore planners and vendors, who are finding new ways to set up the typical seated dinner. “Square tables are becoming more popular,” Bochenek says. “People are tired of the round table.”
For table settings, different and unique plates are popular—including leaf-shaped, square and triangle plates. “I think it’s something different that adds character to an event,” Maynard says.
While theme parties aren’t as prominent this year as they have been in years past, Asian motifs are still a hot choice, particularly in cuisine, as Asian fusion remains a favorite among guests and gourmands alike. Bochenek sees a trend more toward the feel or atmosphere of an event, rather than actual themes. Opulent settings, such as tables with crystal glassware and rhinestone-edged chargers, give events a unique, almost vintage appearance.
“I see things getting more ornate in the overall feeling or mood you want to set,” Bochenek says. “People aren’t settling anymore for the same look.”
Light it up
Lighting a tent is no longer just a necessity; lighting design is becoming a tool for event decorators everywhere. Lighting has always created atmosphere and ambiance, but this year, look for lighting to play an even bigger role, in everything from furniture to centerpieces.
“We’re seeing more and more clear-top tents with accented lighting, and lots of lighting under the roof,” Elliot says. Examples include stringing small, twinkling lights under the interior of a clear-top tent, giving the look of a starry, clear night.
Accent lighting is finding its way to furniture, too. “We’re even seeing more furniture being lit, such as a Plexiglas end table with a light underneath it,” Bochenek says.
Maynard has seen a different idea on lighting furniture: spotlighting each table. Centerpieces aglow with radiant light from above create a dramatic look. “It’s expensive, but it’s absolutely beautiful,” she says. “You have low, ambient lighting throughout the event but then hang a spotlight from above on a truss. It can accent a beautiful centerpiece.”
Lighting becomes the centerpiece with chandeliers, a lighting fixture that designers say will only increase in popularity in the coming months. Both Maynard and Bochenek have seen a rise in chandelier rentals. Apr‘s in Minneapolis has three large, beaded chandeliers in stock but seldom needs to put them in storage.
“When I started here three years ago, our chandeliers were hardly ever going out,” Bochenek says. “Now, they are going out all the time.”
Bringing the outside in
In contrast to the opulence of chandeliers, nature and all things natural is a concept that’s gaining popularity with event planners. Planners say the trend toward bringing nature inside and using it for event décor reflects the increasing focus on eco-friendly products and materials.
“I’m seeing a definite trend toward textured linens that reflect things in nature, such as leaf patterns or tree bark,” Bochenek says. She says using nature as a centerpiece or table setting theme is popular as well. “I’m seeing a lot of natural items used.”
The green spaces outside a tent, too, are getting more attention. Adding Plexiglas porches or professional floral landscaping near the entrance of tents is rising in popularity in Atlanta, particularly for events that occur over several days. “The entryway is becoming important. It’s the first thing you see, and it sets a presence,” Maynard says. “Plus, it sets you apart from your competitors.”
And setting your company apart is a trend that will never go out of style.