The Great Escape: Creating a ‘Sanctuary’ for Event Attendees

October 6, 2022

Lilian Shen

Lilian Shen, MBA, is the director of marketing for CORT Events, the leading furniture rental supplier for events, meetings and trade shows in the contiguous U.S. She has served as a marketing and customer success lead throughout her past three years at the company.

With two years of various restrictions, work-from-home conditions and fewer options outside of our homes, we had ample opportunity to reflect on and reassess what it is attendees will most desire when they return to the show floor. At the top of the list is the one space many of us may have taken for granted prior to 2020: the outdoors.

With a renewed gratitude for gorgeous scenery and fresh air, folks are far less inclined to settle for the mundane, florescent, insular and frankly, boring indoor environments of past live events. 

Couple this with an unspoken competition with the comfort of one’s home, it’s clear that the new generation of events must not only be invigorating and impactful, but also beautiful, comfortable and memorable.

Creating an Escape With Biophilic Design

Before we go into examples for creating an escape for your attendees, let’s pause and look at biophilic design, as it has a lot of influence over the ideas we’re sharing.  

While it may seem like it only requires elements found in nature like natural light, green walls, or living walls, or a water presence like fountains or ponds, biophilic design is so much more than that. According to the NRDC, in a corporate environment, “biophilic design encourages the connection between humans and nature, as well as promote staff wellness and productivity.” 

Bringing the outdoor experience into an indoor event or exhibition can turn an event space into a sanctuary—a home away from home. Attendees can experience the refuge, safety and biophilic elements of design that comes from the outdoors. These creative ideas draw from the outdoor experiences in remarkable American cities to inspire you to develop events that turn spaces into “sanctuaries.”

For the Cities That Never Sleep

Nothing says excitement like the all-night vibes and constant motion of cities like New York City and Chicago. The kinetic excitement of an urban-themed event is exhilarating and can feel like a sophisticated getaway.

The key to creating an urban idyll at your next event is to opt for an industrial style with some natural accents. Think metallic materials with lots of textures with natural hues and earth tones brought in to suggest both the excitement and sanctuary that an urban environment provides.

An industrial motif works particularly well in an event space with high ceilings, which helps suggest skyscrapers and large, open lofts. Sleek, minimalist tables, benches and counters give off a sophisticated urban vibe, and when combined with accent pieces in luxurious textures, they create a refined sense of style. Mid-century modern furniture pieces give the impression of classic city life and timeless urban comfort. Incorporate versatile lighting to add the element of nightlife to your space. 

For the Sandy Cities 

Who doesn’t love a beach getaway? And when you combine the beach with the urban excitement of coastal cities like Palm Beach and San Diego, you have all the makings of a sophisticated ocean escape event.

Whether you’re going totally tropical or aiming for a more relaxed “yacht rock” vibe, you can capture an aspirational beach lifestyle within your event space by combining outdoor elements with tropical urban flair.

Use comfortable large furniture pieces in both light colors and rich tropical hues to suggest a fun beach atmosphere and combine those pieces with wooden accents that bring docks and decks to mind. Utilize drapery to cordon off conversation areas that look like cabanas along with casual, elegant bars and serving areas. 

The most fun part of cultivating a beach theme is incorporating the accent pieces that add to the whimsical vibe of a tropical getaway — and don’t forget to add palm trees and other plants that complete the beach look.

For the Mile High City

In Rocky Mountain cities like Denver, urban sophistication meets outdoor adventure. Cities in the mountains combine all the excitement of downtown life with breathtaking views and the lure of escape into nature. In the mountains, adventure is available at every turn, and it’s easy to recreate that sense of excitement at your next event.

The combination of urban elegance and natural beauty is the perfect recipe for an event that becomes a respite from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. A stylish, high-end ski lodge vibe projects an air of sophistication juxtaposed with adventure. Replicating the refreshing escape of the Rocky Mountains helps attendees get away from it all while enjoying your event.

To add that “Rocky Mountain High” to your next event space, rely on earth tones and natural elements. Combine accessories in woodsy colors and comfortable, natural wood textures through chairs, sofas and tables that convey modern elegance. Hedges and other plants can also help bring the outdoors inside.

Transform Your Event Space Into a Customized Sanctuary

Creating a sanctuary space at your next event, exhibit or trade show is easier than you think. There are resources, services and tools available to help transform your idea into reality, from décor and furniture rental, space planning tools, expert advice and design services from beginning to end. If you’re not sure where to start, consider teaming up with an experienced design partner who understands that with the right furnishings, every event space can be transformed into a memorable event experience.


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