Decide the style of furniture that will best suit your event and any restrictions that might impact on the style. Will it need to be weatherproof, space-saving? Do you have a brand to promote and the furniture needs to reflect that? Is the event formal or informal? What's the theme? What's your colour palette?
TIP - Using Designed for Hire's mood board tool can help define this. You can upload images from your pc and add blocks of colour to your mood board to ensure that your chosen furniture works within the theme. Alternatively, start a pinterest board and pull together lots of things you like to see how they work together. Leave it a few days and come back to it. Keep editing until your gut tells you that it's perfect. If you have a high budget, you could approach a graphic designer to show it in 3D using Studio Max software or similar. You'll find 3D designers on freelancer websites.
How do you narrow down the style if you are torn in several directions? If it's a wedding or party, wedding blogs and high fashion magazines are a source of inspiration. Check out the decor and themes of your favourite fashion shoots or designers.
If you're aiming to create a cohesive, on trend designer feel with furniture, you'll find inspiration in the interior decor of newly-opened boutique hotels and in luxury travel magazines. Copy some of the best designers in the world, who had large budgets and teams of stylists. Challenge yourself to replicate that on a budget and you have a template for your event. It's common to see the trends and furniture pieces of new boutique hotels replicated on the high street two years later. So you'll still be ahead of the curve!
Have you calculated how much furniture can fit into the space before you place an order? Your hire company may be able to help with this if you give them a floor plan. When ordering bulky items, such as sofas or bars, remember to check access. Are doors and lift wide enough?
Transportation is one of the biggest hidden (or transparent) costs when hiring furniture. It's understandable that a delivery team, large vehicle, fuel and insurance costs are going to add up. So try to limit how many vehicles are delivering to your event, by checking with hire companies if they can offer more. That marquee company might have great chairs, a DJ booth, a dance floor and patio heater. If they don't have it in stock, they might get it for the event at a lower price than hiring from elsewhere.
The earlier you start a conversation with hire companies the better. It's no surprise that there are peak periods when hire companies are booked out.
"Many of the events we design and build are in busy, premium spaces, such as hotel ballrooms. Access time to install an event is extremely limited, as the space is usually in booked by other clients before and after the event we are planning.
We start planning conference sets around six months in advance to ensure that build, which is often condensed into just one or two nights, goes perfectly and everything is seamlessly in place, ready for the client hours before the event starts. There is no room for tardiness in the conference or exhibition world.
A build schedule includes unloading, laying cables for AV, stage building, erecting lightboxes and branded panels, overhead rigging, temporary flooring, cladding columns, and finally bringing in bars and furniture - sometimes for up to 500 pax.
Our clients know that if they want a well-branded, impactful set for their conference, then starting early gives them plenty of decision-making time. It also has a positive effect on their budget, as last minute clients inevitably pay a premium for workshop and design overtime, express deliveries and are limited to sourcing only items that are in stock at short notice." --Tom Tamlyn, Director, Elevations Exhibition Design & Management.
If you are having outside caterers, take plenty of photos when inspecting the venue and email them to your caterer well in advance. They will plan where trays will be stacked and where plating up will happen. Ask the venue for specifics on power supply in the kitchen - some convector ovens have a high initial draw, so your caterer will want to know which sockets are available for planning their equipment.
"Open and honest communication with your caterer is key to a successful event. Tell them any concerns you have. They want to fulfill your expectations but can't do that if you keep them in the dark. Likewise, listen to your caterer's advice, as they've done this many times before and can predict issues which you might not have foreseen. A great relationship with your caterer will reduce your stress levels in the run up to an important event!" -- Ralf Dekorsy, Wild & Wiese, Berlin
Choosing furniture is one of the fun parts of designing an event. But don't let your personal taste blind you to the requirements of your guests. Is it a networking event? In which case high tables with just a little high seating might help the flow. Is it a presentation area with a quick turnaround? In which case easy access in and out is a priority. Once you focus on the aim of your event and zoned it where required, selecting furniture becomes much easier.