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Special Event Decor Experts Discuss Top Prop Trends

Special Event Decor Experts Discuss Top Prop Trends

Special event designers and prop houses share hot themes, cool color trends and props that pop


While the sleek sophistication of an all-white space has not lost its cachet, bold spots of bright color—by way of pillows, slipcovers, screens, vases and coffee tables—up the ante for a more current look, says Dyann Klein, co-founder and owner of New York-based Props for Today/propNspoon.

For fall, Klein predicts that deeper, richer shades such as plums, purples and blues will prevail, as they complement the ever-trendy gypsy and Moroccan themes.

“Just a few strategically placed props can make an event stand out,” Klein says. “An all-white lounge can be very cookie-cutter, but add pedestals with large white Grecian busts and no one will forget it.” For children’s parties, bumper cars and brightly colored sparkly pillows play up the ‘tween factor, while a few cleverly placed antique leather-bound books serve as simple centerpieces for a graduation party.

Perhaps no one knows rustic, recycled and repurposed better than the prop house. “The recycled, ‘Restoration Hardware’ look—and anything eco and natural, for that matter—is very strong right now,” Klein reports. For an eco-themed event, Klein suggests a single, large tree-trunk table, strategically placed either at the entrance or center of the room, to convey the theme and create a simple yet dramatic focal point.


Get your lighters out! Rock ‘n' roll is here to stay, with the '80s headlining as the era of choice.

To Mike Day, creative director of Orlando, Fla.-based Max King Events, '80s rock means custom buffets resembling electric guitars and seating designed to look like drum kits, complete with authentic cymbals lit with LED lights.

“When the themed buffets, bars and stations are the decor, they have better perceived value as an interactive element, rather than flats and façades stuck on a perimeter,” he says. Functional and funky, these "in the round" props speak to Day’s design mantra of “eat from it, drink from it, be entertained by it.”

In Florida, event themes are built into the environment—after all, guests come to Florida to experience, well, Florida. So, it’s no surprise that the most popular themes still include beach, swamp, Key West and NASCAR. On its way out: What Day calls the “Nikki Beach” look—clustered all-white seating groups of lounge furniture and sheer-draped cabanas. “People are ready to have some fun again,” he says, noting that spots of color and bamboo furniture and accessories define the new tropical look.


“Props done well and installed by designers--not delivery people--can tell a story,” says Decor and More owner and president Leslee Bell.

To that end, Bell recommends focusing on three main areas—the entrance, the stage and the centerpieces. “Keep the focal points where they are seen the most and leave an impact," she cautions. "Don’t try to spread the decor all around the room."

Bell contends that the majority of clients for her Oakville, Ontario-based company are seeking a mood or a look rather than a specific theme. “We are doing fewer themed events and more ‘environments’ based on a color, a corporate brand or a mood,” she says, noting that giving the color-themed events names (Mandarin Madness, Blu Mystique, Chameleon Supper Club) adds attitude and salability.


How do you know for sure that you have a successful prop installation?

“A sign of a successful event is seeing guests having pictures taken with our props,” says David Kiedinger, chief creative officer with Big Top Productions of Newport News, Va. “The more pictures I see being taken, the more I know we nailed it.”

Read the full story in the September-October of Special Events, available only to subscribers. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.

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