If you have a blank space, fill it. For boring ballrooms, try a blast of color. And conservative venues? Spray graffiti. Event pros work their magic in many ways to transform spiritless spaces into snazzy spots for theme parties.
MEET YOU IN VIENNA
PLANNER: Joseph Bina, owner, Royal Events, San Fernando, Calif.
THE PLAN: With the help of Lake Balboa, Calif.-based CBM Special Events, Royal Events converted a church-qua-event-space into a Viennese ballroom for a March wedding with 400 guests.
PRE-PARTY: Originally built in 1876, the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana boasts renovated Old World, baroque decor in modern downtown Los Angeles. The couple wanted an all-white, “Viennese ballroom” reception, so “Instead of seeing the venue as a church, they saw it as a castle,” Bina says.
THE PARTY: Thirty-foot-high panels of crushed velour served as both decor and sound-proofing, vital due to the structure's high ceilings and concrete walls. White chiffon drapery provided a soft front layer while tie-backs between columns enhanced the ballroom feel of the venue. Lighting did its part too, with six intelligent moving lights changing the decor from “classic to modern” and pin spots on the centerpieces to create depth, Bina notes.
PLANNER: Matt Stoelt, principal, Stoelt Productions, Hollywood, Calif.
THE PLAN: Edgy clothing chain Diesel opened its Los Angeles flagship shop on boutique-laden Melrose Place. To celebrate the May 2007 grand opening, “Diesel decided to stage a collision between two worlds — the upscale, celebrity-driven Westside versus the young, hip and artsy Eastside,” Stoelt says.
PRE-PARTY: Rather than hold the party inside the brand-new Diesel building, “The decision to bring the party into the street was made to emphasize that Diesel had arrived and was about to mix things up,” Stoelt notes. Quiet Melrose Place provided the setting for a “garden soiree turned barbecue block party by crashing hipsters,” he says.
THE PARTY: The theme started with the invitations, which were classic “wedding style” with “gold spray paint splattered on top announcing the takeover and a performance by indie rockers Hot Hot Heat,” Stoelt explains. The group performed on an exposed truss structure intended to resemble a makeshift stage. Fancy furniture, a string quartet and servers in white cutaway jackets provided one layer of ambience while picnic tables, a mechanical bull and servers clad in skinny jeans and faux tuxedo T-shirts provided a second layer.
Stoelt notes that 70 4-by-8-inch hedges created the perimeter of the event, and 12,000 square feet of Astroturf “covered the street and sidewalk, wall to wall,” he says. “Grounding the event footprint is key to any transformation and really helps set the tone.”
THE 1920s, 2008-STYLE
PLANNER: Stefanie Berry, president, Showorks, Oldsmar, Fla.
THE PLAN: For the 500-guest ISES Esprit Awards Gala in August, Berry opted to re-create the 1925 grand opening gala of the chosen venue — the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Fla. — with a modern, contemporary twist.
PRE-PARTY: The Vinoy Grand Ballroom offered historic and traditional decor, which featured the not-so-hip colors pea green and salmon pink.
THE PARTY: To create her modern version of the '20s gala, Berry downplayed the green and salmon decor and brought in black and white. LED lights added an extra pop of color, switching from pink to purple to blue. Four different types of centerpieces added to the ambience, which included pavé roses shaped into half moons with a spray of pheasant feathers on top and fabric-wrapped square vases with jeweled buckles that were “overstuffed with roses,” Berry says. What most contributed to the room's transformation? The 15-foot-tall window treatments of Lustre Glo fabric accented with white sheers and black crepe-backed satin swags, Berry says. The treatments “took the space from Old World to New World.”
HAVING A BLAST
PLANNER: Matthew David Hopkins, president and creative director, Matthew David Events, New York
THE PLAN: The American Friends of the Israel Museum hosts an annual gala at the Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom in New York. To coincide with the museum's photography showcase, the event team morphed the ballroom into a showplace for striking photographs for 700 guests in October 2007.
PRE-PARTY: “The venue is a classic — and it's classical. Gilding, crystal chandeliers, the works,” Hopkins notes. “We went in with the concept of contrasting the architecture with contemporary decor.”
THE PARTY: To offer edge without corners, the production team projected photography onto round screens. “The round screens simply give the eye something new to take in as opposed to the expected rectangular screen,” Hopkins says. Photographs-as-transparencies projected on clear tables set the tone for table decor with wireless color blasters installed underneath. “Black glass containers with fuchsia cymbidium orchids allowed the eye to be teased without getting caught up on the flowers,” he notes. “Clear chairs finished off the glowing look.
If you wish your venue were another space entirely, New York-based Artlumiere's Metamorphosis can help. Its projected sceneries “create a complete visual transformation of a venue by projecting in 360 degrees,” says president, founder and CEO Lucette de Rugy. New York's Gotham Hall showcased the July launch of the product — the space's plain walls became the beach, Venice, springtime with cherry blossoms and a frozen lake with ice skaters. “We demonstrated that even a most sober venue can still be very elegant but also joyful and innovative,” De Rugy says.
Matthew David Events