Event design trends: Observations for 2016

Noz_Nozawa_small Peerspace partnered with Noz Nozawa, founder of Noz Design, to better understand event design trends. In this post, Nozawa shares her observations of 2016 event design trends and practical ideas for planning stand-out events. For more information on the types of venues discussed in the post, read our event venue guide.

2016 is going to be the Year of The Event. At least for me. Outside of my usual house parties, I’ll be planning my wedding this year, an anniversary celebration for my lil design business, and at least a couple major BBQs. And so, lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to event venues, and how interior design + decorating trends are influencing event design.

Here are two key observations on where I see event design heading this year:

Heavy Personalization – Making the event really reflective of you

Since early 2015, I’ve noticed that event hosts have increasingly wanted to make their celebrations and parties a true reflection of them. They are less concerned about checking all the boxes on traditional event details. I love this trend. If you’re going to invest $$$$ in an event, why should you feel like you have to spend on XYZ just because it’s the “appropriate” thing to do?

Event Design Trends 2016 - Rustic venues

I should caveat, though, that I’m talking about true personalization of event details and design, and not DIY/handmade events. Nothing against pinning, but for a few years, a lot of weddings and birthday parties started to display what felt like the same DIY decorations made popular and discoverable by Pinterest. There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just much more excited about hosts altogether eschewing ideas they’ve seen and instead prioritizing details that feel really authentic.

Here are some examples of a few ideas that feel fresh:

  • Foregoing the formal sit-down dinner at a wedding and opting instead for super casual food stations that serve ice cream and fried chicken, with no assigned seating!
  • Creating and commissioning art as venue decor, which is meant to live on after the event as artwork in the hosts’ home or office.
  • Mismatched event furnishings for an eclectic vibe, or very specific styles of rental furniture. I’m seeing more and more vintage furniture rental companies pop up, which is fantastic because I’m so over the white tablecloth-with-bamboo-chair look.

The kinds of venues that I find are most conducive to this movement toward personalized, reflective-of-self events are industrial warehouses, in addition to venues that seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Event Design Trends 2016 - Industrial Warehouses

Warehouses, for all their industrial-chic appeal, are basically giant, high-ceiling shells. This makes them an ideal blank canvases to put your mark on the venue. Also, because their interiors often have exposed + easily accessible structural elements like ceiling I-beams, it’s likelier that if you have an ambitious decor installation vision (like hanging artwork on walls, installing your own chandeliers, or ziplining through your own party – seriously, I’ve seen this!), the venue will have the capacity to accommodate, whereas a venue with a fully finished interior would be rather leery of nails going into walls or anything.

Upending traditional seating

It may sound a little hippie-dippie, but the way a space invites its guests to be seated (or not) on arrival can completely transform, elevate, and inform the mood and energy of a group of people. I’ve spent a ton of time observing this at parties, and at events I’ve hosted in my own home. The furniture arrangement influences whether a guest reclines into a sofa, or stands at the entrance waiting to be invited to have a seat. And consider cocktail parties: no chairs, just high-boy tables. They’re designed that way to keep guests standing, encouraging them to move about the space, mingle, and network.

This is why there’s one thing I recommend to all my interior design clients: that whatever rules they’ve been told in the past about “appropriate seating” for a space – forget it. For example,”You should have 2 matching accent chairs in your living room.” Nope, you are free to be more eclectic. I could rattle off countless age-old decorating rules that I don’t believe in, but it goes without saying that no one has ever accused me of being a traditionalist.

Event Design Trends 2016 - Eclectic and bohemian venues

But as for events, traditional seating has stuck around. This is in part because there are often functional reasons for having, say, tables and chairs at a team offsite. What I’ve seen a bit of lately, and would love to see more of in 2016, are events that have been planned with thoughtful consideration to how seats and seating arrangements influence the vibe of an event.

Here’s an example:

Let’s take a company offsite of about 20 people, who has the goal of “brainstorming product ideas” and “team-building.” The standard environment that coworkers would expect to walk into is a room with desk-height tables and chairs, and either they sit wherever, or are assigned to a table. Such an offsite would give off the vibe of “this day is about productivity and getting some work done,” right? At least that’s how it felt when I was a corporate butterfly. But imagine if the offsite were instead set in a bohemian-chic space, where the tables were coffee table height, and the seats were low-slung sofas, poufs, and floor pillows. That setting changes employees’ expectations about the offsite right from the start. It gets them out of the mindset that it’s just another workday because it is casual and encourages relaxed conversation. Overall, it’s a gesture to imply that conventional office rules need not apply in this space.

Event Design Trends 2016 - Eclectic Venues

Of course, there are other event venue trends that just won’t quit, and will persist (for good reasons) into 2016. Here’s a few:

  • Rustic farmhouses on wineries or lavish estates are beautiful and transport you from the hustle & bustle. They make it easy to throw an event that photographs well and establishes a clear aesthetic and vibe.
  • Venues with midcentury modern furniture are the “skinny jean of decor.” This style has been around, we know it when we see it, but it’s just so functional, space-efficient, and good-looking that it’s here to stay. This is true whether we like it or are kind of over it. (We’re not over it.)

Event Design Trends 2016 - Mid-Century Modern Venues

All in, a lot to look forward to on the event horizon. I’m excited to think that more people will feel liberated to consider unique venues that can actually help influence how they plan their event. With party planning on my brain this year, there’ll be more tips and event design musings to come. Want to follow them as they come? Check out my blog.

-Noz Nozawa


To learn more about the venue styles outlined above, read the Guide to Understanding Venue Design.

How To Choose A Venue, A guide to understanding venue design