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WHAT'S IN IN inventory? In February, Special Events Magazine polled its party rental readers to learn which products are the biggest hits with clients today. And they are:


The product category leading the pack is linen. And plain Jane white is out, replaced by linen in a riot of colors and textures. Damasks, organzas, sheers and iridescents are top client picks. The color palette varies, from elegant pastels (“pink, pink and more pink,” according to Apres Party & Tent Rentals, Minneapolis) to bright, bold colors (“Think of a Moroccan- or Rio-inspired palette,” advises Wildflower Linen, Santa Ana, Calif.). Texture is big, whether it comes naturally (as in nubby dupioni silk) or via embellishments such as embroidery or beading, according to Panache Party Rentals, Pompano Beach, Fla. And top tablecloths offer something extra: trims of beads, tassels and fringe.


In chairs, clients want a wide range of options, from natural woods (“Mahogany chiavaris with bone bengaline cushions,” says Los Angeles-based Classic Party Rentals) to metals (aluminum, according to Lasting Impressions of Columbus, Ohio) to colors (“Lots of gold, but also silver, dark wood, and cream and green for spring,” says DC Rental of Arlington, Va.) to finishes (mirror-finish stainless steel at London-based HSS Hire Service Group, red lacquer at Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals, Carrollton, Texas) to height (tall chiavaris suit tall tables, says Unique Tabletop Rentals, Rancho Dominguez, Calif.). An emerging trend: Padded seats are making news — Higgins Party Rentals of Toronto has struck gold with its padded-seat gold chiavaris featuring decorative gold tacks.


Clients are making a charge for unique chargers (“We cannot find such items fast enough,” Apres says) — especially colored chargers and glass mosaic chargers. Popular place settings still include the classics (white body, platinum rim) because “chefs still like neutral colors, with white their perennial favorite,” Unique Tabletop Rentals explains. But that basic benefits from the added fillip of a unique shape, especially geometric. M&M The Special Events Co., Carol Stream, Ill., says its clients go for different shapes in chargers and dinner and salad plates, then “mix and match the rounds and squares with basic dishware to give a new look.”


The more options, the better, our product poll says. Colored translucent glassware is a hit internationally, notably deep, pure colors. But the classics still charm: “Tall, plain crystal champagne flutes” are big for HSS. Two trends to watch: oversize glassware (the popularity of its 18-ounce crystal wine goblet leads Higgins Party Rentals to conclude “the bigger, the better”) and retro (“Remember those black glasses from the '70s?” Asks Unique Tabletop Rentals. “They're baaaack…”).


Clients say that the right tent silhouette spells “party.” A 20-by-20 spike-top pagoda style frame tent set up at the entryway “says the party will be fun,” Ducky-Bob's reports. There is “nothing more stunning” than a clear-top tent for evening, adds Higgins Party Rentals, while glass-sided tents make the landscape serve as decor, according to Kirby Rental Service, Orlando, Fla. The coming thing: “Clear-span tents are making a large dent in corporate entertaining that needs large floor space,” Apres says. “They are a harder sell in some private markets, but are for sure the wave of the future as far as larger events are concerned.”


For high-end events, the luxe look looms large: “We are moving beyond the basic fabrications to silks, brocades, organzas,” Wildflower notes. Also, “more accessories such as tassels, double sashes and braided cords.” Another key trend: the custom fit that only stretch fabric provides.


Stainless steel is surging ahead of silver, particularly high-luster European designs. Formality falls aside as patrons hanker for a handcrafted look. DC's “Twig” pattern brings the natural look to table settings, while Unique Tabletop Rentals points to arty pieces “that look like that little foundry down that back alley in Venice created them for fun.”


Apres Party & Tent Rentals, 952/942-3399; Classic Party Rentals, 310/202-0011; DC Rental, 703/671-7300; Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals, 972/381-8000; Higgins Party Rentals, 416/252-4050; HSS Hire Service Group, +44 020 8260 3100; Kirby Rental Service, 407/422-1001; Lasting Impressions, 614/252-5400; M&M The Special Events Co., 630/871-9999; Panache Party Rentals, 954/781-5335; Unique Tabletop Rentals, 310/764-0373; Wildflower Linen, 714/540-1777

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