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Bold and beautiful event fabrics

Feature, Tent Décor | October 1, 2013 | By:

Event fabrics bring tents to life.

Textiles can be used to create one-of-a-kind environments for tented events, but successfully combining fabrics, colors and textures with lighting and structure requires an expert understanding of how various elements function in a tent as well as an eye for design. With color trends influenced by everything from pop culture to adventurous brides, event fabrics and functional event accessories can be used to create design schemes that range from subtle and soothing to vivid and vivacious.

Jaime Newsom’s clients love color. The co-owner of Social Butterflies LLC in Memphis, Tenn., is seeing clients make bold color choices, including tent liners. The key is judicious placement, which she’ll do, for example, by interchanging hot pink and lime green with the ceiling liner, and echoing those colors with elements such as pillows and table linens.

“The tent liner will mimic the look of the tables below,” she says. “They’re complementing each other, but it’s not necessarily all the way around the room.”

Depth and dimension

Traditional white tent liners are still the rule rather than the exception, says Ulrich Tombuelt of theatrical fabric supplier Rose Brand, Secaucus, N.J., which fabricates tent liners and event fabrics. Gathered liners create a romantic look for weddings, while corporate events are more likely to use flat liners, he says. One trend Tombuelt has observed is liners being used more often with clearspan tents. On a functional note, liners can also do double duty as projection screens, he says.

“If you use flat liners and the right fabric, it’s a good solution without losing space,” he says.

Swagging is a popular technique to soften a tent’s edges while creating a layered effect.

“Swags can be theme colors or white-on-white to give a third dimension to the liner,” says Barbara Friesen of Baytex USA Inc., Wilsonville, Ore. “They augment each other—the combined is greater than the individual.”

Some clients want it all for their tented event—for example, clear or a combination of solid and clear tops, with a liner that doesn’t cover the clear tops but still conceals the tent structure. For this scenario, Baytex Tent Liners offers a gable infill that spans the liners to the rafter to create another dimension, Friesen says.

When faced with a very large
tent, Loulie Walker of New York City, N.Y.-based Loulie Walker Events Inc. created a striped effect with two fabrics, a white cotton twill and a jute, switching them every 10 feet down the length of the ceiling to give a sense of movement and depth. Another technique she likes to use is a shimmer fabric to reflect lighting.

While she agrees white still predominates because it’s a blank canvas, she often selects a very soft pattern for the ceiling. For a recent wedding, she employed white and a pale celery with a slight shimmer to give the ceiling a touch of color.

“The ceiling should be more of a backdrop in terms of the textiles and colors one is working with,” she says.

If Newsom’s not using a premade tent liner, she’ll add draped fabrics to the walls and cables, usually using an ivory batiste, which lights well. She also likes fabric panels swooping down from the ceiling, with the fabric ceiling lit with one color and the panels another.

“It can be the same color but different hues so you’re creating depth,” she says.

To hide structural elements
such as poles, Melynda Norman-Lee, event project manager of J J L Events Inc. in Toronto, Ont., Canada, is seeing heavier fabrics instead of a lighter, romantic look, which creates more of a decor
element, she says.

Norman-Lee likes to use sheer textiles to create event “rooms” within a tent. The first time she did this was a happy accident when some fabric was being hung, creating two separate lounge areas.

“It was so much more intimate instead of having an open conversation area,” she says. “The clients loved it—they thought I’d planned it all along.”

Set the table

Rustic event decor appears to be a trend with staying power, and it’s driven the popularity of runners on long tables. Michelle Harris, account executive at Choice Party Linens Inc. in Prospect Park, Pa., says runners check both boxes of being interesting and budget-sensitive. “They’re a nice upgrade without the expense of the entire tablecloth,” she says. “We’re seeing people alternate a runner with a floor-length cloth on different tables.”

Walker notes a return to a classic look for tablescapes without being too traditional. For example, she dresses up farm tables with a crisp cream linen runner coupled with other, more formal decor elements. The effect is comfortable and approachable.

“Some couples don’t want casual, yet don’t want formal, so there’s a place to meet in the middle,” Walker says.

Long tables also remain popular, from 12 to as long as 32 feet, due to their dramatic look and because they’re conducive to conversation. Walker likes to add inverted pleats at each end of the tablecloths with a hint of color showing through.

“You can have a very monochromatic, more subtle linen with a hot lime green inverted pleat at each corner and it lends just a little bit of pizzazz and life,” she says.

For lounge furniture, Walker prefers neutral tones paired with colorful cushions, particularly for furniture vignettes, which are popular, she says. She might do four different patterns in the same colors for pillow covers, such as navy and white. “We stay more neutral with the actual furniture and bring in pops of color with the cushions and patterns,” she says. “The colors set a fun and festive tone.”

Pop culture, vibrant color

Adventurous brides are requesting bright, bold colors, says Harris. Blues, such as navy, royal and cobalt; purples; coral; blush pinks and salmon are in demand.

“It seems brides aren’t as scared to do color as they may have been in the past,” she says.

White will always be around, says Bryan Schulte, owner and creative director of Exclusive Events Inc. in St. Louis, Mo., but he’s favoring off-whites, ivories and creams, and he’s also seeing gold making a return, particularly for weddings.

“I think movies like ‘The Great Gatsby’ have brought back that romantic layer,” he says. “It’s just a touch of gold, kind of regal.”

For Newsom, the muted tones of popular television show “Downton Abbey” have influenced her clients. Softer shades such as celadon green with ivory, pastels with lace and florals with light green provide a soft, elegant effect. Pinks, once so predominant, are out, she says, as is the pink with white and brown combination.

Tone on tone is also popular, such as blush paired with peony pink, or different shades of blue—and using texture to differentiate the tones. No shimmers for napkins, says Walker, but hemstitched linens in white, Swiss dot or with a colored border. For table linens, bengalines and raw silks are popular. Walker might pair a raw silk table cloth with a more matte linen runner.

“It’s fun to mix and match different textures atop the table,” she says.

The possibilities with event fabrics are limitless—which can make event design more challenging rather than easier. Beyond a mere color palette, keep in mind texture, depth and dimension, along with lighting, structure and function, and you’ll find yourself bringing every tented event to life.

Danielle Beurteaux is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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