Keeping up with event furnishing trends
By Steve Elliott
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Keeping up with event furnishing trends

Shifting focus to an upgraded customer experience

In the world of event rental, choice is important. When it comes to furniture, the options are many, accommodating different types of events. From trade shows and corporate events to weddings and graduations, today’s available event rental furniture includes more designs and a much wider variety of shapes and sizes than ever before.

“Furniture is more important than ever to the success of an event,” says Kevin Dana, executive director of merchandising and product development, CORT Events, Las Vegas. “It’s the foundation that helps clients achieve their goals, and a piece of the puzzle that offers both form and function. Some clients previously thought of rental furnishings as a ‘nice-to-have’ event element, but now it’s considered a ‘must have’ when planning a small or large program.”

CORT Events is one of the nation’s leading suppliers for trade shows, meetings, conferences and special events with 16 warehouses across the country. Customers can order high-quality products from a single source delivered to anywhere in the U.S.

“As we move beyond the pandemic, several trends in furnishing have emerged,” Dana says. “Clients are focused on providing an upgraded experience for attendees with greater emphasis on comfort and safety. For meetings large and small, the ‘sanctuary seating’ concept has dominated. Attendees are assigned a comfortable chair with a table and power source where they can sit for longer periods in their own space. Rather than long rows of uncomfortable banquet chairs placed close together, designs feature more space in between seats.”

Photo courtesy of AFR Furniture Rental

James Auerbach, vice president, event segment, American Rental Association (ARA), says there has been exponential growth of event furniture options in recent years. This includes inventory for both larger national suppliers and smaller boutique companies that primarily focus on a local rental market.

“People are looking for unique seating options,” Auerbach says. “Many event organizers now prefer a mix of traditional seating and soft seating options. In the past where you would only see standard table and chair configurations, there are now non-traditional meeting and social event layouts that include couches and other casual seating options.”

One of the main drivers is the increase in rental operators offering furniture as part of their inventory available for rent.

“Long gone are the days of only having white or black leather 6-ft. couches as your only soft seating options. There are now unique shapes, sizes, styles and colors that were never available or hard to find for event rental. This creates a ‘unique factor’ for planners that is very desirable,” Auerbach says.

Tricia Schmitt, chief revenue officer, AFR Furniture Rental, Pennsauken, N.J., says the demand for event furniture is all over the place as people are anxious for in-person events again. AFR is a nationwide furniture rental company with 26 locations serving the event and trade show industry.

“There is a backlog of social events which typically tend to be a bit smaller, like a wedding or a mitzvah,” Schmitt says. “These types of events were put on hold or rescheduled due to local restrictions due to COVID-19. Where vaccination rules have been regulated, we are seeing large events come back strong. Coming out of this pandemic, we are seeing individual seating like single chairs and single side tables in high demand.”

Tim Dodd, president and owner, Plush Event Furnishings and Atlanta Party Rentals, Atlanta, agrees there are more options for event furniture today than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, his companies serviced wedding, social, festival and corporate events. Over the past year, Dodd says they have mainly been serving social gatherings as well as supplying several COVID-19 testing and vaccination tents across the state.

Photo courtesy of Ooh! EventHaus

Dodd says with many events held primarily outside for safety reasons, his company is seeing an uptick in the demand for outdoor dance floors of all varieties, tents
and outdoor furniture.

“We feel lucky to be able to offer not only tent and tent rental needs, but also luxurious soft seating. It’s a fun mix that keeps the client or planner having to only deal with one company and one sales manager,” Dodd says. “Our soft seating collection can go either way as far as current and vintage looks. We can be old Hollywood as well as providing luxurious plush options for the current ‘boho vibe.’ I would say the boho vibe is dominating the scene over a vintage feel.”

Bobby Taylor, president and creative director, Taylor Creative Inc., New York, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, says from corporate and tech events to experiential and brand activations, Taylor services more than 5,000 events a year nationwide.

“Event design is taking cues from Mother Nature with this year’s extensive color palettes,” Taylor says. “Inspired by nature, we’re seeing everything from soft creams and winter whites to earthy greens and rustic reds, and rich, warm hues that remind us to stay grounded in Earth’s majestic beauty. We’re also seeing a return to plush poufs, oversized sofas and curvy seating pods.”

Lisa Thomas, founder of Ooh! Events, now Ooh! EventHaus, Charleston, S.C., is a consultant for the company, which was purchased in October. Thomas says now that
the trend of furniture and higher-end rental offerings have been around for a while, people expect more options and high-end selections.

“Ooh! EventHaus has more than 40 options for chairs, 68 options of bars, hundreds of lounge selections and 12 styles of farm tables. If you are hosting an event, you
want options, and the industry is evolving. We need to evolve with it,” Thomas says. “Trends tend to be a bit more modern. Lots of gold accents and velvet were all trends last fall and I anticipate that staying true for this coming fall as well.”

She adds that a lot of couples getting married this season and in 2023 have waited years to be able to host their dream day. People have become more comfortable with using lots of color and having “wow” elements, whether it be a striking lounge set, a bold tablecloth paired with an unexpected chair, or unique tabletop elements, Thomas says.

“So, they are going over the top to make it a day their guests will never forget,” she says.


Event rental furniture trends for 2022

Lisa Thomas, founder of Ooh! Events, now Ooh! EventHaus, Charleston, S.C.: “More unique bars, bold patterns and colors, curved furniture, black and matte metals. Color trends: varying shades of neutral, shades of green and black accents.”

Tricia Schmitt, chief revenue officer, AFR Furniture Rental, Pennsauken, N.J.: “I do think the social distance trend is here to stay for quite a while. I would like to see more off-site parties and hospitality suites surrounding conferences. I think we will as we recover from the pandemic.”

Kevin Dana, executive director of merchandising and product development, CORT Events, Las Vegas: “An emerging trend for rental furnishings in 2022 is the use of large seating configurations in event design to allow attendees to spread out and maintain distance when networking. By using large ottoman groupings or long sectionals that fit the individual room, event planners can maximize their space and seating capacity.

Bobby Taylor, president and creative director, Taylor Creative, New York: “For larger crowds, outdoor events are here to stay. Guest safety and sanitation will remain a priority in 2022, with individualized seating as well as larger, more versatile seating pods so guests can interact at their own comfort levels.” 

Steve Elliott

Steve ElliottSteve Elliott

Stephen Elliott is the news and products editor for Rental Management. He coordinates and produces product sections for Rental Management as well as The Hot List: New Products at the Show supplement. In addition, he researches, writes and edits management and other feature articles for Rental Management and Rental Pulse, and maintains regular contact with manufacturers and suppliers. He enjoys spending time with his family and working in his garden.

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