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Selecting and caring for chairs

Features, Tent Décor | August 1, 2010 | By:

When viewing a spectacular event’s decor, chairs and seating arrangements flow with other design elements to convey mood and tone to guests and participants. Whether the event is a wedding, a conference or a backyard party, the chair is one of the most pervasive design elements in a tent. After all, every guest needs one—making seating a detail to select with care.

There are many different types of seating available to suit any occasion or theme, ranging from plastic folding chairs to plush upholstered sofas. Kevin Yonce, MFC, IFM, CPP, CEO of TCT&A Industries, Urbana, Ill., has six different types of chairs available in varying degrees of formality to match the style of each event. “We wanted to increase our chair selection for upscale weddings and formal events,” he says. “Our white wooden chairs, mahogany wooden chairs and resin chairs all have padded seats to increase comfort. These have proved to be very popular with weddings and formal events. The informal events often choose the plain wooden folding chairs or the plastic white and brown folding chairs.”

One of the most important considerations when purchasing new chairs is the material. Chairs are available in plastic, wood, resin or metal, and each type has its own cost and benefit. Plastic is easy to clean and can get wet, but is the most informal and thus is not suitable for all events. Wooden chairs have a natural feel and look that is popular with clients, but care must be taken to ensure that the chairs are made with high-grade lumber to guarantee strength and durability. Resin can be made to look like wood, can get wet and is easy to clean, but it can sometimes separate from its inner metal rods. Metal comes in a variety of shapes, but is heavier and can be expensive.

To fold or not to fold

Folding chairs and stacking chairs are both good choices for events, depending on budget and purpose. “Stacking and folding chairs simply have different purposes and looks,” says Brenda Maynard, vice president and general manager of Event Rentals Unlimited in Marietta, Ga. “We have to fulfill the clients’ needs and requests while considering their budget and the look they are trying to accomplish. Folding chairs are perfect for a more casual event while the Chiavari and Chameleon® chairs create a formal, sophisticated look. Our clear Mirage® chairs are an amazing choice for events with specialty lighting. Bar and bat mitzvahs often request our acrylic lit furniture to create a unique, glowing event.”

From an inventory management standpoint, Yonce prefers folding chairs for their ease of use, storage and cleaning. To facilitate quick cleaning, his company purchased a folding-chair cleaning machine—an employee rolls the chairs in and the machine does the work.

Form and function

Chiavari chairs, available from many manufacturers, feature carved backs molded to look like bamboo. They come in a variety of colors and can be made of wood, resin or metal, and have detachable cushions that can be ordered in any color. The chairs should be stored and transported in their individual chair covers to protect each chair and cushion from dust and damage.

The Chameleon Chair Collection, Torrance, Calif., offers a choice between eight different chair styles that come in a variety of colors. There is an unlimited color selection for the four-inch cushions and a variety of fabrics and patterns for back wraps and chair skirts that enhance the decorating scheme. These chairs come with a custom storage and transportation dolly system that holds 36 chairs and cushions, keeping them dust-free and compact when not in use.

Mirage Chairs, manufactured by Legacy Seating Inc., Mundelein, Ill., are made of clear, unbreakable polycarbonate and can hold more than 400 pounds. Their near-invisible presence makes them an understandable choice for seating to keep the event space feeling airy and bright.

Extended life span

Keeping chairs and inventory clean is a time-consuming challenge. It is best to clean chairs after each rental, and a visual inspection of each chair should be performed when there is no time to clean them. Folding chairs can simply go through a cleaning machine, but stackable chairs must be cleaned by hand. The resin chairs, Chiavari chairs and Chameleon chairs can be wiped down with water. Maynard recommends cleaning Mirage chairs by first wiping them down with a wet chamois cloth and then drying them with a second chamois cloth.

The way a chair is stored affects its life span, and the chair type will determine the best storage option. “Keeping the chairs clean and stored properly ensures that they are in perfect shape for each event and allows us to inspect each chair for safety between each use while also reducing the chances of damage when not in use,” Maynard says. “Our resin and plastic chairs are palletized and shrink-wrapped to keep the dust off. Our Chiavari chairs are wrapped in their individual covers and stacked seven high. Chameleon chairs come with a specially made cart for storage. They are placed in their covers and put into the cart, which piles all their cushions separately from the frames.”

Care is of the utmost importance because chairs provide Maynard’s company with its best return on investment.

“They are our top rental item, so it just makes sense to own them,” she says. “Before purchasing a new style, get samples and ask your frequent customers if they would rent it and, if so, which color would they prefer. Stay in tune with your customers and you will satisfy them—and your bottom line—every time.”

Jennifer Sellers is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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