The 411 of a Vintage Booth Display

Last week, I headed out to the local wine country for a project....
My friend Rita Reade hosts The Vintage Marketplace 'antique' show there every three months.
Because she's so busy with show logistics, she's always rushing to finish her own booth setup.
Now she hires ME to design and style her booth!
It's a fun way for me to continue my involvement with the vintage industry that I so enjoy, 
and I love working with her...

 I thought I would take the booth design that I did for her last week
and share with you the process of what I did....
the 411 on how and why it works, so to speak. 

Click 'read more' to watch the design process unfold....

All the principles of effective store design apply here,
even though they are utilized on a very small scale and in a very short period of time.

While Rita chooses and prepares her theme, color palette, and product lines,
( it is essential to purposefully SELECT items, 
rather than just throwing things into a space!) 
I am responsible for presenting them in a manner that tells HER story.
I must embody her style, her brand, and her aesthetic in the displays
so that the merchandise appeals to her customers.

To prepare me for this task, 
she creates a Pinterest board of inspirational photos & settings for each show,
so that I can 'read her mind' and know what look she's aiming for.
She also photographs each piece that she will be selling and includes that on the Pinboard,
so I arrive knowing what I have to work with.

That being said, I don't design the booth on paper or in my head until I arrive.
I like this being an organic, collaborative process with Rita,
and we work so well together that it truly is fun. 
Even in extreme heat. Or rain. ;) and we've done both!

To begin, we set up the tents and defined the space.
Then the large furniture pieces / fixtures were placed:
Alan, Rita's college-age son, helped me move the biggest stuff around.
And around. And around. I think he hates me now.

I kept moving things because as I walked out of the space to view it from the front,
I saw problems with the scale, the accessibility, or the functionality of the arrangement.
We also didn't like the way the back of the booth looked really heavy and dark... 
so we bumped everything back five feet, outside of the tent, 
placing the furnishings out in the sunlight.
That made a HUGE difference in the visual impact - and accessibility, too.
Light will do that!

*Walking out of a booth or store and looking at it as a customer would
is absolutely necessary to a successful design process and result.*
SO many vendors don't do this.... they just get mired in the confines of the space,
fidgeting and fussing with the smalls,
and then later, when every tiny thing is in place, 
they walk out front to take some photos - and discover problems.
Frequent 'review' of an evolving design plan is necessary for success.

Once the major pieces are placed, 
they are secured with zip ties and shims are used to level them (on bumpy park grounds)
because SAFETY is important!
High winds or the very possible earthquake could cause items to fall... and we don't want that.
We all know that customers have backpacks and big purses and wire carts
that go BUMP into everything... so let's eliminate possible damage from the start.
And then there's the 100 foot oak tree that crashed to the ground

just fifty feet away from this booth as we were setting up!!! Zoiks!
Then the curtains are hung to hide the tent poles and soften the setting.
The pretty lace curtains on the big tent are cheap at IKEA, hung on pvc pipes, 
and the ruffled ones on the cash wrap 'cabana' are shower curtains!
A lacy umbrella will be placed in the back setting, to provide shade and a finishing touch.
( That's bella Rita back there! )

The signage is placed front and center, 
so that there is no chance people miss WHO this booth belongs to.
Her business name is visible over the main tent from the front, and also behind the cash wrap.

Then the overhead items are installed...
*pink paper lanterns help hide the cross-beams of the pop-up tent,
*a milk-glass chandelier is suspended over the dining table. SECURELY!
* baby clothes on a length of twine bring color up to fill in the visual space overhead.
(otherwise, people would be staring at the tent cover and frame.)

The final design plan has two entrances and several main focal points.
Focal points are important!
They are like billboards, and they draw your customer's eye from a distance.
They attract attention and bring people closer, so they are the place for BIG statements.

The focal points in Rita's booth are:
* the front right corner, closest to the show entrance and aisle.

* the left front side of the booth, which is where the cash wrap is located.

* the back wall of the booth, because it is the largest area
viewed from the front of the booth.

Secondary focal points are:
* the inside right wall of the booth -
because that is what is seen first when entering from the side.

* the right front side of the booth and the area around the back of the cash wrap, 
since they are seen from the aisle when approaching from the left side of the booth.

I don't move on with booth setup until I am sure that 
the visual impact and the accessibility ('traffic flow') 
is the best it can be.
Finally, the details are placed....
Merchandise is added, flowers or plants come in
and all of the small products are loaded in:

The displays are artfully styled to invite customers to look closer,
find a special treasure to take home, 
and to inspire them to use these decor ideas in their own homes & stores.

And, in the case of the vintage show world,
displays ALSO have to have appeal as subjects in photographs.
So I make sure that the lens will capture the magic of Rita's work
to build her brand in her social media and magazine features.
The photos below show how close-up shots on artfully presented details become
excellent marketing material: 

 In effect, I am doing retail and editorial styling at the same time.
This approach truly helps me simplify the approach in her booth, 
preventing me from trying to fit too much into any one area.
That's part of her brand style, so I stick to it...
Think of your booth / store displays as 'living advertisements' of your brand!

For more useful information about creating displays at shows,
find my 'Vintage Booth Displays Resource' HERE.
The Vintage Marketplace

Welcome to everyone who's visiting my blog from

Jocie's Creativity Unleashed Party


  1. Hi, I just discovered your blog and I love all the great advice you give for retail spaces! I have a space in one of my local antique malls that I just revamped today and I used some of your advice. I linked to your blog in my post. If you'd like to take a look I'd love to hear what you think! If you have any advice for me please feel free to share too! :o)

    Here's my post on my blog:


    1. Tania, thank you so much for your kind comment... I am thrilled that my post was informative and educational, and gave you tools you could use IMMEDIATELY - that's always my goal! ;)

      I truly appreciate you sharing my link on your blog - you are wonderful, and so is your restyled booth display! Keep up the good work!

      ~ Debi Ward Kennedy