To Mandy Diaz, a sofa is not a sofa, but a piece of art. A stool is not a stool, but a tree trunk. A balloon is not a balloon but a unique food delivery system. You get the picture – to Diaz nothing is as it seems, everything can be improved upon, and inspiration is everywhere. This is the embodiment of the culture and thinking of AFR Event Furnishings.
“The world inspires me,” she says. And she means that – from European event companies and French bloggers, from Danish architectural sites to Canadian festivals such as Cirque, as well as people, venues, and stories. They all go into the mix that is Diaz – a bubbly concoction of the best champagne served not in a flute but a bright blue coupe—authentic and celebratory with the right amount of eccentric thrown in. It’s what makes her popular with clients and creative partners alike as an account executive at AFR in Miami.
Diaz has been with AFR for nine years (four as Room Service before it was acquired) and five since it has become AFR. Before that she was with BizBash as Florida account Executive. “I have always been in the event industry in some way,” she said, “Putting together spaces.”
In addition to working with clients and designers to create beautiful event spaces, twice a year she and a team of different creative partners get together to create something outside the norm for the AFR booth at Bizbash Live and the Miami AFR Networker. “In both these cases, I’m not trying to rent a look,” Diaz said. “My goal is to have the person who has seen a million sofas actually SEE the sofa with fresh eyes. The way you do that is by making them rethink it, to push beyond their creative limitations.”
In the Designer’s Mind
There’s a reason event professionals make a beeline for the AFR booth when the doors of BizBash open in Miami each year. It’s not just to see the latest in event furnishings, but to see how they have been repurposed into something totally new. Diaz doesn’t disappoint. She has stacked market stools to make a tree trunk and then uses pillows for the leaves. She has rigged Grammercy sofa sectionals from the ceiling. She has put up craft paper filled with empty balloon quotes that people can fill in and then use as a selfie background. There is always something different, something playful and engaging.
Caption: The back wall is a series of furnishings set on its side.
At the AFR Networker event, a national tour that hits every city in which AFR is located, Diaz and her team of Miami creative partners push their creative boundaries every year. It’s grown in size and stature thanks to the creativity that guests can always expect to experience.
One year, in an all-white photo studio, the ceiling was filled with hundreds of white balloons, each with different meringues tied to them. Guest could pull them down, sample a meringue with various flavorings, then send the balloon back up.
Another year, the Networker was held at the Perez Art Museum Miami and was given the theme “Let the Colors Inspire You.” Diaz and her team designed many vignettes in the space, but the focal point of the outdoor area was a four-sided food station in red, orange, green and yellow using AFR’s stackable metal coffee tables, end tables, colored stools and cubes that did what the theme said – it let the colors inspire the design – and the menu.
Stephen Starr Events served dishes inspired by each color block. For instance, in the yellow section, a saffron polenta cake with sweet corn puree, charred baby corn, creamy turmeric goat cheese, yellow frisee and yellow pea shoots salad was offered. In the red block, a cured ahi tuna, fresh tomatoes, roasted red beets, pomegranate vinaigrette, micro beet greens to name just two.
Caption: The many ways color, and AFR Furnishings, can inspire design. Miami AFR Networker at the Miami Perez Art Museum Miami.
Diaz is many things — a lover of interior design, an artist at heart, a communications major (hence the ability to convey her design ideas), but what she is not is a seeker of the limelight. Many little girls dream of being on stage, yet when Diaz went to her first concert (Menudo) with her mother, she got a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes and was hooked on the hustle and bustle, the inspiration, the close proximity to the artists, all were part of what she wanted. She may work behind the scenes, but we all benefit when she brings her creativity center stage for AFR, our clients and our events.
Five Design Trends from Mandy Diaz for 2016
1. Ultra-bright furniture as designers take more chances with color. While white will always define certain themes, such as classic Miami South Beach, and it certainly makes the perfect palette for many events, we’ll begin to see a pop of color making its way back into events.
2. While less “Madman” than the last few years, mid-century looks still prevail. This time, they are mixed with rustic elements, vibrant metallic and more pops of vibrant color.
3. Less themes, MORE STYLE! People are starting to gravitate less towards kitschy themes and creating unique spaces that embody a complete experience for the attendee, whether it’s a sales meeting or a brand event.
4. The inclusion of one exciting, exotic, and eccentric statement piece. Just like jewelry, you’ve gotta have a statement piece!
5. And finally, what I’d like to see more of is a trend that festivals are using more of (and I hope that more event pros pick up) — daytime fireworks! They are a cool, and very unexpected flash of drama I predict will find its way into all sorts of event this year.
By Liese Gardner
Originally posted on AFR Event Furnishings.