Selecting the right table linens for events that sparkle means staying on top of trending colors, themes and table arrangements.
From standard white tablecloths and their matching napkin counterparts to single floral centerpieces
and bland china, the events of yesteryear were often drab affairs. It is no wonder that so many people ended up with the same event they had attended a dozen times before. Today consumers are embracing unique colors, textures and accessories for their tabletop design, creating a distinctive atmosphere that helps them stand out from the crowd.
Walk through any wedding or graduation event and you are bound to see rustic farmhouse tables, twisted grapevines and rusted wire baskets galore. In fact, today’s most popular theme for linens and other elements of table decor is antique farmstead meets classic design.
And while tabletops decorated with wood branches, tarnished silver, panama linen and other organic textures are sought after for all types of events, Shannon Davison, sales representative at Jomar Table Linens Inc., Ontario, Calif., says more wedding consumers want themed linen and tablescapes.
Brides step back in time
Some brides are going for the fairytale princess look and some want that at-home country feel. One bride may choose fine china with swirl design linens and champagne towers while another is picking out chipped plates, mason jars, daisies and burlap linen.
The art deco theme is also a major contender for the title of top trend, says Danielle Bevenour, client services manager at Choice Party Linens Inc., Prospect Park, Pa.
“These include the striking black and white geometric stripe runners paired with polished gold decor accents,” she says. “The dated soft pastel color palettes of the early 2010s are also moving over to make way for bold pattern combos and saturated color schemes.”
The of-the-moment trend of family style dining requires a different strategy than say, the traditional ballroom motif. For family style, banquet tables are arranged to create one or more long rectangular seating arrangement that mimics a cozy and familiar dining experience.
“These types of setups look gorgeous with identical runners in rosette texture or clean prints that are placed to line up and create one continuous and dramatic statement,” Bevenour says. “This technique brings the entire length of the table into one cohesive element. With the more traditional ballroom motif, event coordinators are also decorating multiple round dining tables with full drop cloths, typically with matching decor schemes.”
According to Sheree Bochenek, creative director at Apres Party and Tent Rental, Edina, Minn., today’s tabletop trends include reembroidered lace, metallic and woven.
“The rustic trend has now morphed into something I call, ‘Old World Luxury,’” she says. “Fabrics now have luster, dimension and texture.”
Narcy Martinez, president, owner and creative director of Marquee Tents in Austin, Texas, has noticed that the trend in tabletop design starts with the table itself. Decor strategies change depending on the type of table and how they are arranged. For instance, Marquee Tents carries wood vineyard tables, extra wide tables that are perfect for a more casual, family style meal.
“They are often in a long imperial style setup and perfect for the rustic, vintage look,” Martinez says. “The folding traditional rental tables are not the only choice anymore. Rental companies such as ours have many choices in tables now.”
Vicky McMahon, office manager at Baystate Tent and Party Rental, Boston, Mass., is also seeing a lot of vintage themes being used in today’s events, “using natural colors and organic elements with a formal twist to create a gorgeous wedding environment,” she says. “This is not the same as large corporate events, for which we are seeing a lot of color and pizazz. In the winter months, we saw quite a few corporate winter wonderland themes using silver and white elements.”
Today’s decor strategies change depending on different types of tables and how the tables are arranged.
When working with clients, Bochenek likes to see large rooms curated with color and texture.
“It shows that thought went into choosing the linens and the overall look, instead a sea of sameness,” Bochenek says. “In weddings, our clients tend to choose the more ornate linens and table settings for the head table, coordinating the look with guest tables.”
As industry experts point out, farm tables are trending right now with the table becoming part of the decor. As opposed to covering the whole table, consumers are opting to accent it with just a runner and/or placemats.
Jimmy Onello, creative director at A1 Tablecloth Co., South Hackensack, N.J., says in the past it was popular to use floor length solids with a different color or sheer overlay. Now people are being much more creative, adding different textures and even layering with multiple effects.
“We have several things trending right now as far as fabrics are concerned,” he says. “Among them are glimmer including sequins, and rustic fabrics such as panama or faux linen and burlap. At rustic events we are hearing of mismatching items such as chairs or overlays and using extra long cloths to the floor and beyond, creating a puddling effect. Or some customers are using unusual combinations such as sequined runners atop a farm table.”
Runners also still continue to be popular—both as an inexpensive way to add color and as an accent to tables, such as the ever-popular farm table.
“There is also a lot you can do with runners,” Onello says. “You can put one down the middle, one on either side of a banquet with the plates on top of them or even across the table with plates on top.”
Another popular trend is alternating table decor. This design concept allows a client to bring the room to life, but at a lesser cost. The idea is simple: You pick two tablescapes and dress every other table in one or the other. You can use a more elaborate linen theme on table A, but use an understated centerpiece and adornments. Then on table B, use a more modest linen selection, but offset with a vivacious or dominating centerpiece and striking decor.
“Alternating the design on every other table ensures that the perceived value is much higher than what it actually costs to execute,” Bevenour says.
Following the lead
Historically speaking, weddings have always been treated as the most traditional—in terms of decor—compared to other types of events. But according to Bevenour, thus far in 2016, weddings are more adventurous with a sense of drama and moxie.
“We are seeing bold color pairings such as eggplant and jade, or cobalt and salmon,” she says. “Clients want themes that are less ‘what’s expected’ and more a true representation of the their personalities. In my experience, event coordinators have always been a bit more cheeky with decor for graduations, sweet 16s, showers, mitzvahs and the like. However, the upcoming wedding season promises to join those ranks of fun, flirty and playful design.”
One of the most demanding table linen themes Marquee Rents has ever executed was a purple party for a fiftieth wedding anniversary. As Martinez explains, it was three days of events, and purple was the theme color.
“We had to use this color in a sophisticated way for three days of different type of events,” Martinez says.
Typically, trends start on the East and West coasts and travel toward the middle of the United States. However, thanks to social media such as Pinterest and Instagram, today’s trends catch on at supersonic speed.
“Looking ahead to wedding season, varying textures are all the rage. We anticipate high demand for our panama linens as well as all things bold, including sequins, rosette and embroidered overlays that offer some textural variance and interest to catch the event-goers’ eye,” Bevenour says.
Although PANTONE® named “Rose Quartz and Serenity” as Pantone Color of the Year for 2016, these tones have been trending for some time.
“This sort of off-wine red color is a gorgeous way to create a rich and elegant look, but can also be used as a vintage rose style event,” McMahon says. “We’re seeing a lot of gold glitz, which goes with almost anything. I predict rose gold will be the next up-and-coming trend for wedding colors.”
Color trends Martinez has been working with lately include black and gold, while shades of grays, soft pink, and soft mint have also been trendy. Marquee Rents is trying out table caps, which are fitted caps on the tabletop with coordinating full skirts underneath.
“With new tables that don’t require linens, we have noticed that table runners are being requested more,” Martinez says. “And over the last year the new fabrics we have brought in are sequined fabric, hand stitched fabrics and laser cut fabrics.”
Davison says linen fabric in silver, gray and pewter with accents of navy seems to be big right now. “For a linen manufacturer these colors are always being ordered,” she says. “People can always try to predict what the hottest colors of the season will be. Although a few linen colors may be ‘hot’ for a season, most designers stick with more basic colors and accent them to bring out the ‘hot’ color or theme. Geometric and reversible fabrics are big right now.”
McMahon also stresses the use of multiple table linens to add depth and interest to the event.
“If I have to do traditional rounds, then I try to bring in two to three different linens that all work together,” she says. “This creates interest in the space. Combine that with two to three different coordinating floral arrangements with spectacular lighting and you’ve really created a multidimensional event space.”
Based in Plymouth, Minn., Maura Keller frequently writes about applications of specialty fabrics.
Location, location, location
Certain trends only work regionally. Jimmy Onello, creative director at A1 Tablecloth Co., South Hackensack, N.J., says that on the West Coast and in the South where the weather is more favorable, outdoor parties can add elements otherwise reserved for indoor events. “Fancy vintage furniture is very popular, which can be accented with other soft items such as pillows and blankets,” he says.
Located in Boston, Mass., Baystate Tent and Party Rental’s table decor themes for corporate events tend to focus on Boston’s history. “We have to challenge ourselves to find new ways to incorporate the Old North Church, Paul Revere and the USS Constitution,” says Vicky McMahon, Baystate Tent office manager. “Because of our winter months, we have to make a blizzard look like a winter wonderland so we tend to work with a lot of silvers and whites.”