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Special Events

A Year of Extremes

In a year when the economy bottomed out and companies pared back, many felt that the only way to save their events was to strip them to the bare bones with “extreme measures” being the justification. Decreased budgets led to some interesting challenges from a decor perspective. We needed to help our clients with determining value, and found it prudent to use the strategy of “go big or go home.” This is about budget as much as it is about scale. A few large, well-placed items can be far more impressive than multiple items that are small or mid-sized, which are weakened by trying to cover too much with too little.

Now is not time to reinvent the wheel but to pick a wheel that exists, “Armor All” it, put on a customized hubcap, and create an event specifically for your client. The buzzword is “customize” — not “custom build” — when budgets are restricted. Often cutting an event totally is more detrimental to morale and company profile than having a trimmed-down version of the annual event. As designers, we have had the opportunity to work with our clients to create some fabulous new designs while working with what we already have in stock, a strategy that has proved to be of great benefit to our clients.

Although this shift has been pronounced, some clients are still willing to spend what they have in previous years but have been given the mandate “don't make it too lush or extreme,” as the perception of lavishness would be all wrong. “Perception” has become the new four-letter word; the questions “how will it look?” and “how will we be perceived?” are the touchstones for planners from some of their clients.

This economic shift has led to some specific trends in design, focusing on subtle tones and color palettes and eschewing flash for an air of calm. Clients are asking for clear, minimalist, “enviro-surrounds” where lighting and special effects become the paintbrush and texturizer in the hands of a talented lighting director.

Soft taupes and beiges are being paired with marine colors and off-white for windswept looks, or with shades of brown, sienna and saffron for a calm version of the spice route colors, or with cream for a café au lait palette. The soothing color palettes of grays — from platinum to charcoal — and green — from celadon to mossy — are being paired with pinks, yellows, lilacs and peach shades, and into fuchsias, teals, cranberries and golds in 2010.

It is a very eclectic year ahead with huge diversity in looks. Textured patterns are being blended with Bohemian and south Asian colors for depth of design and diversity, in tones of hot pink, persimmon and celadon, layered with texture from brass mosaics and jewels for an exotic appeal; this is the complete antithesis to the minimalist look. Still another trajectory favors shades of green and pristine white or cream for an eco-friendly direction.

Now is the time to show your clients your appreciation and give them even more value; let them know where they can cut back without ruining the integrity of the event. It is time to expect the same consideration from co-suppliers. These times will teach us to be even more creative, even more disciplined and even more diligent in qualifying clients' “needs” and “wants.” Seeing clients through tough times will solidify our relationships with them even more in the good times.

This is a time to be proactive rather than reactive. By helping our clients, we are really helping ourselves in building and fostering relationships … and at the end of the day, great design being equal, clients go where they are valued.

Name: Leslee Bell and Bryan Bell

Company: Decor & More Inc.

Address: 1171 Invicta Drive Oakville, ON L6H 4M1 Canada

Phone: 905/844-1300

Web site:

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