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Kehoe Designs colorful interior Photo courtesy Kehoe Designs
Vivid color reigns in a VIP lounge at Lollapalooza from Kehoe Designs. Plantscapes by Floral Exhibits.

Event Design Forecast 2018: Everything Old Is New Again

Event design trends for 2018 will be dominated by fresh takes on decades past, experts say.

If a crystal ball showed you event design  in 2018, you might think you’ve peeked into the past instead of the future.

Style that is 40 years old is stayin’ alive in event design today. Indeed, says Keri Miller, CSEP, partner and chief creative strategist at Calgary, Alberta-based E=MC² Events, clients are clamoring for retro ‘70s decor. “This is popping up everywhere,” Miller says. “Think velvet, structural glass and big, knotty macramé.”

The electric, indulgent ‘80s look is also soaring in popularity with fun-loving clients.

“We will see the return of ‘80s flair and drama that has this casual glamour to it, and tongue-in-cheek designs that don’t take themselves so seriously,” says creative director Bridget Frizzie of Chicago-based Kehoe Designs in Chicago. “We are now looking for events that have burst of energy, and colors that are infected with phosphorus tones alongside florals natural brightness that invigorate us.”

So, is 2018 primed to be a copycat of decades past? Hardly. Designers putting a fresh coat of polish and adding today’s technology to the palettes of the past

“We are seeing and designing what we call ‘reverse retro’—using the architectural style of vintage eras, and integrating contemporary elements of technology, entertainment and social media,” says Mark Yumkas, president, managing partner and chief strategist at Angel City Designs, Los Angeles.

Forgoing creamy pastels, 2018 color trends harken back to the warm ‘70s and bold ‘80s through statement hues and metallic tones.

“Gold is staying on top as a metal, which also translates to rich yellows—a nod to the influence of the 70s,” Miller says. “Specifically, a harvest gold yellow is gender-neutral and can be a supporting partner in a design very easily, but it can stand out on its own. Amber lighting can achieve this look as well.”

Even the leading color authority—Pantone—agrees that golds, metals and warm tones will shine in 2018.

“I am always a big fan of what my friends at  Pantone have to say,” says Tony Conway, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Legendary Events. “I am so excited about the use of so much yellow and orange in 2018.” Pantone’s color predictions for 2018 include bright yellow and lime along with berry-infused purples.

While some colors may have year-long appeal, Frizzie says that seasonal changes demand shifting palettes. “For summer, teal, turquoise, navy blue and white pairs with warm, buttery yellows shimmering with gold flecks, creating a warm breezy palette for the season,” she explains.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Frizzie says designs that create a darker feel inspired by classic literature and menswear warm up winter events.

“Look for interiors to reflect this trend,” she says. “Complex patterns and textures are expertly fashioned to give well-dressed events a gentleman’s quarterly mood.”

The answer is yes and no. While some designers see strong themes in 2018, others aren’t as inspired by heavily themed events.

“I personally do not see themes, but I give the client whatever theme they want,” Conway says. “I’m looking forward to more bursts of color with monochromatic elements.”

Miller agrees, saying she can’t remember the last themed event she produced. When clients ask for a specific theme, she simply asks why the client wants that specific theme. “If you dig deep enough, you will discover the underlying message and why their vision is set on a beach, fairy tale, movie, book or era,” she says. “My trick is to take their theme and ‘juxta-theme’ it with an emerging trend or current design style. Beach party becomes mid-century modern, Palm Springs-esque pool party.”

Other designers welcome themes, but can be tasked to put a creative spin on them.

“As a company based in Miami, our basic theme requests--such as tropical beach, Havana, SoBe [South Beach] chic and all-white parties--will never go out of trend in South Florida,” says Isaac Ribas of Deco Productions. “The challenge is to create those themes with a fresh and new twist in style that embodies the beauty and flavor of Miami” …

See the full story in the Winter 2018 issue of Special Events, available only to subscribers. Not a subscriber? We can fix that--just click here.

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