By Alesandra Dubin Posted February 25, 2009, 2:28 PM EST
LOS ANGELES Backstage guests at Film Independent's Spirit Awards on Saturday found a pair of sponsor lounges that—although they popped up only for event day—seemed as if they might live permanently in the beachside Santa Monica setting. “It took us a week to load in. The tent looked like more like a permanent structure," said Larry Abel, who produced and designed the two lounges for Elle and Piaget. “We put in subfloors and built up from there so that we had some people in there wondering, 'Is this a tent?' And that's what we love to do.”
Elle's green room—in which Garnier, Maybelline, Acura, and Lacoste also represented their wares—had a beachy look featuring materials like wooden slats, seashells, and sand, where presenters, winners, select press folks, and miscellaneous non-ticket holders could come to relax (and pick up products from sponsors) before, during, and after the show.
“It's very much in line with the Elle brand,“ said the magazine's New York-based special events and merchandising manager, Caitlin Weiskopf. “We're about independent style, the high and the low, fun and relaxed. That's what the Spirit Awards are about [too]; it's the fun, cool event during award season where you can wear a pair of designer denim jeans and be next to someone on the carpet wearing YSL—and that's exactly what our brand is about."
“For Elle, we did something very beachy, casual yet elegant. When you walk out of Elle's tent, you're looking right at the water. It looks like you're sitting outside on a big veranda on your beach house and looking out,“ Abel said. Tall vases full of seashells lined the bar, and paper lanterns served as lighting. “We used a lot of textures—wickers, sea grass, palm trees, woods—for a very natural feel." When Abel ran out of the sand he'd brought for the decor, he used an extra cupful from the ample supply on the beach.
For Piaget's lounge, Abel drew inspiration from the Hollywood Regency style, using predominantly black and white. A custom armoire made from black patent leather, and clear acrylic furniture decked the space. Smokers were welcome in a garden off to the side outfitted with teak furniture. “We tried to capture the essence of elegance and sophistication, and the quality of Piaget,” Abel said. “You have all this beautiful jewelry and watches, and you want to be sure the environment you're viewing them in fits.”
To keep costs down, Abel fabricated design elements in-house, or made use of repurposed pieces. “I think that everyone is experiencing the same budget restrictions,” said Weiskopf of the Elle green room. “But it's a testament to who we get into that space that our sponsors are as willing as they are to give away such great product. It's really the buzzworthy space to be.”