Tables and seating for tented events. For years, the options for these vital event components were limited in sizes and styles. These days, there’s an array of options available to suit the needs and visions of a variety of events (and their visionary coordinators).
Setting the stage
Jacqueline Klene, event designer at Exclusive Events Inc. in St. Louis, Mo., says that today’s clients are looking for the “nontraditional” in tables and seating. “They don’t want to see the same linens or Chiavari chairs that were at another event last week,” Klene says. “With social media and so much content online for viewing, it is easy to see how overdone standard rentals are.”
Today’s events feature farmhouse tables with benches or mismatched, vintage soft seating, all of which create a more bohemian, eclectic vibe. Other customers want sleek, linenless tables that can stand alone with ghost chairs. And some clients ditch tables altogether and incorporate soft seating and cocktail tables to create an entirely different atmosphere.
Drawing from trends in home decor, styles reminiscent of the 1970s are currently hot in table and seating design, which means gold, brass and rose gold are prevalent, says Robin Denny, director of sales at CORT Party Rental, Everett, Wash. “Metallic themes with strong geometric lines and marble accents are very on-trend, and create visual interest that breaks up sight lines as your eye moves from one side of the table to the other,” Denny says. “Create a space that feels complete, but make every setting unique.”
One change CORT Party Rental has seen over the last several years is a move toward different height seating in the same event. “Using taller tables in the back of the room ensures all guests have a terrific view of the festivities,” Denny says.
To accommodate the trending table and seating designs, most tent rental companies and event designers are utilizing frame and clearspan tents. “The style used to have dinner and reception all under one tent, but we are finding more and more clients choosing venues that they fill with tables and then they will add a reception tent where they can decorate it to their tastes,” Klene says.
Dan Hooks, president and CEO of Party Reflections Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., says that standard arrangements of either rounds or rectangular tables are still popular, but many event planners are beginning to mix rounds, squares and rectangular tables with complementary linens to give a unique mix of design and color. “Reception tents are becoming less about table seating and more about soft seating and lounge areas,” Hooks says. “Dinner tents are using either round tables or King Arthur tables for the most dramatic looks in tents. These tables allow for large centerpieces and easier conversation among guests.”
Hooks has also seen many uses of umbrella tables with various colors of umbrellas for seating outside of the tent. Some of these are the typical bench seating picnic tables and others are round tables either constructed like farm tables or made of wrought iron. Regular plywood tables with holes cut in the center of both the table and the linen can be used for seating or buffets.
As a manufacturer of tables and chairs for the rental industry, Lexington, Ky.-based Palmer Snyder sees firsthand trends as they come on the scene. From weddings to corporate events there is a traditional base of event products but from there stems new trends—some that are fleeting, others that stay for a while. “Currently, there is a trend toward linenless tables,” says Kevin Lococo, rental market director at Palmer Snyder.
What is linenless? They are tables that do not have to have linens to create a certain aesthetic. They are generally laminate, but can also be plywood. The linenless trend dovetails with the move to corporate environmentalism. Hotels and rental companies are moving to multifunction tables to save time and money by eliminating the need for linens.
“Linenless tables are sought by hotels, event facilities and rental companies to deliver a more modern look. They are extremely popular for corporate events and for rentals to the college and hospitality markets,” Lococo says. “Newer, hipper premium laminates create an upscale look that help inform the change.”
For those clients looking to enhance the design of tables and seating without spending a lot of money, lighting can go a long way. String lights, Edison bulbs, chandeliers, patterned lighting and color washes complement tables and seating in varying styles.
“Pipe and drape also is always an economical way to make a dramatic visual change in a space or to mask a less-than-attractive area from the eyes of the guests,” Denny says. “The broad range of colors and fabrics available to rent allows for unlimited creativity in your event space.”
In addition, Hooks at Party Reflections tries to assure clients that they do not need a seat for every guest unless they are planning a sit-down dinner. This helps with event flow, because having fewer tables opens up more room for standing guests with or without cocktail tables. Party Reflections also utilizes wooden folding chairs of various stain colors as an alternative to Chiavaris or other more expensive chairs. “The coloring is the same, and they can be used in formal or informal settings,” Hooks says.
Go with the flow
To help clients visualize the flow of an event, Klene prefers to bring clients to her company’s offices and warehouses and take them on a “behind the scenes” tour. Walking them through the specialty paint and carpentry shops as well as Exclusive Events’ furniture warehouse and lighting department gets clients excited about all the potential that is in store for their event.
CORT utilizes industry-leading technology to help clients understand the flow of an event with 3D representations. Working with Social Tables, a collaborative meeting and event software provider, CORT Party Rental is able to digitally walk clients through the space to show them exactly how each piece of furniture will function. “Our event specialists are professionals who will help think through an event with a customer and suggest items that can help elevate the guest experience on many levels,” Denny says.
For example, is the event outside in a field at night? Clients can consider Airstar lighting balloons for lighting the way to and from the bathrooms and parking area. Is the weather expected to be over 90 degrees? Clients can check out cooling options to keep attendees comfortable in the warmer weather.
To visualize the flow of an event, Party Reflections begins with a site consultation where they can take the customer all the way through the event site as a guest at their own event. “We cover everything from the entrance to the restrooms, and everything in between,” Hooks says.
Usually before the site visits, Party Reflections creates CAD layouts on Google Earth images so clients can see exactly where each table will be set on their site. “We also try to use event pictures from other events to help with the visualization,” Hooks says. “But since all events are different, it is difficult to portray the exact feeling of a particular space.”
No matter how the space is configured or which design trends the client chooses, the right tables and chairs in the right configuration can ensure an event where attendees feel like honored guests.
Based in Plymouth, Minn., Maura Keller frequently writes about applications of specialty fabrics.
While tables and seating are standard rental items for events of all sizes, upselling premium products always helps the bottom line. Jacqueline Klene, event designer at Exclusive Events in St. Louis, Mo., suggests finding that element that gets your client’s eyes to light up. “It might take a little of prodding, but there is always something that gets them just as excited as you are about the potential for their event,” Klene says.
When it comes to seating arrangements, Charlotte, N.C.-based Party Reflections’ team tries to use the company’s showrooms and event pictures to illustrate the various styles of chairs and tables in different configurations, so customers can better visualize their event. “By comparing simple chairs and tables to upscale products visually, it is an easy sell, depending on the event,” says Dan Hooks, president and CEO of Party Reflections. “The price difference between simple and elegant is not usually as much as they may think.”