From retro egg chairs to Louis XVI reproduction tables, the furniture available to hire at events is in a creative boom. Access sits down with industry leaders.
The hot pink Chesterfield or the elegant straight-backed chairs? Anyone who has ever planned an event knows the trauma of choosing just the right furniture.
When the event in question is the BRIT Awards or the Chelsea Flower Show (regular calendar dates for a few of the companies featured here), there’s a bit more pressure to make sure the furniture matches guests’ standards, be they royal or rock star.
Providing furniture for events encompasses “a great deal more than people think,” laughed Furniture On the Move managing director Ian Harvey. “It’s not just about having items on the shelf that are dispatched and returned to our warehouse.” Furniture On the Move keeps on staff a French polisher for all the wooden furniture, a specialist leather repair technician to re-spray the Chesterfields and leather items, an upholsterer to recover any damaged pieces and a warehouse team to make sure everything goes out in spiffy condition.
This wide-ranging team is not unique to Furniture On the Move: Event Prop Hire, Spaceworks, IVB Direct and D-Zine all confirmed that the furniture supplier game requires more than simply plonking a few chairs and tables in an event space.
“Providing furniture hire for any event can be a complex or simple operation depending on how organised a company is,” said Angela Joel, D-Zine’s sales and marketing manager. “Essentially, each individual client chooses their range of furniture hire. Once ordered, it goes through a process that involves supply, prepping the furniture for departure and then logistics, resulting in the end product arriving on stand in a pristine condition.”
In addition to keeping products in good condition, it’s also the job of the furniture supplier to have a fully stocked range that will appeal to any event organiser, whether it’s for a black tie affair or an outdoor sporting event.
“Our furniture range is completely eclectic,” said Event Prop Hire’s managing director Rosie Ellis. “We have a large range of classic Chesterfield-style furniture for more traditional settings, but as a theming company, we also provide loads of more unusual furniture.”
And by ‘unusual furniture,’ Ellis specifically means that hot pink Chesterfield mentioned earlier. Event Prop Hire also offers grass-covered Chesterfields, illuminated seating of all shapes and sizes, American diner-style seating, traditional pub furniture, cinema or airline seats, deckchairs, coffee and poseur tables, giant flower or toadstool seating and – for the Game of Thrones cosplayers – actual thrones.
IVB’s George Bowden told Access that his company provides furniture for chill outs, clubs, outdoor events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, office parties and all holidays.
Spaceworks, part of Arena Group, offers a more classic range. “We offer a wide range of event furniture on hire,” said Spacework’s Chris Piggott. “This can range from simple trestle tables and chairs, to garden furniture, to exclusive, antique-style leather sofas or contemporary modern cube furniture.”
Furniture On the Move boasts designer pieces, industrial furniture and lighting, a range of Chesterfields and, impressively, Louis XVI reproduction furniture.
D-Zine, while providing modern and contemporary furniture to the events and exhibitions industries, also prides itself on offering a bespoke service. “With our in-house upholstery and soon-to-arrive carpentry and spray booth service, we are on hand to be a one-stop service for all requirements,” Joel told Access.
With so much furniture ready to be swept up and taken to events at a moment’s notice, Furniture On the Move’s Harvey said that the biggest challenge is keeping everything in great condition. Harvey, an ex-production manager, was inspired to start his own company after facing disappointment with the state of furniture at his events.
“As so much of our furniture is white, the challenge is to keep it ‘like new’ each time,” he said. “I was often frustrated with the quality of the furniture that came onsite at events, which is why [at Furniture On the Move] we tend to replace our equipment after a few months.”
Harvey also highlighted a challenge that seems common across the industry: getting those unique pieces – often significant in size and weight – into the venue.
“With more and more unique venues being established in small enclaves in central London, the variety is certainly there – the access often isn’t,” he said. IVB’s Bowden agreed: “I’m still surprised by sizes of lifts, corridors and doorways!”
Piggott described a particularly access-challenged event for Spaceworks at the Olympic Park: “A recent challenging event was the ‘Revolution Series’ in the Olympic Velodrome at Lee Valley VeloPark, where access to the venue was extremely restricted because of the outdoor cycling track,” he said. “We utilised drip trays under our delivery vans in order to maintain the surface and ensured our team carried the equipment over 200 metres into the building. This team was deployed to the site for the duration of the event across the weekend, in order to ensure smooth installation, replacement of fresh catering equipment and de-rig.”
Once the challenges are surmounted, however, most event briefs are fun to plan and execute. Favourite events range from a Duran Duran, McFly and Sugababes gig (Furniture On the Move), Farnborough International Airshow (D-Zine), Silverstone (IVB), Goodwood (Spaceworks) and Allied PRA’s British-themed Christmas event (Event Prop Hire).
“Our business is predominantly about fun,” said Ellis. “Theming is our core business and therefore creating fantastic themed areas with both our classic and themed furniture and our unique props is an everyday occurrence for us.”
Harvey at Furniture On the Move singled out a “very 70s” event that had a Space 1999 theme as being one of his favourites – perhaps because they got to show off their retro egg chairs – while Spacework’s Piggott said that the satisfaction of delivering and creating a great environment is his favourite part of the job.
The excitement about creating awe-inspiring sets is something that Spaceworks, Event Prop Hire, Furniture On the Move and D-Zine share. It drives these companies to continue innovating and working to make their businesses better.
“We are constantly introducing innovative, fresh and design-led pieces to our brochure,” said D-Zine’s Joel. “We monitor opinion within the industry and understand the need for fresh, new and exciting furniture that will make an impact on stand.”
Event Prop Hire is working on a new modular furniture range and will soon introduce a full selection of classic tweed furniture. The company’s popular illuminated furniture range is also being expanded, and a sustainable bamboo range for outdoor events was recently introduced.
Furniture On the Move tries to introduce new products every month or so and is in talks with a Dutch designer and Turkish supplier to supply exclusive products. “We are also very pleased to be using more and more British suppliers,” Harvey said.
Meanwhile, Spaceworks have invested a massive £450,000 to expand its range in an effort to meet demands for this summer’s events. This includes 5,000 specific pieces of furniture for the Gleneagles 2014 Ryder Cup, more products added to the LED illuminated furniture range and a vintage brassiere-themed Tolix Range of high-end press steel stools, armchairs and tables.
Spaceworks will also supply furniture to the Grand National, Goodwood events, the BMW PGA Championships, AEGON Tennis Championships and Wimbledon.
The festival season is keeping everyone incredibly busy, with D-Zine and Event Prop Hire naming too many events to list here. Fashion Week keeps Furniture On the Move busy, and their presence at Chelsea Flower Show, racecourses and golf championships will help the company live up to its name.
With so many events on their plates, Event Proper Hire, D-Zine, IVB Direct, Spaceworks and Furniture On the Move are proving that the furniture industry has more than just a leg to stand on.
This was first published in the May issue of AAA. Any comments? Email Emma Hudson