Laurel Anderson never thought she’d be a wedding planner. In fact, quite the opposite! When she was first engaged… she fully contemplated elopement. However, through the planning process she discovered the joy it brought her to create an event built upon meaning. With her husband by her side, the day was filled with what mattered to them most. She discovered what a wedding could be, and in 2010- Esla Events was born. As one of Northern California’s top wedding planning & design services, Esla Events is known for events that are personal, authentic, and as meaningful as they are stunning. As the company grew, Laurel knew it was time for an office and put down roots in San Francisco’s bustling Union Square neighborhood. With interior designer Therese Jacinto at the helm, the Esla Events office came to life and is one of the most gorgeous spaces in town! We chatted with Laurel about the design process, watching Esla Events grow, and how to throw the perfect party:
You have a beautiful office space in Union Square. Tell us how you found it!
This space was actually the very last office I viewed on the very last day I was going to dedicate to my office search. I had looked at several spaces all over the city, and was pretty disheartened by the value of the spaces I had seen so far. The office I toured right before seeing this one was a lightless jail cell in SOMA that was almost double my budget—so things weren’t looking good.
And then I walked into this beauty. It was a diamond in the rough, but had strong bones — lots of natural light, a large open floor plan, and friendly owners who were willing to work with me on some improvements. The location was also great, being close to all the Union Square shops (great sources for both inspiration and samples) and also centrally located to where many of my clients live and work.
It was meant to be! Taking on office space for a business owner is always a big step. How did you know you were ready? Did you have any fears?
Esla Events was just about to turn three years old, and I could tell it was time. Having a place to meet with clients that was reliably comfortable, available, and “on brand” was increasingly a priority — coffee shops and wine bars were no longer cutting it. My design and production services for clients’ events were also growing in volume and sophistication, and I needed more space and production equipment.
Even so, it’s always a big step to commit to something financially, especially in terms of years rather than months! But as with most things, the unknown turned out be scarier than the reality. Once I saw the space, discussed specifics with the owners, and mapped out all the financials, it became a lot less scary and much more exciting.
You worked with Therese Jacinto Design to make this your dream space. What were your functional aims with the space and how did you and Therese achieve them with the design?
When creating the layout, I knew I needed three things from the space:
1. A comfortable and stylish area to meet with clients: “The Living Room”
2. A large central table and area for design and production work: “The Studio”
3. A dedicated area for my “heads down” work at the computer, on the phone, etc: “The Office”
Therese and I started by digitally creating a layout to scale. It helped us understand how much space we should allocate to each area, how the areas would relate to one another, and what furniture would best work in each area. That got us 80% of the way there, and helped guide our selection of the big furniture pieces. But there is no substitute for just playing around with positioning once you have the furniture in the space! Therese helped me fine-tune exact placement, and then find all of the fun finishing touches that brought everything to the next level.
And what were your stylistic goals for the space?
I really wanted something that felt Esla Events through and through. I wanted something that was high-end but not opulent, romantic but not frilly or cheesy, and modern but not too cold or serious.
What do you love most about the space?
The feature that sold me on the space right away was the natural light that comes through the big windows overlooking Sutter and Powell Streets. I wanted a calming and comfortable space, and the natural light really helps amplify that feel. Looking out the window, you can see the trolleys rolling up and down Powell Street, all the tourists wandering around, people walking to and from work, delivery trucks parked every which way, and taxis and Ubers whizzing by. You get the feeling that you’re in the midst of all the hustle and bustle…while standing in one of the calmest spots ever. It’s a nice juxtaposition for an events company — calm amidst the craziness.
Running a business can be tough. What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learned in running your own firm?
Stay focused on your clients, what you offer them, and how you can uniquely do that best.
With social media and all of the networking events in this industry, it’s so easy to get distracted by a lot of unnecessary noise. It’s great to draw inspiration from Instagram, develop new relationships at cocktail parties, and follow all the blogs for the latest trends — but it’s important to remember that those are tools for achieving your ultimate goal: delivering something exceptional to your clients. Making sure you allocate your time accordingly is hard to do, but important.
What do you need in your office to feel productive, or as we call it- get in the zone?
A big table. Natural light. Music.
Music is our go-to as well! When you’re feeling uninspired, what do you do to get it back?
Go for a run. You know how you often get great ideas in the shower, when you just let your mind drift? I find it’s the same way when you go for a run, only you have the added bonus of being out and about, seeing hopefully beautiful and interesting things.
Moving out of the office and to your passion- events! What are the hallmarks of an Esla Events styled event?
Considered, personalized, and authentic. The actual aesthetics of my clients’ weddings range quite dramatically, from vintage rustic to modern romantic and everything in between. The common thread that runs throughout is the high level of customization and the thoughtfulness of the details.
You always do such a wonderful job- the thoughtfulness is absolutely apparent. We’re curious though… what’s the biggest entertaining mistake you see people make?
Not making sure there is enough room for all of your guests to move around comfortably.
I think people often fear not having enough guests attend their event, so they over-invite, using their venue’s “maximum guest count” as their goal number. If you want your guests to have a chance to get to know one another (or be able to eat comfortably, for that matter), make sure there is plenty of room. Whatever the maximum guest count is for the venue, set your actual target for around 80% of that number.
Lastly… what is your TOP tip for making an event one you’ll never forget?
One or two days before the event, let go. Hopefully you’ve hired vendors who you fully trust and who have all the information they need to make the event go flawlessly. After weeks or months of being in planning mode, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall goal of the event, which, presumably, is for you and everyone else to have a great time.
By focusing on enjoying your guests and the details of the event (rather than managing them), you will be more present, your guests will have more fun, and it will be an all around better, more memorable event.
…Throwing in a few fireworks or juggling monkeys would work too though.
To learn more about Laurel and Esla Events, click here!