Colorado Meetings + Events challenged two Colorado décor firms, Decor by Design and Pink Monkey Solutions, to design a vignette of their choice and show three diff erent price points using the same overall look. The result was a Colorado rustic lounge scene photographed at Decor by Design’s Denver warehouse and an elegant tablescape Pink Monkey created at blanc in Denver’s RiNo district.
SUBTLE TWEAKS TRANSFORM TABLESCAPE
Pink Monkey Solutions, a Denver-based special event design and production company, incorporated marble, slate, velvet and rustic wood elements into a stylish tablescape setting that varied by changing out chairs, linens and chargers, and adding and subtracting candles, hanging elements and florals.
The least expensive option features seethrough ghost chairs, a pretty centerpiece in peach and cream tones, and items that a venue might have on hand, such as basic flatware and ivory napkins. Gold acrylic chargers mixed with pretty votives and candles floating in clear cylinders look more expensive than they are, and a velvet runner is easier on the wallet than a full tablecloth. Also, a marble charger under the floral arrangement ties into a trend that is popular without going all out with it.
For the look that falls into the middle-ofthe-road cost category, Pink Monkey’s designer bumped up the linen napkins, glasses and flatware a notch and used marble chargers at each place setting. Oak cross-back chairs and lichen-covered branches bring the wood element more to the forefront. A dangling iron sphere adds vertical interest without special rigging for electricity.
The highest-end tablescape design features a velvet floor-length tablecloth; upgraded napkins, votives and chairs; amber goblets; rosegold flatware; and slate chargers with a subtle bay leaf detail placed in the right corner. Two additional florals and an antler chandelier complete the classy look.
“Pink Monkey Solutions prides itself on its process. We believe that the design process should be as fun as the event itself,” says owner Mike Baugh. “We encourage our clients to be bold and to dream. After all, an event is a celebration and therefore the perfect opportunity to just go for it!”
By thoroughly exploring a client’s passions and desires, a décor company can create an event that is truly unique. “Of course budget constraints must be taken into consideration, and the job of any skilled design firm is to marry a client’s desires with the realities of their budget. We know that we must deliver value to our clients, and we take that responsibility very seriously. However, we believe you should have fun while doing so,” he says. “If we have done our job right, then that will be felt by every guest and our clients will experience a dream event for whatever their budget is.”
BUILDING ON A LOUNGE LOOK
Ashley Haas Youngswick, senior creative designer for Decor by Design (part of Denver-based By Design Collective), chose an industrial rustic style for the lounge she created, presenting variations in size and elements added and subtracted for various price levels. “Industrial rustic is fairly new. In Colorado, the rustic look has been popular for a long time, but clients are going for a cleaner, bolder look,” she explains.
Youngswick notes that lounges are a good way to create “a warm environment with textures and backdrop” especially for gatherings held in venues that provide a fairly blank slate.
The most basic design she assembled demonstrates that “less can be more when creating the perfect lounge for an event,” Youngswick says. “With simple candlelight and pops of texture, you can still have an amazing lounge with just a few additional elements.”
Jumping to the most expensive of the three lounge options, she shows how to extend the lounge space by adding in shelving and a live element. “Layering the furniture with mix-and-match patterns and textures creates warmth and whimsy,” she suggests. “Oversized lanterns, intimate lighting and touches of metal complete the look and feel.”
Adding tables, lamps, leather throws and accent pieces gives the largest lounge a richer look, but Youngswick was able to achieve a very similar middle look “without breaking the bank” by strategically eliminating some of the larger pieces (the plant wall and lanterns). She says, “By keeping textures and prints, we are still able to achieve a beautiful vignette.”
Many times, when clients first come in, “vignettes like this aren’t necessarily a priority, it’s the catering and other items. They get that budget worked out and see what is left,” she says. “They can live without a lounge but not great food and a bar.”
First and foremost, she encourages clients not to be scared about adding special touches like lounges and bringing their ideas to the table. “They can typically afford these types of things, and usually there is a way for us to create something they see on Pinterest and other places.”
Visual tools like Pinterest didn’t exist when Youngswick started out in the décor industry and are requiring designers to be more flexible in merging their ideas with a client’s vision, she says. “It forces you to be more creative in dealing with unrealistic expectations and figuring out how to make it work within their price range. It has become more challenging.”
However, sometimes it only requires removing a few pieces from the initial look presented to fit a set budget.
DESIGN BOARDS HELP VISUALIZE OPTIONS
When discussing the best way to show clients various options, both Baugh and Youngswick emphasized the importance of design boards in conveying a vision for the décor and discussing budget.
“Pink Monkey firmly believes in the old saying: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ The design board moves the conversation from words to images. This allows for both the designer and the client to speak visually and share a common language,” Baugh says. “Once we have identified what aesthetic our clients are responding to, we are far more capable of designing the event that matches their dreams and budgets.”
Decor by Design also creates design boards for almost every event. “For someone who doesn’t deal with design, furniture pieces and florals, a design board is really helpful,” Youngswick says. “People often don’t know what they want or need, so giving them a large variety of options like this is very helpful.”
Sometimes it involves “working backwards with a client, giving them a design board to see how they can elevate their event to the next level,” she suggests.
COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES
Jill Livingston, owner/creative director of Eclectic Hive in Denver and a Colorado Meetings + Events Hall of Fame inductee, encourages clients to carefully review décor estimates. When bidding for business, Eclectic Hive asks the client to rank what is most important for their program between four items:
» Best value or lowest pricing
» Creativity in design
» Guidance throughout the process
» Guest experience
When comparing bids, it is important to understand the differences. “If they choose best value or lowest pricing, it’s always tricky because with décor, you aren’t comparing apples to apples,” Livingston cautions. “As an example, we include the labor to set/strike our inventory and other companies do not. Therefore our line item cost is higher.”
Overhead and design services also impact cost. “Sometimes pricing includes the overhead based on the size of décor company. There is often a variance between large and small companies when looking at the administrative fees (or the lack thereof) as overhead has to be covered somewhere. Finding those hidden costs can sometimes be tricky for the client,” she says.
Knowing the quality a guest wants also is key. As an example, she says, “it may cost $100 for a 15-year-old sofa that has tears in the back versus a $300 sofa that is brand new. This is where apples to apples gets really tricky!”
HANDY DÉCOR TIPS
Here are some savvy tips to make the most impact with a décor budget.
ASHLEY HAAS YOUNGSWICK
Decor by Design
» Select large pieces to make a statement, items like a large coffee table, oversized chair and couch. The cost of renting or buying smaller detail pieces can add up quickly.
» Go a bit bolder with color. In an all-white event space, white furniture blends in and doesn’t have a large impact.
» Mix-and-match patterns are more eye-catching.
» For a backdrop, bring in some enclosing walls, a large print or something with height.
» Reinvent what you already have such as pillows, throws, etc.
Pink Monkey Solutions
» Lighting is singularly the most cost-effective way to change a space, whether it is a pattern on the floor or chandeliers pulling focus up.
» Focus your budget on a custom piece that truly tells your story and provides a wow factor.
» Consider ways to engage guests in an immersive environment. Games and activities are an underutilized and cost-effective element. This technique allows guests to physically connect with an event in a way that they otherwise would not be able to.
WHAT’S TRENDING IN DÉCOR
It’s always fun to hear about the latest approaches. Check out what two design pros have to say.
» There is a big push to move away from neutrals and bring color back into the palette (especially with weddings). Bold, primaries and soft pale hues are making a big splash in furniture.
» Modern, modern, modern. Mirrored furniture and accents, acrylic and metallics are all making a big comeback. Trends we’ve seen over the decades but now we are seeing it achieved in mass, which makes it much more impactful in one environment.
» Rustic and restored is still very much alive. Colorado has seen a lot of applications with iron, reclaimed wood and distressed leather and that isn’t changing anytime soon.
ASHLEY HAAS YOUNGSWICK
Decor by Design
» One of my favorite trends is the mix-and-match element with different patterns, textures and colors of metals (e.g., silvers, coppers, rose gold).
» In 2018, strong is beautiful; it’s all about power and strength. It’s no surprise that event design is going in that direction as well.
» What was once considered masculine is now looked at as feminine as well. A dark lounge with metals, wood and leathers would traditionally be sold as bold and macho but now can easily be used for a women-focused event. It is no surprise to me that Pantone’s color of the year (ultra violet) is the result of mixing a feminine color and a masculine color together.