Event Design: Observations for 2016

2016 is going to be the Year of The Event. At least for me. Outside of my usual house parties, I’ll be planning my wedding this year, an anniversary celebration for my lil design business, and at least a couple major BBQs.

I’ve also recently partnered up with Peerspace – a rad marketplace for venues (a lot of which are really unique and not otherwise easily findable online) where you can peep space photos and rent them for whatever activity you’re into – to develop a guide they’re publishing about how to select the right venue for your event. And so, lately I’ve been giving a LOT of thought to event venues, and how interior design + decorating trends are influencing event design.

UPDATE: Peerspace published their “How to choose a venue” guide and it is AWESOME.

NOZNOZNOZ - Event Design 2016 - Industrial Warehouse Wedding

Here are two observations on where I see event design heading this year:

HEAVY PERSONALIZATION – MAKING THE EVENT REALLY REFLECTIVE OF *YOU*

Since early 2015, I’ve noticed that event hosts have increasingly wanted to make their celebrations + parties a true reflection of them, and are less concerned about checking all the boxes on traditional event details. I LOVE this trend – if you’re going to invest $$$$ in an event, why should you feel like you have to spend on XYZ just because it’s the “appropriate” thing to do?

I should caveat, though, that I’m talking about true personalization of event details + design, NOT DIY / handmade events. Nothing against pinning, but for a few years, a lot of weddings and birthday parties started to display what felt like the same / similar DIY decorations made popular and discoverable by Pinterest – which is fine; I’m just much more excited about hosts altogether eschewing ideas they’ve seen and instead prioritizing details that feel really authentic.

Some examples:

  • Foregoing the formal sit-down dinner at a wedding and opting instead for super casual food stations that serve ice cream and fried chicken, with no assigned seating!
  • Creating + commissioning art as venue decor, which is meant to live on after the event as artwork in the hosts’ home or office
  • Mismatched event furnishings for an eclectic vibe, OR very specific styles of rental furniture. I’m seeing more and more vintage furniture rental companies pop up, which is fantastic because I’m so over the white-tablecloth-with-bamboo-chair look.
Found Rentals - farm-table-slider

Photo courtesy of Found Rentals

The kinds of venues that I find are most conducive to this movement toward personalized, reflective-of-self events are industrial warehouses and spaces that seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Warehouses, for all their industrial-chic appeal, are basically giant, high-ceiling shells, so they’re ideal blank canvases to put your mark on the venue. Also, because their interiors often have exposed + easily accessible structural elements like ceiling I-beams, it’s likelier that if you have an ambitious decor installation vision (like hanging artwork on walls, installing your own chandeliers, or ziplining through your own party – seriously, I’ve seen this!), the venue will have the capacity to accommodate, whereas a venue with a fully finished interior would be rather leery of nails going into walls or anything.

 

UPENDING TRADITIONAL SEATING 

Something I recommend to all my interior design clients is that, whatever rules they’ve been told in the past about *appropriate seating* for a space, forget it“You should have 2 matching accent chairs in your living room?” Nope, you are free to be more eclectic. I could rattle off countless age-old decorating rules that I don’t believe in, but it goes without saying that no one’s ever accused me of being a traditionalist.

But as for EVENTS, traditional seating has stuck around, in part because there are often functional reasons for having, say, tables + chairs at a team offsite. What I’ve seen a bit of, and would love to see more of in 2016, are events that have been planned with thoughtful consideration to how seats + seating arrangements influence the vibe of an event. An example:

Let’s take a company offsite of about 20 people, with the noble goals of “brainstorming product ideas” and “team-building.” The standard environment that coworkers would expect to walk into is a room with desk-height tables and chairs, and either they sit wherever, or are assigned to a table. Such an offsite would give off the vibe of “this day is about productivity and getting some work done,” right? At least that’s how it felt when I was a corporate butterfly. But imagine if the offsite were instead set in a bohemian-chic space, where the tables were coffee table height, and the seats were low-slung sofas, poufs, and floor pillows: that setting changes employees’ expectations about the offsite: it gets them out of the mindset that it’s just another workday, it’s casual and encourages relaxed conversation, and it is a gesture to imply that conventional office rules need not apply in this space.

NOZNOZNOZ - Event Design 2016 - Bohemian loft

It may sound a little hippie-dippie, but the way a space invites its guests to be seated (or not) on arrival can completely transform, elevate, and inform the mood and energy of a group of people. I’ve spent a ton of time observing this at parties, and at events I’ve hosted in my own home: the furniture arrangement influences whether a guest reclines into a sofa, or stands at the entrance waiting to be invited to have a seat. And consider cocktail parties: no chairs, just high-boy tables. They’re designed that way to keep guests standing, encouraging them to move about the space and mingle / network.

I’m excited to think that more people will feel liberated to consider unique venues that can actually help influence how they plan their event.

 

Of course, there are other event venue trends that just won’t quit, and will persist (for good reasons) into 2016:

  • Rustic farmhouses on wineries or lavish estates are beautiful and transport you from the hustle & bustle – they make it easy to throw an event that photographs well and establishes a clear aesthetic and vibe;
  • And venues with midcentury modern furniture, the “skinny jean of decor” – it’s been around, we know it when we see it, but it’s just so functional, space-efficient, and good-looking that it’s here to stay, whether we like it or are kind of over it. (We’re not over it.)

 

All in, a lot to look forward to on the event horizon. With party planning on my brain this year, there’ll be more tips + event design musings to come.