‘Up-cycling’ Sparks Trend in Event Design
As a premier designer in Dallas, Marion Marshall has created many a floral arrangement. Typically, her materials come from floral supply businesses and various retailers. Recently, however, she was charged with creating a tablescape for an event put on by Kappa Kappa Gamma Fort Worth, the local chapter of a sorority alumni association. This time, she chose to source her materials from a much less conventional place — the street in front of her house.
“I was coming in from errands and they had just finished trimming the trees,” she said. “And guess what? A fabulous design was created.” The tree branches added just the right height, texture and movement to the tulips and hydrangeas anchoring the piece.
Marshall is one of a growing number of designers who are adapting their processes to an economic environment in which ostentatious spending is suddenly highly unfashionable. Call it redux design, or “up-cycling” — an ethos of self-reliance and resourcefulness that values low cost and low environmental impact as both an aesthetic and an M.O. Often, this means using repurposed and salvage materials.
Instead of purchasing crystallized sand for vase filler, for example, Kia Martinson-Wenzel, event coordinator and owner of Connecticut-based ESTOccasions, uses table salt at a savings of around $3.50 a vase, and she’s not above turning to mother nature for her décor.
“We have gone into the woods and found branches we can use instead of purchasing ones for certain clients,” says Martinson-Wenzel. What nature can’t provide, Martinson-Wenzel often finds in her clients’ homes or her own. “I’ve taken wine glasses and dropped tea lights into them and accented a whole room. It is a simple, yet very effective way of using what the client has at a small cost to them.”
Kathleen Esterquest, director of sales for Chicago-based Kehoe Designs, has been creating “self-reliant green décor” for the past 10 years. She will turn tractor seats into chairs, magazines into tables and cans into Christmas trees. For Esterquest, her inspiration comes from everyday life — a pile of magazines in a lunchroom becomes a high-top table made of recycled magazines.
“These designs are a way to not only give back to our environment, but also give the client a sense of ease when budgeting for décor,” says Esterquest. “With more and more clients looking to stretch their dollar without sacrificing design quality, we have found that using recycled elements and local vendors can achieve both.” And the response is often worth far more than the monetary savings.
“Right from the start everyone was saying, ‘Wow, that’s really clever,’” says Esterquest. “Not only is it green, but it’s an attractive, cool design that gets people talking. The décor is really what brings you closer together.”
This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of Event Solutions.