In recent months, members of our Furniture Concepts team have had the privilege of attending some of the premier national and regional summer camp conferences.
Conferences like the CCCA National Conference and the ACA National and Regional Conferences gather the leadership of many of the country’s most successful camp and conference centers. Administrators we have spoken to have been teeming with optimism and have been sharing their excitement for the year-round opportunities many camp and conference center are experiencing.
Many camp and conference centers have been expanding their capabilities to include adult programs, worship programs and family programs that allow them to be open 10 – 12 months a year. Traditionally, camps were a place where parents dropped their kids for a week or two over summer, now those same parents are becoming customers of these same camps.
So what does this mean for camps and conference centers? Well, instead of having to appeal only children and young adults (who typically don’t care too much about furniture and fixtures) now these facilities are finding they need to step up their game aesthetically to appeal to their expanding adult clientele.
Luckily - sprucing up a camp or conference center enough to appeal to adults while maintaining the ruggedness needed by kids is not as hard as it may seem. Here are some tips from some of the most successful camp and conference center directors:
- Use durable seating pieces like crate style (Tough Stuff) sofas, loveseats and chairs. The “new” crate style look is pretty, polished and fits in well any decorating scheme. What makes this option even more appealing is the fact that these seating pieces have cushions that take only seconds to change. The easily changeable cushions allow for a kid-friendly vinyl or fabric for summer programs and patterned or trending color upholstery for adult-oriented occasions.
- Bunk beds are perfect for sleeping large numbers of kids but adult campers want to be comfortable and prefer something a little larger. Single over double or single over queen bunks are a great option for sleeping adults and their families. Kids still get the bunk experience but their parents get a little more comfort and room to stretch out in a larger bed. Some directors break down the single-double or single-queen bunks during the summer and store them so bunk rooms can be maximized with traditional single bunks.
- Durable stack chairs with contoured or padded seats add appeal to adults who may not be able to sit on older style metal folding chairs for periods of time. Many camp and conference center directors have made the investment in stack chairs with padded seats and backs or molded plastic because these types of occasional chairs provide more comfort, look better and store well compared to aging folding and stack chairs. Updated chairs are perfect for group sessions or dining too.
- Wood outdoor furniture is a great way to create gathering places for campers and adults to gather.Durable Adirondack styles in weather-proof wood and recycled pre-consumer vinyl are a timeless favorite. Metal benches and tables with thermoplastic coating can endure anything from snow to sun. Molded plastic furniture is durable enough for occasional outdoor use but is a perfect fit for full-time indoor use
- Mattresses can be a sore point for many camps and conference centers because the expense of replacing such a large quantity of mattresses adds up fast. Aging foam mattresses are a common issue and low-profile foam mattresses are not a favorite of adult sleepers. A more cost-effective alternative might be fiber core mattresses. Fiber cores are a recycled content mattress core type that feels a lot like foam but sells at a better price. Foam is a petroleum-based product so the cost of foam fluctuated with fuel costs. In this decade, foam prices have soared and are likely to continue to do so. The fiber core product is durable and comfortable. The lower cost allows for deeper 5” or 6” mattresses at more affordable prices than 3” or 4” foam. Adult sleepers tend to prefer at least 5” depth mattresses for comfort since their weight compresses mattresses more then youths. So while a 3” or 4” mattress might pass for little sleepers, adult will find it too uncomfortable.
Any furniture replacement or addition will be an investment for the camp or conference center, but the value of appealing to adults is a smart business decision. Turning a traditional summer camp into a year-round facility takes a little planning but many are finding the opportunities appealing.
When the time is right to buy new furniture or upgrade existing floor plans, always use a reputable contract furniture dealer who understands the needs of your facility and the people you serve. Don’t be swayed by promises of inexpensive imports which are not manufactured for heavy-use environments. You will be surprised to find that well-made, durable facility furniture is affordable and will last for years to come.