Event décor is a planner’s ally. It creates a mood, moves attendees through a space in a predetermined way and gives them something to talk about with people they may not know well. Of course, décor trends come and go. The popular trends tend to overstay their welcome; most planners would probably be happy at this point to never see another Mason jar. The best ones never go away forever, but get reinvented and imagined for each new generation. As the holidays approach and parties are planned for 2016, we talked to top Michigan event designers for their take on key trends that will dazzle your attendees.
Mark Ephraim, executive director of Top That! Event, says he sees two broad décor trends: vintage and sophisticated industrial.
“With the onslaught of sites like Pinterest and informational sites for events, the trends are all over the place,” he says. “The things we’re seeing more of—there is quite a bit of vintage out there. The whole Gatsby theme seems to be prevalent, not only in social but in corporate, too.
“Sophisticated industrial is another look— metals mixed with fabrics or with woods, exposed brick,” he adds. “That’s definitely a look we’re seeing more of in corporate but also social. People are picking venues like that too, like the [Ford Avenue] Piquette Plant. It’s very unusual, and it’s gotten popular.”
David McKnight, owner of Emerald City Designs, says he’s seeing “lots of the element of wood for 2015 and 2016, whether it’s charger plates or tables themselves or facades being created at venues to offer really unique and textured backdrops for photo opportunities.”
Vintage elements are popping up in a room’s small details. For example, Liz Andre- Stotz, co-owner of Parsonage Events, says brass candlesticks are popular.
“It’s something you would have seen on your mother or your grandmother’s table, and now it’s come back around,” she says. “Paired with beautiful linens or candles, it’s just a really beautiful look. Marrying some of the old with the new is really nice.”
When it comes to color trends, Marsala was the Pantone Color of the Year, and popularity quickly followed. “Sometimes that color comes out and people don’t grab onto it,” Andre-Stotz says. “And, we’re in the third year of this—I’m still seeing the blush, lots of blush. Now people are pulling in richer, deeper accent colors, like blush with plum or blush with red.”
For holiday décor, McKnight says the vintage feel has extended to colors. “It’s more of the natural tones,” he says. “So if you’re picking from the red pallet, you may be working with more of a barn red. I don’t want to use the word muted, but it’s not as sharp as candy red. It’s more of a vintage red, or vintage green. It’s definitely holiday, but you can work with it for more of the holidays.”
Exceptional event design requires more than distinctive centerpieces, but they certainly go a long way toward creating a look.
“Where people in the past might have appreciated fine food or wine, they’re starting to appreciate florals in that way, which I think is pretty cool,” Andre-Stotz says. “I am seeing now a real appreciation for exquisite floral designs—not just, ‘bigger is better.’ Now people are really appreciating a fine floral piece with some more obscure florals, and flowers you might get from the garden—like peonies, ranunculus, anemones and dahlias.”
McKnight agrees that natural floral choices have big appeal. “I’m seeing petals of a different style and layering,” he says. “Dahlias cans range from smaller than tangerines to a variety called paper-plate dahlias for their size, which are over-the-top beautiful.”
In addition, Andre-Stotz says, Michigan foliage is increasingly requested because it provides a distinctive look and a local bent.
“My in-laws have acreage in Ortonville, so I harvest my own greens, my own berries, anything that I see that’s going to add to the centerpiece,” Andre-Stotz says. That’s one thing I really love that’s going on in floral right now—it’s not just flowers. I’ll add crab apples, branches. That’s a trend I really appreciate.
“I think some of it is that people love the idea of the farm-to-table movement and working with things that are local,” she adds. “It makes their arrangement special. To know it was all grown right here in Michigan, and they’re bringing their guests in from around the country, and everything on their table represents our state, I think that’s pretty cool and people find that interesting.”
Becca Schlussel, vice president of Joe Cornell Entertainment, says another fun trend is flowerless floral design, which can offer a high-end look on a midrange budget. “Paper flowers are huge,” she says. “I think people are trying to come up with things that are unusual and quirky. Why not throw beautiful paper into exquisite design?”
In fact, paper is popping up in many event details, says Angela Butorac, co-founder of EventTrender. “Tissue-paper fans, those are so in right now,” she says. “A lot of people are using paper for so many different things.”
Butorac says she also closely follows trends in lighting, because of its ability to have an impact on a room. “Lighting really makes the ambiance,” she says. “I keep getting compliments on a couple of my proms because of the lighting, like we did jungle animals projected onto on the wall.
“I could rent a huge prop or I could rent the lights and do the lighting; it just looks cooler,” she says “That’s really the ambiance of the room.”
The use of eye-catching fabric, from textured linens on tables to large panels on the wall, is also hot. McKnight says he’s using three-dimensional fabrics, with a layer of satin, stitching of a textile like ribbon and a beaded or metallic element woven in. “It’s textured, but not having it textured to the point that it’s raised so far off the table the stemware is having trouble,” he says.
Planners are using fabric to maximize their event space, Ephraim says. “We’ll drape the walls, drape the ceiling,” he says. “Anything you can do with fabric that’s unusual, even using fabric to hang floral arrangements or hang props, is popular.
“And people are loving elevating things, even suspended cake tables,” he adds. “If the ceiling allows a decorator to do it, you can hang a cake table, you can hang a sweetheart table, or displays for a corporate event.”
Of course, technology is a major trend in events, and it can play into décor, too. Ephraim says digital projection mapping, more often seen at very large events, is now so well developed that it’s becoming affordable for smaller events.
“You’ll see a plain white cake with images protected onto it, and it looks like that’s the cake,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”
In the end, good event design helps people connect and creates a memorable experience. Planners are seeing innovative ways of fostering—and maintaining— conviviality among attendees.
“Make it interactive so people can flow through the event,” Schlussel says. “Lounge seating is popular—it’s warm and it brings people together.”
Ephraim says the lounge concept is so popular, his company can hardly keep up with it. “Everyone wants a lounge area of some sort,” he says. “People also are loving venues that have multiple rooms they can use—that’s definitely a trend. They can have one theme but something different but connected in each area, so as people go from room to room, they can have a different ‘wow.’ That’s very popular.”
Schlussel says planners are fostering interaction by bringing the experience to the guest, so they needn’t interrupt conversation to get a drink, have dinner, etc.
“Rather than have the guest stand in line at the bar, stand in line for dinner, you bring them something,” she says. “I’ve seen hors d’oeuvre on carts and conveyor belts. Rolling carts are huge— planners are using small plates, and people are choosing items off carts, like a moving event. There’s no reason for people to stop socializing.
“We want to bring the drinks to them, the food to them, the interaction to them,” she says. “It’s about bringing people together.”