21 Design Ideas For Making Cavernous Spaces Feel More Intimate

Sometimes you can have too much space to work with at your venue and you need to work creatively to make a more inviting setting. Here are some clever examples and ideas to help you create a more intimate and cosy space and completely transform the look and feel of the event environment.

Large venues and massive spaces can leave attendees feeling overwhelmed and lost. A huge empty venue may feel too exposed and uncomfortable for guests, or make people think that you haven’t got the numbers you hoped for. In this post, we look at design ideas and elements that you can use to make your event comfortable and intimate while also using a big space to your advantage.  


Small Elements

  1. Potted Plants

potted plants

Small and effective, potted plants are often used on large stages to use up dead space and add décor but this can be scaled up to suit larger venues as well. Use potted plants to eat up empty corners or alternatively to provide edging and interest for certain areas.

  1. Candles

When it comes to lighting effects, warm glows are essential for enclosing larger spaces, this is partly because a darker area seems smaller and naturally more intimate. Candles are particularly good because they tend to throw shadows which hides a lot of the venue and makes it more atmospheric.

  1. Banners

Simple and effective, large banners are excellent for signage and branding but can be conveniently positioned to suit your event and block off areas as well. If you have particularly high ceilings then hanging banners could lower it and draw attendee’s eyes upwards, whereas if you are looking to close off certain areas then tall, full length standing banners are perfect for this.

  1. Helium Balloons

Quick and easy to place and perfect for event signage opportunities, helium balloons are traditional but still effective. They can be used in a variety of different ways to make an impact and are very diverse to suit many situations including, arches, clusters, centerpieces entrance pillars and can even be turned into their own statues, figures and props.

  1. Centerpieces

When people are sitting they are more likely to feel the size of the room if there are high ceilings above them and empty spaces. To combat this, you can choose larger centerpieces that draw the eye to the tables and furniture.

  1. Fairy/String Lights

If you don’t want (or can’t have) the fire hazard of candles then fairy or string lights are the next best thing. They have an easy, soft glow and can be hung from the ceiling with large loops to bring it down slightly. You could also use them en masse to create a mini canopy or false ceiling of lights if you have the budget.

Mid-range Ideas

  1. Branches/Foliage

Bringing the outside in can be an excellent way of creating an enclosed feeling and this idea has an array of potential to suit your event. You could opt for hanging, trailing planters from the ceiling, indoor trellises with ivy and other climbing plants or if you wanted to go that step further you could go big and have indoor trees that can loom over guests with sweeping branches.

  1. Carpets and Rugs

Hard floors can be cold and uninviting and the bigger the venue the more noticeable it is. Instead, make the venue feel more comfortable and homely by using carpets. You could incorporate a grass or branded carpet as part of interesting sponsorship packages. Alternatively, you can opt for well-placed rugs around your venue to create a homely feel.

  1. Canopies

As dancefloors are usually quite open, canopies are popular to make them more intimate, particularly at weddings for the first dance. However, they can be used in a variety of different ways and could be incorporated into staging, food stations or photo booths to boost their effect. Plus you can often hang other elements from them to make them more decorative and lower the ceiling height further.

  1. Fire and Heat

Larger spaces are difficult to keep warm and a cold venue feels bigger and more uninviting than it actually is, so taking heat into account is an important factor with bigger venues. A budget-friendly way of getting around this could be to use fireplaces or log burners if they are already features of your venue. If you are not that fortunate, even just a warm, fire effect light or feature that is decorative will give the illusion that it is heating the whole venue. Warmth makes places feel cozier and although it won’t immediately shrink in size, it can change the feel and the atmosphere to a more intimate and comfortable one.

  1. Live Bands

Having a live band can take up a lot of space, with not only instruments and equipment but bodies and sound as well. You could also go big and have a large piano positioned to make use of, if your budget and space allow. Music can be immersive and emotive which makes people more comfortable and a band area can be placed on a large stage in a bigger venue or alternatively take up a lot of floor space on the same level.

  1. Open Photo Booth

Avoid having a literal booth but instead a large backdrop which could either be a green screen or a themed piece fitting in with your other décor and event theming. Also, include props and other elements to expand on it and you won’t only be able to accommodate large groups but it is more likely to spill outwards rather than taking up a small and designated space.

Bigger Ideas

  1. Fabric Draping

This is easily adaptable depending on the size of your venue and what you are trying to achieve. Fabrics are welcoming and can be looped to lower ceilings, draped to cover cold walls or hung from a framework to create its own partitioning between seating and other areas.

  1. Lounges

Create a lounge area for your event that allows attendees to sit down, relax and network. Lounges are an excellent way to use up space because you can include large pieces of ornate furniture such as sofas, stools and coffee tables to match, plus they can be adapted into whatever space just by changing the layout and accommodating different seating styles. Segmenting in this way can create mini areas that enhance your event and provide different experiences for attendees.

  1. Inflatable Obstacle Courses

An increasingly popular participatory activity that can be adapted to suit your venue space but works particularly well for outdoors. Inflatables add a fun element to your event and gets attendees feeling like big kids again, more likely to get involved. Obstacle courses are also unique opportunities for sponsors to get extra signage and memorable options at the event.  

  1. Partitions and Walkways

Partitions work to enclose certain areas and divide the larger venue into smaller segments. You can also create a walkway between different areas. Partitions can involve anything from long draping curtains to backdrop boards carefully positioned or props and décor itself.  

  1. Cocktail or Standing Tables

Fill up some of your dead space with standing cocktail tables that will give attendees a place to put their drinks, a conversational area or simply a checkpoint to meet up before visiting other areas of the event. Using tables in this way is a small detail that can make a lot of difference, particularly if attendees are having to walk around a larger venue a lot and can provide comfort or relief as well as a convenient space filler and catering clearing/collection area.

  1. Food and Drink Stations

Place refreshment and food stations around your venue to encourage people to congregate and make use of all the space. You can specify things like having a DIY donut wall or a s’mores making area to appeal to different attendees on the side of the main buffet area. Also, add a stylish event bar for networking and to save on the need and cost of wait staff for a larger venue.  

  1. Runways

Event staging can take up a lot of space but runways can be a unique way of not only showcasing entertainments in an easily viewable way for attendees but offer a bigger natural staging option to take up extra space. Particularly useful if you have a lot of attendees and space, runways can be staggered, curved or extended to create extra wow factor.

  1. Dancefloor

Although you might inherently think of a dancefloor as an open space it can actually provide some structure to a large venue and give attendees the signal to congregate and dance. Dancefloors can also be used as a sponsorship or signage opportunity!

  1. Temporary Spaces

Offering temporary solutions within your venue can make it more diverse and interesting, particularly for multi-day or recurring events. Elements that can be moved such as trailers, vehicle bars, inflatable rooms, booths or tents can create an adaptive feel, and create a room within a room. This freedom allows you to work the venue space best, transitioning with the flow of the event and creating different environments.

Things To Consider When Designing For Large Venue Spaces

  • Table spacing – Create more space between tables and furniture, spreading them out and taking up more floor space to make fewer dead areas and give the effect the whole venue is being used to capacity.
  • Matte Colors – Darker or matte colors absorb light and should be used wherever possible because darker areas look much smaller than they are due to the shadows. Avoid natural light and large windows at a venue (cover them if necessary) as these naturally make an area feel larger and open.
  • Segmentation – Create segments at your venue and separate different areas from each other so that although it’s a big venue as a whole, attendees in each area will feel as though it is smaller and it will be more immersive.
  • Timings – If parts of your event rely on specific timings, such as bringing food out together or for performances, do specific run-throughs because it takes longer to travel in larger venues.
  • Increase Staff – If you have walking waitstaff or helpers, you will need to hire more for bigger venues, because although the attendees are the same it will feel like the staff are few and far between, hurting their event experience.
  • Entrance – Focusing on the entrance can avoid the looming, overwhelming feeling that attendees can get when first entering a large venue. Make the entrance busy with staff or greeters if possible to make it more personal and comforting to avoid the large area shock.
  • Theme – Using themes can give a more immersive experience and make it easier to decide on props and ideas that fit together. For larger areas, this can get more costly but also makes it easier to enclose.
  • Floating Furniture – Place standing or cocktail tables around the venue along with quirky seating to help give a busier sense and avoid dead space. Don’t place tables or seating around the edge of the venue as this tends to make the middle seem vaster, instead, dot furniture around and allow them to float.
  • Avoid Mirrors – Using mirrors is an excellent trick for smaller event spaces to refract light and make them feel like there is more to them, which is exactly why you shouldn’t use them for large spaces!

In Conclusion

Large venues don’t have to be overwhelming to attendees, so long as you use the space well. As you can see there are plenty of options for cavernous spaces from the way you light and dress them to the furniture and activities you provide, it is more about the attendee mindset and atmosphere than the venue itself.

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