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Tools of the Trade: Best of Center

Tools of the Trade: Best of Center

WHILE FLORAL HOLDS FAST AS A CENTERPIECE staple, new centerpiece components and materials are seeing a surge in popularity. From the warmth of illuminated spandex to the whimsy of customized theme items, today's centerpieces are about atmosphere and economy in equal measure.


With longer nights and seasonal holidays upon us, event professionals are looking for the light. “We're getting bombarded right now because all parts of the industry are wanting to find out how they can light centerpieces,” says Stephen Hamel, general manager of Covington, La.-based Fancy Faces. Hamel adds that illuminated spandex centerpieces are proving popular for the holidays. He notes an especially high demand for his company's glowing spandex towers, which can be topped with floral or feathers.

Lynn Wells, president of Table Decor International of Atlanta, says her table lighting company gets “very involved” with customers before the holidays. This year, as in holiday seasons past, clients are asking for lamp bases in silver plate, which “will always be the choice for elegance,” Wells says. Her newest holiday designs include shades in a range of unusual fabrics, such as “iridescents, unique damasks with a little metallic woven in, and raw silks.”

“Always for the holiday season, it's about the color,” says Sandra Butler, president of Albuquerque-based Chace Candles, which manufactures a “never-burn-down candle” with a wax insert and spring unit. “People want bright reds, forest greens and golds.” As for size, Butler says taller is better, and cites 15-, 18- and 24-inch candles as her biggest sellers.


Many of today's centerpiece items are designed to help event producers enhance mood or theme simply and effectively. Jill Flynn, president and owner of San Mateo, Calif.-based Glimmers Inc., calls her company's battery-operated twinkling star items “playful products. They're fun, they're happy, they make people smile.” In addition to clip-on stars, which can be attached to flower stems, candles and other items, Flynn has introduced a complete star centerpiece, which comes with two 8-inch support rods. “You can put it in any floral arrangement,” she says.

Remington Restivo, designer for Purcellville, Va.-based Centerpieces to Go, says her design ideas come from speaking directly with event planners to get a sense of their vision for the look and feel of an event. Restivo, whose company specializes in theme and custom centerpieces including Chili Pepper, Martini Glass, Sock Hop and Art Deco models, says TV, Hollywood and sports centerpieces are hot these days.


“If you want a lot of bang for your buck, a lot of atmosphere on a budget,” advises Wells, “your money would be well spent on table lighting.” To cash-conscious event professionals, Wells recommends her company's nickel plate table lamps, which, besides being more affordable, are “very close to silver plate, but you don't have to polish [them]. You just wipe off fingerprints,” she says.

Flynn has noticed a rise in the popularity of her centerpiece items among economy-minded corporate planners. “Corporate event people like our items because they're simple … You turn on the centerpiece, or clip on the stars, and you're done,” she says.

As a cost-control measure, Hamel says, “Gifting at each place setting is a good way to cut down on the chance of centerpieces being taken.” Hamel says he speaks from experience, noting, “I've seen [guests] pull out pocket knives to cut the centerpieces off,” but he adds, on a positive note, “I've been paid for every replacement that's ever been needed.”

RESOURCES: Centerpieces To Go, 888/266-7438; Chace Candles, 505/344-3413, 800/225-2250; Fancy Faces, 504/893-2652, 800/752-3480; Glimmers Inc., 650/578-8276; Table Decor International, 770/342-1156

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