Special Events

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: EVENT CHAIRS ARE SITTING PRETTY

IN THE WORLD of events, chairs have to do more than simply offer a solid place to sit. Across the event spectrum, from meetings to galas, event-seating experts see an increased call for unique designs, along with enduring demands for durability and ease of setup. In this month's feature, chair pros explain what makes quality event seats so hard to beat.

CONVERSATION PIECES

While chair covers and chair accessories serve many event scenarios, suppliers point to a breed of chair that is meant to be bare.

“Today, every event is competing for mind-share and memorability,” says Fritz Williams, president of Garden Grove, Calif.-based Form Decor, which provides modern furniture for events, meetings and trade shows. Williams says his company is giving its clients an edge with such products as the polypropylene and aluminum “Dr. No Chair” designed by Philippe Starck. Describing the chair as “modern, classic and playful all at the same time,” Williams adds that the product is easily stackable — “perfect for large-event production.”

Also popular with Form Decor clients is a collection of Charles Eames chairs including a side shell, arm chair and wire side chair. “They can be used for creating interesting ‘moments’ at an event, rather than for large-scale seating,” says Williams, noting that the chairs are featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Another player in the field of forward-thinking seats, Las Vegas-based Cort Trade Show Furnishings has been test-marketing products across the country to see what's hot and what's not. According to executive director Joel Cohn, the company's new high-end stackable plastic chair with upholstered seat and back has been doing well. “We're carrying them in bright red and bright blue — pair them together and they look very patriotic,” he says. In the meetings market, he notes, Cort's high-back leather executive chair has been popular, making for “a totally different setting” than that offered by standard upholstered hotel banquet chairs.

A FRESH APPROACH

According to manufacturers, even classic chair styles are enjoying updates in materials and craftsmanship.

Diego Discacciati of East Brunswick, N.J.-based Drake Corp., points to his company's brand-new high-back resin fan chair as an example of a modernized standard. Describing the unit as comfortable, folding, stacking and interlocking, Discacciati adds that Drake's new chairs are “strong, durable, weatherproof, UV-resistant, don't need painting, don't rust and require very little maintenance.”

The secret to the chair's success, he explains, is its dual-component technology. “Strength is taken care of by the inner material, smoothness and UVA stability are assured by the outer component,” he says. A smooth, consistent texture and finish ensure the chairs won't compromise event aesthetics. “I have seen chairs made of two different materials, finished with a seat made of one shiny material and the legs made of a different matte material, with two different colors and different UVA ratings,” Discacciati says. “Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Would I buy a car with one finish on the doors and another on the hood?’”

Contemporary colors and cutting-edge construction are characterizing chairs from Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Advanced Seating, says president Ronnie Ofrat. She cites her company's natural wood folding chair and mahogany stacking chiavari as hot sellers, noting a trend toward “more affordable, comfort seating and warm, natural finishes.”

When it comes to craftsmanship, Advanced chairs are all about “quality, quality, quality,” she adds. According to Ofrat, every Advanced unit features nails and glue on all joints, plus metal seat reinforcements and a three-coat finish.

HERE TO SERVE

No less important than style and substance is the standard of service clients demand for their event chairs.

Cort is meeting this demand with full transport, setup and breakdown service “24/7, 365 days a year, anywhere in the United States,” Kohn says. He adds that he's seen increased demand for customization in recent months, prompting Cort to let clients provide their own custom fabrics, which the company can incorporate into chairs.

Ofrat says the little things count, like providing spray finish with orders “for touch ups on demand.” To make sure the big things are covered, too, Advanced also guarantees its chairs for one full year.

For manufacturer Stakmore, based in Owego, N.Y., service is about custom matching chair styles to clients, says vice president Eric Niermeyer. “In the past year we have found that our product has fit in very well with facilities such as museums, cultural centers and universities.” To serve the market, the company customizes its premium wood folding chairs to Victorian, traditional and contemporary architecture styles. Niermeyer says the approach is just one way Stakmore has enabled clients “to expand their event hosting, but still maintain the image of their facility.”

RESOURCES Advanced Seating, 201/848-8066; Cort Trade Show Furnishings, 702/362-4335; Drake Corp., 732/254-1530; Form Decor, 714/934-8662; Stakmore, 607/687-1616

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