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Vintage event decor trends

Trend Watch | December 1, 2011 | By:

From flea market chandeliers to bone china, vintage event decor trend is here to stay.

Once relegated to rockers, hippies and uber-trendy jetsetters, the vintage trend has progressed from the fashion industry to the event world, becoming a permanent part of the party planner repertoire. Although some event industry icons proclaim it won’t last, four years of sustained popularity show that the trend isn’t ready to be relegated to the attic any time soon.

What makes a party design vintage? It’s the blending of old, well-worn and sometimes rustic decorative pieces that, when combined, create a warm and inviting ambience. Think of it as emptying out your grandmother’s long-forgotten china cupboard and finding everything from embroidered linen tablecloths and fine-bone china to tarnished silver flatware and crystal candlesticks. Now, use those once-formal, traditional tabletop elements under a spacious tent installed with recycled plank floors, salvaged antique dinner tables, mismatched dining room chairs, painted firehouse benches and suspended flea-market chandeliers. Bang! You’ve got a decidedly vintage party tent.

Among myriad interpretations, two versions of this trend seem to have caught hold. One is a rustic interpretation, with every element farm- or barn-inspired, from tin containers and old benches to salvaged tools, canning jars and rusty lanterns. Frankly, if I never see another canning jar filled with flowers, I’d be happy, because there are so many more age-old vessels that tell far more interesting tales.

The other approach is more formal, mixing metals such as mercury glass and old silver with antique gold accents and crystal bowls, giving the table setting a comfortable-yet-glamorous effect. This interpretation offers more bling for sophisticated events. With both concepts, fresh flowers are added to provide a whimsical or bold pop of color. Monochromatic compositions of large-headed garden flowers create a dramatic statement in a large tented environment, while soft garden flowers loosely gathered may be better suited to more casual settings.

There’s a treasure hunter in all of us. So much so that event designers now regularly paw through estate sales, thrift shops and antique stores looking for furniture and treasures that can be repurposed in unconventional ways. An old door can be used as a coffee table, old books can be stacked as tabletop props or as wall decor, beat-up farm tables can serve as wedding head tables and kitchen hutches can function as food stations, place card tables and bar backs. Each well-loved element introduces a vintage vignette and when taken as a whole, the elements connect each space to the next.

A mix of old and new, combined with heartfelt touches and personal collections, conveys intimacy and a sense of comfort that can even be appropriate for corporate events and nonprofit galas. For those without the time or inclination to scour estate sales, rental businesses focused exclusively on vintage decor have popped up.

Perhaps one of driving forces behind the vintage trend is the desire to live more environmentally conscious lifestyles with less waste and more repurposing of old favorites. It is certainly preferable to make the most of decor with a past, rather than letting it sit packed away in the dark, collecting dust.

By Melissa Paul, owner of Melissa Paul Ltd. Paul is a brand storyteller for the luxury wedding, culinary and hospitality industries.

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