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Tools of the Trade: Tuck and Cover

Discover the trends shaping today's chair covers

WHEN ASKED WHAT he wishes clients knew about his chair covers, Mitchell Kelldorf, president of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based SculptChair International, jokes, "How rich and famous people become when they use our product - not to mention good-looking!"

While chair covers might not improve the looks of the guests sitting on them, they can - when installed properly - improve the look of the room.

A GREAT FIT

Francesca Nilsen, president of Distinctive Details of Houston, found her niche in the chair cover market by manufacturing fitted covers in damasks and brocades. She soon discovered one of the biggest challenges facing the industry: "I was finding out styles of chairs were all different. That posed a problem." As a result, she developed what she calls the "self-tie" cover. Constructed from one rectangular piece of sateen, the cover does just what its name implies - ties itself. "We've had enormous success in the Texas area," she says.

Mitchell Bluethman, vice president of Ontario, Calif.-based Jomar Table Linens, has encountered the same problem of numerous chair variations. "We constantly adjust our pattern to fit the chair properly," he says. "We continue to make custom covers for special chairs."

Ari Baez, sales and marketing manager of Clifton, N.J.-based Something Different Linen, says her company has developed a new fitted cover out of stretch polyester that "allows the customer to use the same cover on several chairs."

Michael Davis, co-owner of Cloth Connection in Spring Valley, N.Y., solves the problem by "offering 10 different styles of chair covers, from square-backed to folding."

FASHION, FUNCTION AND FRUGALITY

"Today's customers are more informed, very styleconscious and more aware of their clients' needs," says Paul Ehrlich, president of Lawrence, N.Y.-based Premier Skirting Products. Roberta Karsch, owner of Resource One in Reseda, Calif., notes an emphasis on apparel-type fabrics, both textured and embellished. Next year will continue "strong with pumpkin, bronze, amber golds," she says. "Also important: aquas, browns, amethyst and fuchsia."

Kelldorf, whose company specializes in a bright palette, says "bright colors, as well as animal prints, are the rage," but acknowledges there is "still a very strong calling for black and white throughout the industry because of their subtle versatility."

If you are purchasing covers for the first time, or are working with a limited budget, Baez suggests buying "traditional colors and enhance with sashes, bows, tassels or bands." For a dynamic look, Nardi Hobler, president of St. Louis-based Party Arts, suggests "finishing the tie on the side or at an angle."

Even if money is tight, Nilsen advises against forgoing the sash "if the design of the cover is not fitted. You will end up with the room looking like you are ready to paint and you had to cover the furniture."

CARING FOR COVERS

From installation to storage and cleaning, chair covers deserve as much attention as other elements of an event's decor.

"Chair covers and their installation are a labor-intensive, undervalued product and service," Hobler says. Nilsen agrees, saying, "In fact, if not installed correctly, covers will ruin the whole look of the room! I have seen it happen." Both advocate professional installation and service rather than leaving it up to the waitstaff at a hotel or country club.

To make chair covers sturdier, SculptChair sews polypropylene casters into the fabric so the feet of the chair cover are protected, "virtually eliminating rips and tears," Kelldorf says. Jomar has placed hanger openings in the tops of its chair covers to facilitate hanging and drying.

For stains, "spot clean before removing [the cover] from a chair," Ehrlich recommends. "Take the seat part off first to avoid ripping around the edges of the seat cushion." When storing or returning a rental product, "no matter what the fabric, put like colors together," Kelldorf suggests. "Do not mix your colors when washing or storing."

Resources: Cloth Connection, 845/426-3500; Distinctive Details, 888/627-8412, 713/394-9579; Jomar Table Linens, 909/390-1444; Party Arts, 314/781-1400; Premier Skirting Products, 800/544-2516, 516/239-6581; Resource One, 818/343-3451; SculptChair International, 800/872-2750, 480/922-5311; Something Different Linen, 800/422-2180, 973/772-8019

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