Designing with natural decor brings tented events to life

July 1st, 2017 / By: / Industry News

A sailcloth tent paired with wooden poles and flooring achieves the natural look today’s brides and grooms want. Wedding coordinator: Clearly Classy Events. Photo: Sherry Hammonds Photography.

According to the color gurus at Pantone®, Greenery—the Pantone Color of the Year 2017—emblematizes our intrinsic desire to restore, revitalize and reconnect. Pantone calls the naturally neutral shade “symbolic of new beginnings”—a description appropriate to the thousands of weddings and other social events that occur under tents every year. “Green is a happy color,” says Susan Lee, event consultant for Mahaffey Tent & Event Rentals in Memphis, Tenn. “It is the color that means ‘go,’ the color of growth and prosperity, the color of life and the serenity of nature.”

Floral decor has long been a staple of tented event design. But with the popularity of rustic-themed events, a desire to bring the outdoors in and now the crowning of Greenery as the “it” color, tent and event professionals are envisioning how natural tones and textures can be reinterpreted and reach new heights. Paired with colorful accompaniments, natural design schemes will bring life to celebrations under tents in 2017.

Land of enchantment

Whether it’s the rolling hills of a golf club, an immaculate public garden or an intimate backyard, an event’s setting often influences the design within the tent. The growing interest in green cements this relationship.

With its location in the Pacific Northwest, Pacific Party Canopies Inc. of Burlington, Wash., plans many events that integrate greenery into the festivities.

“We like to bring the outdoors in for our clients, making it as though the tent belongs on the property,” says Jill Shipman, Event Specialist at Pacific Party Canopies.

To create an organic fit, Shipman recommends the company’s line of Epic pole tents. “You can add branches, ivy, moss or any type of greenery to the tent’s main poles or perimeter poles,” she says. “Just dry everything out or keep it as fresh as possible.”

Shipman also suggests softening the poles around the perimeter with pole drapes and adding a tie of ivy and burlap, “or even use succulents stuffed into moss and floral foam.”

A wedding at a Texas golf resort celebrates nature with a blend of vintage and modern elements. Gnarled-wood centerpiece bases wrapped in vines and topped with bold flowers form a canopy over vintage wood tables and flooring. Wedding coordinator: Clearly Classy Events. Photo: Bryant Hill Media.

While floral centerpieces remain the most common way to add greenery under a tent, event planners are also creating dramatic, one-of-a-kind plant-based event fixtures. Alison Laesser-Keck, co-owner of VLD Events of Santa Barbara, Calif., has hung giant floral chandeliers—a recent one measured more than 20 feet wide—over dance floors and bars. And she once suspended flowers and greenery between two wooden poles in a Sperry Tent to make it look like living material was growing above the bar.

Todd Pinzuti, owner of Bungalow 6 Design & Events in Minneapolis, Minn., created a similar feature for a wedding anchored by two 60-foot-long tables. “We made canopies overhead of greens, branches and florals,” he says. “The canopies made the guests feel transported, because when they looked up, all they saw was greenery.”

VLD once found design inspiration from an invitation, which was modeled after vintage field guides that explain herbs, trees and plants found in the forest. “When it came to the actual event, we had our designer mimic that pattern using real plants and herbs, re-creating it on a large scale behind the bar,” Laesser-Keck says.

Pinzuti believes that these types of “living walls” will become more popular. “Air plants are my favorite. They need no soil or water,” he says. “They also keep the weight of the wall from getting so heavy.”

Greenery doesn’t have to come in the form of grand design displays. Even a simple walk could unveil unexpected flourishes for a tented event. For example, Shipman will scout the property as the event nears and encourages her clients to do the same to collect items such as branches, logs, leaves and ivy.

“If you use a spray sealant to preserve the items, they can be sent home with guests as gifts, or the client can save them for their next event or home,” Shipman says.

Supporting cast

Designers’ use of green in 2017 isn’t solely relegated to foliage. “We can include this color from the bottom up with lush AstroTurf®, accent furniture, florals, draping, lighting and other decor items,” Lee says. She also points out that features from nature make a strong aesthetic impact when paired with more traditional items.

Designing with natural decor requires textural appeal, says Johnell Huebner, owner of Clearly Classy Events in Austin, Texas. “We like to offer cohesive textures to the overall look, wooden elements, glass and, of course, greenery with vines or moss,” she says.

When it comes to flooring, the grass itself can fulfill this role if conducive to the event’s location. Wood or wood laminate—often with a rustic or vintage look—pairs with nature-inspired designs as well. VLD, for example, is planning a wedding in the Midwest that will align with peak fall colors. “We selected a darker walnut to match the floor to the trees surrounding the tent,” Laesser-Keck says. “You should always do what makes sense with the site.”

Perhaps the easiest approach for introducing green to an event is through accessories and fabrics. “Incorporating tabletop elements such as chargers, napkins and even candleholders would be a beautiful way to accent with the Pantone greenery color,” Huebner says. “I have also seen some soft seating pop up in this color, and a lounge space under a tent with a green couch would be a show stopper.”

Natural fabrics such as muslin, burlap, linen, cotton and twill contribute to a “one with nature” aesthetic. Natural wood tables topped with soft burlap runners with a pop of color in the florals and napkins also help create unity, Shipman says. So does using herbs and succulents in the tablescapes.

When illuminating the tent, event planners agree that subtle lighting enhances the effect of green accents and natural decor. Popular budget-friendly options include lanterns, candles and perimeter string lights for soft ambience.

“Edison drop-down lights and natural-style chandeliers also are good choices, as is warm uplighting that reflects off the natural decor,” Shipman says. “You could also use lighting to place a pattern on the top of the tent, so at night it looks like the moon is shining through the trees and projecting the branches on the tent.”

Many designers find that, whether it’s in the form of foliage or fabric, a little bit of green goes a long way. For a summer wedding at a ski resort in northern Michigan, VLD created a “Festival in the Forest” theme. Guests were led through a “hallway” of pine trees toward a series of tents as a gospel choir sang.

“Even though a deep forest green was one of our primary colors, we really limited it,” Laesser-Keck says. “We used mauve and burgundy in the florals. It was a deep palette but at the same time felt light and ethereal.”

Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer based in Joshua Tree, Calif.

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