DESIGN: Mix and Match

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September 01, 2013

Three concepts to ring in the New Year.

When you design an event environment, it is great to make it feel as authentic as you can. But not everything has to be "real."  The budget solution to any design challenge is to take one or two (or more) authentic pieces--an amazing chair, a great piece of art, a killer bar--and let those be the inspiration to launch the rest of the space, mixing and matching with discount store items, replicas, props or rental pieces. You can make any of these three concepts happen at any price point; just pick your pieces well.

A Modern Classic The show MadMen continues to have a strong cultural influence.  Since it premiered, it has driven the retro trend to classic mid-century style.  But before we raise our martini glass to another TV-based theme party, let's tweak the idea a bit and create a concept for the "modern classic." The storyboard for this event is masculine and styled; the party version of Ralph Lauren's Americana, a modern men's club. ES_mixmatch_bookshelves

Delight your guests with the unexpected, such as books shelved backwards.

The color palette: Masculine tones--think shades of wood or liquor such as mahogany, ebony, bronze, gold, honey, rosewood and cherry.   To this, add the metallic tones of nickels or iron.  For interest, blend in deep jewel tones in greens, blues and purples.  To modernize, the accent color is white.

The elements: Wood, bold stripe patterns in taupe and navy, or black and purple, leather, books, leather wingback chairs with metal studs, metal side tables, rugs, chandeliers with a golden tone, racing trophies or urns, animal heads or statues, topiaries or hedge walls.

The entertainment: Consider having a special martini bar complete with a true mixologist stirring up his or her own takes on the classic cocktails.  The fun is not just in their performance but in the homemade and fresh organic ingredients they're using. If you have a smoking crowd, a cigar rolling station can also provide interactive entertainment for the evening.

The have-to-have item: The horse.  Horses are on trend, whether it's a great painting of a horse above the bar or horse items interwoven into the table centerpiece. ES_mixmatch_masculine

Set the stage with masculine tones accented with jewel colors.

A Sultry Seduction For the second year in a row, Pantone has selected a warm tone for the color of the year-Tangerine Tango, which suggests that the world is still in the mood for color and in the spirit to get hot, hot, hot!  So why not heat up your spring flings with a red-based room filled with texture and sparkle?

The color palette: Red-based; think shades of make-up.  Then add silver or gold, clear or iridescent, and black.

The elements: Crystals, string curtain, candles, glass, drapes, tassels, tufted furniture, mirror, reclaimed wood spray-painted in shiny silver or gold, architectural flowers.

Keys to success: Layer textures on top of one another; invest in some really great pillows and layer polka dots on top of prints.  Make it new by adding in a modern element, such as a black or white ghost chair or a contemporary centerpiece, say baroque candlesticks that have been painted gloss black. ES_mixmatch_red

Seduction scenario: a red-based palette with silver and gold, and topped off with black. polka dots add a whimsical touch.

An Adventure, Pure and Simple People are ready for an adventure.  Pop culture and interior design shops are progressing from haute Hollywood into a look with a more adventuresome spirit.  Think Indiana Jones meets Pan-Am; we are ready to celebrate all things riveted--planes, trains or automobiles--and want to pack our old-world trunks for an adventure across the sea.

The color palette: All neutrals: taupe, ironwood, mud, beige, wheat, ivory, cream, black. Metallics can be mixed shades of silver and gold.  If you want the environment to pop with color,  stay with dark tones--sage, eggplant, or navy.  If you want to be more playful, bring in primary shades of red, blue, yellow and green.

The elements: Books stripped of their covers or assembled backwards in a bookcase, toy or model airplanes, trains, automobiles either made of metal or hand painted, film reels or cogs from clockworks, suitcases stacked in various sizes made of leather or with riveted edges and passport-like stamps, archival maps or images of cityscapes from the early 20th century, architectural hand drawings, reclaimed wood furniture, stone, riveted furniture made of silver metal, old reclaimed bronze tables, faux fur or the well-placed zebra rug.

Lighting this look: Oversized bronze chandeliers draped in crystals are perfect in this space.  Or blend an open-style bronze element with a crystal chandelier for a great look.  This is also the space to integrate large industrial lamps and hanging shades as chandeliers.  Or forgo the shade altogether and just hang strands of bronzed cable with giant old-fashioned light bulbs hung in a row over a table or bunched over the bar.  If you're lucky, they will even flicker a bit!

Originally published in Event Solutions Magazine February/March 2012

Ryan HansonRyan Hanson, CSEP is a visionary designer and event producer at BeEvents in Minneapolis.
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