An Expert Series title – transform a venue

A blank canvas venue or rustic empty barn can seem very daunting. As a result the dream of a lavish dinner or drinks reception entirely themed to suit your needs can be a tricky task. However the power of venue transformation can ensure your guests are blown away and remember your party for years to come. We’ve spoken to the best planners and production teams in the city to piece together top tips and expert opinions on how to create your dream themed event.

We would love to see pictures of your event theming and beautiful events. Share with us @pearlandpear.

“venue transformation is taking a blank canvas and creating a wonderland” – Tim Hanbury, Apollo Event Consultants

 “This is something Apollo Event Consultants specialise in. I think every party planner longs for a blank canvas in which to create their magic. Why? As we all know working in venues does throw up limitations – it might be timings, parking, access to the room, noise pollution, limitations of the room itself, ceiling height, décor, access and the list goes on. This is mainly when working in the cities… however, get out into the country and the worlds your oyster!

 Over the last 15 years Apollo have been incredibly fortunate to have worked in some of the most beautiful houses in the English countryside. Here there is plenty of space in which to erect a marquee or transform a disused barn. The trick is to really understand your brief as best you can. Most of our parties include a theme of some kind, so we have to be very clear on how the client is visualising the theme and how we can transfer that into the venue or space we are going to work in. For example a country and western theme works really well in a barn while a Rococo theme – not so good!

Tim’s top tips for theming

“Never spend any money below waist height (literally!) Once the room is full of tables and chairs your guests won’t see it. Try and keep everything within the theme. Incorporate gorgeous styled table centres that are extravagant and everything theme related – you don’t want these letting the side down now.

Also, there are plenty of ways of bringing a theme to life without having to spend a fortune. For example look at a couple of signature pieces – the bar is a great example. Everyone will visit the bar throughout the evening therefore why not make it a wow factor!”

“Finishing touches can also add interest and we have a range of accessories!” – Susie Thomas, Twilight Trees

“There’s nothing Twilight Trees love more than a brief that allows us to transform a whole space. We always start with a site visit to a give us a feel of the space as well as investigating access requirements. Logistics are vital to us, so it’s important to have an idea of any potential obstacles before we start. If there is a theme or colour scheme, then we will see how we can weave our trees into this but if we have a blank canvas then all the better!

We have a great relationship with many suppliers including lighting specialists and florists. We love working with a variety of other creatives to get the most out of a space. If we are to create a forest of trees in a grand ballroom we might work with a florist who can dress the bases of the trees with an array of blooms and then use up lighters to add depth and shadow or cast different colours up into the trees.

Height is always a consideration and we like to use a range of our trees to add interest and variety. We are always considering eye line as we want the trees to work with the space and not obstruct it. We can use a variety of pots, plinths and other items to raise the height of the trees and work with a venue features, especially if it has lovely high ceilings.

Overall if you have confidence in your product, are certain of any restrictions and have the ability to work around them and aren’t afraid to work with other suppliers to create your vision, you will have an end product that won’t fail to be the desired wonderland and more!”

“Lighting can also play a prominent role and it’s important to draw on equipment which is individually suited for each space you work in” – Adam Hughes, White Light

“You can really bring a venue’s architecture to life through the use of subtle projection. For example, in previous events, we have traced the stone artwork with colour chases in the Barry Rooms at the National Gallery as well as the archways and beams in the Old Library at Guildhall. The subtle use of projection working with a venue’s architecture is not only cost effective but can create a stunning effect.

For an unforgettable event, bespoke animations can truly transform a space as well. Last year, our award-winning work at Banqueting House for Cambridge University saw us project map each individual window with customised content which created a completely immersive experience for those in attendance. Similarly, at the Tower of London Showcase, we project-mapped the Tower of London with effects such as flames and bricks crumbling. Each event saw us use video content specific to each venue in order to transform a traditional space and give guests an experience they weren’t expecting.

Alongside video, the use of audio is just as important. A bespoke soundscape, especially coupled with video content, can create a fully immersive experience and ensure that the space becomes all encompassing. Lighting can also play a prominent role. For instance, we often use wireless LED solutions such as CORE Lighting Uplighters as these eradicate the need for cables and are not dependent on a power supply which may not be available in certain older venues. Get in touch for your AV and production queries.”

“Know your goal give it a name and collect as many images as possible and share them with your stylist at the earliest opportunity” – Clive Hinton, Corvid Events

“Be imaginative, allow your supplier to create. For the gallery above we were given the brief of verdigris, Victorian glass house and gin and we were able to create this beautiful piece in a summer marquee. Note the detail in the pieces, everything down to hand painted botanical drawings on bell jars and the use of lots and lots of real ivy and moss! This detail becomes more important with areas that people get up close and personal with like bars. Stage sets are further away and impact is often more important than details that will be lost with distance.

In this case we wanted to create a journey, bringing the outside inside. We wanted to ensure that the space altered and changed during the event. The entrance walkway also turned into a dance floor and performance space and the glass house changed from a room divider into a fully functioning botanical gin bar with a walkway between both sides opening up the space.”

Clive’s top tips for event production

“Work with what you have, most venues naturally lead you down a route, don’t fight, work with it. If you are in a castle don’t try to turn it into a penthouse suite! Unless you are prepared to throw a lot of money at it!

Decide your focal points build around them.

Never spread yourself too thin, it’s better to concentrate on one area rather than weaken your impact – make sure that what you want to highlight is well lit too.

The initial ‘wow’ is important but if it’s outside remember that once your guests are inside they may never see that wow again.

Focus on places where people actively look – stage sets, dancefloors and bars. Use blackouts to make areas disappear. Black equals “it’s gone!”

Raise up your signature pieces. Don’t forget what’s above you! But again don’t weaken the look by spreading too thin. We love using fabrics to cover and then foliage on top.

And lastly, please remember basic physics, gravity is real and things don’t just hang in midair without support – apart from balloons! Often the means of holding something up can be more time consuming and expensive than what is attached. We find illustrative sketches will generate interest and enthusiasm and allow more flexibility from your client.”

“Transforming a venue with WowGrass really is the ultimate way to bring the outside indoors… quite literally.” – Sophie Moss, WowGrass

 “Using WowGrass for events would transform the space with the impact and authenticity of real grass yet without any mud. Also, it even smells of real grass. WowGrass is grown onto a felt which makes it soil-free underneath so it can be rolled up and removed without leaving any mess behind. It is a uniquely versatile product in that it looks great on its own but can totally transform an area once dressed with props and flowers.

Not only does WowGrass help to create a total venue transformation but we can add unique focal points to any event with some of our furniture hire items. Be it a grass sofa, photowall or fully working grass bar. Some of our favourite transformations are usually our most challenging, this is generally because it is a complex project with many suppliers all working together to create something spectacular. In conclusion our favourite examples have got to be; Festival in the Sky at Sushi Samba, Trafalgar Square, At home at the Savoy with Bruce Russell as well as Quintessentially Weddings at Somerset House.”

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