Functional and aesthetic—tables and chairs provide structure and warmth to an event

Tables and chairs are the bones of an event. They provide the foundation upon which the rest of the event can be built. While glitz and glam still have their place, these important furnishings are trending toward natural and simple.

“With the rustic trends, people are looking to showcase the natural wood and to convey a sense of simplicity,” says Terry Turner, president of All Occasions Party Rentals in Knoxville, Tenn. “We’re seeing a lot of requests for the old-timey, farmhouse rustic look. Square and rectangular linenless tables with a weathered look, for example, are very popular.”

The rustic, natural wood fad first gained momentum in trend-setting cities. Bridal decorators and magazines recognized the attraction the look held for those planning urban events—providing a “trip to the country” in the city. Now the trend has made its way to smaller urban and rural areas. Karen LeMond,co-owner of T.R.U. Event Rental Inc., in Evansville, Ind., says that harvest tables (substantial 4-by-8-foot wooden tables that are wider than standard tables) with mismatched chairs are in demand.

“We tend to get a hodgepodge of everything that is trendy in the different regions of the country, and this country-style look is surprisingly popular here in the Midwest,” LeMond says. Green, gold and neutral tones complement the earthy feel.

Special requests added costs
While the natural look has grown in popularity, the lounge look is also a growing trend. Requests for sofas, loveseats, and benches are increasing. “In the past couple of years, clients’ desires have really changed,” says Les Sumpter, manager of A Rental Connection in Canoga Park, Calif.

New trends translate to a capital investment to not only acquire the desired items, but also the accessories that go with them. “Tablecloths, for instance, have to be wider to accommodate the wider tables, while burlap and white lace table runners for the free-wood tables have become quite popular,” Sumpter says.

Some furnishings that give off a simple, natural and rustic look come at a price. Church-pew-style seats, for instance, have bulky dimensions that require not only more effort to store, transport and set up, but also cost more than regular chairs and seats.

“When dealing with special seating requests, such as sofas and benches, you also have to consider the extra space that you’ll need in the tent,” Sumpter says. Sometimes that extra space may translate to a dedicated lounge space, and sometimes it may mean a separate tented area. “We’re seeing it become popular to have a secondary tent for dance areas, and to have a small bistro area with tall tables for snacks and drinks,” says Darlene Lucas, sales and rental director of Glawe Awnings and Tents, in Fairborn, Ohio.

Chiavari chairs, which have long been used indoors, are often now being used in outdoor environments. But because these chairs were built for indoor settings, they can be difficult to use on grassy areas.

The setup
To complement the simple look, one common arrangement is open seating, with food tables spread throughout the tent. Another option is family-style seating arrangements, as well as using a combination of long and roundtables.

More intricate arrangements, such as sprawling U-shapes, can create a stunning look but may be challenging to implement. All Occasions Party Rentals met this challenge last year when providing seating for 750 black-tie guests at a football stadium for a special event at the University of Tennessee. The crew symmetrically arranged an impressive mix of round and rectangular tables with chairs around a stage. For events with a large number of guests, a floor plan is a must, and options are available online, says Lucas.

Each locale or township has its own specific fire codes. In general, exit and entrance signs need to be clearly placed, and doorways need to be open and clear of any chairs or tables that may obstruct the way. “Because each agency interprets codes differently, it’s important to reach out to code officials and to maintain a good relationship with them to know what they are really looking for,” Sumpter says.

The slope of the land can pose certain challenges for tables and chairs, which should be positioned on the flat and level ground. If necessary, flooring can be installed—usually at great cost. But no matter what the arrangement, guests need to be able to move freely between tables and have enough space to seat themselves comfortably around a table.

Changing the vision
As much as meeting popular trends means accommodating the clients’ changing desires, clients often must be flexible when it comes to realizing their visions.

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