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Your furniture choices and table dressing are key elements of any event. Comfort, condition and cost are the three main considerations. Asking delegates to sit on uncomfortable chairs for extended periods is a definite no-no. Likewise wobbly tables and shabby sofas. So it pays to do a bit of research before booking a supplier.
What separates the best from the rest is care – both for the furniture and for the client (that’s you). The first question you should ask potential candidates is how often their furniture is cleaned or renovated. The right answer here being that every piece is checked after every event, and retouched if necessary. You want to hire furniture that looks brand spanking new, not as if it’s been used in a Wild West bar-fight scene.
Decide what sort of furniture you want to hire. Traditional or contemporary? There are companies out there specialising in stylish designer pieces, often offered at surprisingly similar prices to more run-of-the mill options. Be bold: why not consider LED-lit furniture? It’s available in up to 2,000 colours.
Ask your supplier to send pictures. If you’re in any doubt as to the comfort of the chairs, ask to test them. Remember that you’ll need chair pads for dining chairs – these may or may not be included in your quote so double-check.
Consider how much space you have. The rule of thumb is to allow 12sq ft per 6ft table. A 6ft table should seat 12 guests – but perhaps as few as eight if the table setting is for formal dining (your venue should know). And think about how accessible your venue is – a large sofa might not be the best choice for a party on the top floor of a Georgian townhouse. Whatever you opt for, make sure you have a few spare for extra guests.
If you don’t want to have too formal an atmosphere for a sit-down dinner, think about hiring different-sized tables. Oval tables are a good compromise between rounds and trestles (more sociable but tighter on space) and are becoming increasingly popular. If you are going with traditional rounds, consider that you can talk across an eight-seater table with a 5ft space but just that extra six inches makes it harder over a 10-person table.
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2013.