Rethinking Trendy Event Design for 2016

Even though I speak on trends quite often, it’s always great to hear the perspective of other event professionals who can tell us which trends to stay away from! I am thrilled to share this perspective from AFR Event Furnishing‘s Kate Bartlett. – David Merrell

The second quarter is upon us, and we are already loving the event design trends that we are seeing. It is a complete move toward the modern from top to bottom. However, as we make a 180 degree shift from the rustic, weathered wood, distressed fabric look that has dominated for the past five years. Even more so, we are loving how some of the biggest trends for 2016 bridge the gap between what we have loved for so long, and what we’re moving toward.

Good-Bye Shabby Chic

Trendy Event Design

To be brutally honest, we are over shabby chic – and have been for quite some time. We have seen enough bird cages, barn doors, and mason jar centerpieces to last a lifetime. What we love about the modern décor trend is that it is finished. The wood is polished, the furniture has angular and definite shapes, and the décor has a simple ease with bold statements (as opposed to mismatched clusters intentionally placed to look unintentional).

However, it is hard to move immediately from one trend to another. We’re seeing furniture options where the tables have finished wood tops, but you can see the grains in the wood under the polish. There are still metallic touches, but moving toward chromes and high shine as opposed to the metallic in mercury glass. These transitional pieces help bring your clients into the new trend, without taking them out of their comfort zones or what they might have found on Pinterest.

Beyond the Chevron

Trendy Event Design

We couldn’t be happier to bid adieu to chevron, and welcome in new prints and patterns. Not to be misunderstood, organization is always a good thing, and the clear definition and angles that chevron provides is mentally correct for most event professionals. But it had a great run, and now there are new, fun prints in multiple colors and shapes popping up everywhere. The preppy chic that chevron provided has not disappeared either. The turquoise and navy that were so popular are still around, but with different geometric shapes. A well placed pillow or throw rug is a subtle way to add new prints. Or, go big, and do a printed linen on the dinner rounds, and make that the focal point in the event design. Even better is to find complimentary patterned linens, and give each table its own distinct yet cohesive look!

Texture Forever

Trendy Event Design

2016 has been the year of the event experience, where we focus on how our attendees are experiencing the event, retaining the content, and trying to take events to the next level. Little things you add to event design can up the experience factor, specifically by appealing to the senses. One way to do that is with texture. A visibly textured sofa at an event is inviting and comfortable, a rough spun fabric on a linen is interesting and the “flaws” draw the eye, and a differently shaped wall décor piece adds depth to the room, especially when paired with lighting. We all know the basics to transform the room, but in a world where there is so much to look at, and we’re constantly blasted with the big, bold and the brazen, we find it is always a pleasant surprise to find a small, yet interesting detail to catch the eye. Texture is a great way to forge the notion that the design was made for discovery!

Texture is different from pattern because it awakens the senses, changing the experience. By researching items which are meant to be examined and touched, you’re bringing your guests into a deeper part of the overall event design.

What’s the Word?

Change can be hard, and sometimes within event design, it can be hard to move clients toward what is up and coming instead of what they see online. But with so many great ways to bridge the gap between the outgoing and incoming trends, it is easy to put on an event which will make your client happy. Fear not of being left in the dust of a rustic, retro, rusted-out, photo-op tractor…

About The Author


Kate Bartlett, Western Regional Sales Manager for AFR Event Furnishings, has been in the Special Events industry for the past 10 years. She began her career working on events for a national publishing company, focusing her skills on an annual outdoor event, along with trade show booths, and the accompanying events. She then transitioned into Destination Management, where she worked for four years in multiple departments, including sales, operations and, accounting. Kate has been with AFR for over a year, and works with the sales teams in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Phoenix markets. Kate enjoys creating partnerships in all of her markets, working with her team on creative events, meeting new people in every city she visits, and gabbing with the local sports fans and talking stats (her after work passion).



This article originally appeared on the Social Tables Blog.

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