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Top to turf: Lighting and flooring options

Event Production, Features, On the Job, Tent Décor | December 1, 2008 | By:

Today’s lighting and flooring options have a universal appeal for tent customers.

It’s not surprising that lighting and flooring have become key tools in tent design. For decades, interior lighting and flooring in tents were simply considered utilitarian amenities, as were tables and chairs. But customers and event planners alike are recognizing lighting and flooring as important design elements — ones that set the mood and ambience of an event.

Top: illuminating options

There was a time when tent lighting did not have the decorating value that it has today: choices were few and styles were limited. Now, customers are incorporating exterior lights, floor lamps, table lamps, chandeliers and sconces to fit their tent décor.

“Generally, our clients are unaware of the options that they have in lighting,” says Mike Wilson, Wilson Rental, Mokena, Ill. “If they do, they try to replicate what they saw at another event or in a magazine. When they find out that we can provide colored lighting, and that the lighting can interact with their décor, they get excited.” Wilson Rental also provides spotlights to highlight certain tables, pin spots for dining tables, chandeliers, and ball lighting, such as suspended paper globe lanterns.

Whitney Weibler at Hahn Event Rental in Lewiston, Idaho, agrees. “While we do provide elaborate themed lighting, ‘balloon-style’ lights and traditional bracket lights continue to be popular,” she says. Bracket lights, for example, offer a clean, contemporary look that can be dramatic and effective whether in a traditional or contemporary tent setting.

Paper globe lanterns continue to be a popular choice, but LED lighting is also making a huge impact in tented events.

“Nighttime events are scaling up with the ability to change the color of the tent ceiling with LEDs and to sweep color back and forth or do slow color transitions,” says Doc Waldrop, Infinite Designs, Atlanta, Ga. “LED fixtures are becoming more powerful in terms of their light output, and they generate much less heat and use far less power to operate. While the fixtures are expensive, their versatility and benefits offset the lower power consumption and labor to install and operate.”

According to Jim Gallagher, Partytime Productions, Addison, Ill., LED lighting is appealing because of its environmental and energy savings characteristics, and the quality of light provided by this technology is also catching the attention of tent professionals and their customers.

While good lighting is both functional and beautiful, it’s important to be selective. “Daytime is harder to light than nighttime,” Wilson says. “We use blockout fabric for all of our tent tops, which doesn’t allow any light through the top. The more natural light you let into the tent, the less effective your lighting will be.”

Most tent fabrics in use today are designed to block out the sun, which makes the area under the tent darker. “We encourage our customers to consider lighting in the tent, even for daytime events,” says Dan Skena, Party Savvy, Pittsburgh, Pa. “Of course, you have to consider the time of the day, the time of the year, the theme of the event, the budget, and so on, when designing the lighting for an event. With today’s lighting products, the possibilities are endless.”

Turf: sound footing

Like lighting, flooring has become an essential element for many tent customers. Flooring provides an insurance policy against any water drainage that may occur due to rain. For high-end weddings and parties, flooring provides a rigid, uniform surface that allows all guests to move freely, without them having to worry about heels getting caught in the ground

“The ‘lay of the land’ also can dictate when flooring should be used,” says Arnie Seyden, Tents Unlimited, Marietta, Ga. If the event surface is sloped, flooring can be used to level that area and make it a much more usable space for an event.

According to Seyden, flooring use in general is on the rise. “We have added a large amount of inventory over the last few years to cover the requests we get for flooring,” he says. These requests range from standard lay-down floors which can be achieved with composite plastic materials that will sit directly on the ground, to wood floors built to elevate the floor surface about three inches off the ground, allowing for water to drain under the floor while keeping the event surface dry.

“We have also seen an increase in the requests for level floors,” Seyden says. “These are more detailed and require inventory that allows us to provide a level floor space for an event on any terrain. These products are more stage-like in nature and are engineered for large weight loads.”

Leveling the field

Dan Skena at Party Savvy fields a number of requests for flooring. “Many of our tented events require a basic floor that follows the contour of the ground,” Skena says. “In some cases, due to uneven or sloping terrain, a level floor is required. Occasionally, we are asked to floor over a swimming pool or, in the case of one recent event, to build a floor into the Allegheny River in Oakmont, Penn.”

The team at Party Savvy also has installed turf-type carpeting directly over a lawn in order to keep people’s feet out of wet grass and mud. “If the lawn is in decent condition, and if it is mowed short so the carpet will lay well, this works out,” Skena says. Of course, carpeting over the lawn doesn’t always keep you out of the water if it rains. Laying plywood down without screwing it to stringers underneath does not work well at all, Skena says. Plywood warps, and it creates a lot of potential tripping hazards where two sheets of plywood don’t meet evenly. Stringer boards anchor the plywood and allow for an even surface where two plywood boards meet.

Having knowledge of the materials and the labor involved with flooring projects can help event planners when they address clients about potential flooring needs. “Clients and event planners must also understand that there are many options in flooring products,” Seyden says. “We can usually find a good solution for flooring needs given most budgetary limitations.”

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Plymouth, Minn.

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