I was asked to help create “ambiance” for a cheese and wine evening in a multi-purpose room in our church centre where people would want to come and feel welcomed and cared for. Here follows what we did in the hope that you can get some ideas for an event or party of yours. Please note that I wish I had taken more photos for you and the ones I did take were rushed!
These were the four specific challenges needed to be overcome to create a chic, evening feel for this multi-purpose space.
- multiple notice boards around the room with multi-coloured children’s artwork, and no consistency to style.
- lots of brown painted doors and woodwork that are not an appetising colour of brown and dominate the space.
- overhead very bright strip lighting.
- room size being too large for a cosy feel with uncertain number of guests. It is possible to make the space larger or smaller by closing or removing doors.
When decorating a room for an event or party, there are four areas to start your planning with; theme, neutralising the room, space, lighting, and decoration.
The event was a cheese and wine evening with the decor needing to be similar and reused if possible the following week for an Alpha supper.
My initial thoughts for a theme was to take cheese and wine as a starting point to try and create a rustic, wine bar and deli feel. That meant food type materials and utilising items associated with those food types in the decor. Think wine bottles, crates, hampers, brown paper, coffee sacks, and herbs. The budget was limited and the first place to start was to borrow and use what I and the church already had.
Neutralising the room
Some rooms are perfect blank canvases and you can skip this step – hurrah! Other rooms are a little more tricky, like the room we had that is used as a preschool 4 days a week and is also the church centre used for children’s church and coffee – hence the noticeboards and children’s artwork.
The first step was how to overcome challenge 1 and 2 (noticeboards and brown woodwork). It would be too much to remove and replace everything on the walls so in order to make the space calm and relaxed then the visual stimulation of the notice boards needed to be neutralised. This would create a blank canvas to draw attention to the purpose and function of the evening and create a chilled out vibe. My solution was to cover the notice boards with rolls of brown paper, while my first instinct was to avoid brown – (because of the dominance of brown painted doors) – brown paper was cheap and easy to get hold of, the paper was also a more neutral tone of brown than the paint and more appealing but not clashing with it to draw attention to it either. It also has associations with vintage food and cheese wrapping, perfect for the theme.
We shut off one third of the room space by keeping the glass paned doors closed and covered them with the brown paper, which created a cosier space without the windows.
To create softer lighting more suited to an evening, we used lots of candles in lanterns and dinner candles in wine bottles on small tables. Across the middle of the room is a beam from where I hung a light feature I created. To make it I used a hanging wreath that I have which has hooks in, I made some tassels from twine and hung them at different lengths, I added some rope wrapped around it and a tasseled curtain tie back. I found a battery powered string of lights that had funky light bulbs on and wrapped those around. The whole thing functioned as a rustic funky looking chandelier and added light. The photos don’t do it justice but it was an interesting talking point.
The chandelier and some rustic looking bunting made from twine and coffee sack flags helped to bring the ceiling height down to add to the cosy feel.
I covered three polystyrene wreath forms in strips of hessian and coffee sacks and hung three of them together with more twine.
Feasts for the eyes
A big feature for setting the scene, welcome and ambiance was creating a visual vignette in the eyeline of guests as they walked through the door. We borrowed some wicker hampers and wine crates and wicker bottle carriers. I stacked them up interestingly, added a large pot plant, some potted herbs and candle lanterns. Because the crates were quite deep, I placed the herb pots on upturned paper cups to give them height.
To distract from the brown paper backdrop, I made some rosemary wreaths by adding rosemary bunches to wooden hoops or a vine wreath base and hung them on top of the paper, at points around the room.
Other decoration ideas that I didn’t get photos of.
I asked friends to keep their empty wine bottles, and we put dinner candles in some and single white tulips in others and dotted them around the room.
On the serving tables we had green table cloths with runners of brown paper. Using sticky backed chalkboard roll and skewers I made little chalkboard flags for cheese names.
I hand lettered some witty cheese quotes in black pen on lengths of brown paper and hung those behind the cheese table. Similar to this chalkboard one:
I hope that there are some ideas here that you can steal for your event and that it all goes well! If you start with a theme, neutralising the room, space, lighting, and decoration, then beg, borrow and up-cycle to create your styled event then you are nearly there. After that it’s just the hard work of implementing it all!