Life of the Party

April 2019 View more

Travis and Natalia Meils at the Satin Chair

By Annemarie Manion

When Ivi Rizzato entered the banquet room where her wedding was held last year, she burst into tears of happiness as she saw for the first time how the humdrum room had been turned into just the venue she had always dreamed about.

“I wanted a mystical fairy tale—all white and pink with accent trees,” recalls Rizzato, who lives with her husband, Matthew, in Chicago. “The uplighting really helped. The whole room had a pinkish-purple glow.”

The decor of the room, which was dominated by dull brown hues and brass, had been transformed into her vision thanks to the efforts of the Satin Chair, an Ogden Avenue business in Naperville owned by Travis Meils and his wife, Natalia.

The couple started the business in 2009 supplying chair covers and table linens, and found a market as the country was recovering from the recession.

“A lot of banquet halls weren’t remodeling their spaces or buying new chairs,” Travis says. “Everybody wanted covers for the chairs that weren’t looking too fresh.”

Over the years, the business has grown to include backdrops, ceiling and wall draping, lighting, chandeliers, trees, dance floors, centerpieces, and anything else needed to turn a run-of-the-mill space into something truly magical.

“Over the years we just kept adding things. We’d get requests from brides and we’d say, ‘Why not?’ ” says Travis.

“The draping really transforms a space,” adds Natalia. “You can make the VFW look like a totally different venue.”

Travis, who previously had a landscaping business, had been studying for his pilot’s license when they started the the Satin Chair. Natalia, who is from Ukraine, had worked in marketing and business, but always had a passion for decor. She used to decorate her church for the holidays.

“We always had to come up with something from scratch,” she says. “My country didn’t have all the amenities this country has.”

The Satin Chair often works with clients who’ve pored over Instagram and Pinterest looking for ideas that will make their weddings stand out. Natalia says people often think they will not be able to achieve the look they yearn to have.

“They’re seeing all these things, but they don’t think it’s affordable or reachable, or that it’s too hard or complicated,” notes Natalia. “But we can create any vibe they want.”

The Meilses agree that most couples want a wedding that isn’t cookie-cutter.

“They want the room to feel like it matches their characters,” Travis says. “They want it to be very personalized.”

The business has planned weddings with many different themes. For a Game of Thrones wedding they decorated in grays and black with red lighting. For another with a winter wonderland theme, snowflakes were projected on the walls. And a couple who loved the Beatles enjoyed a projected yellow submarine on the dance floor.

An outdoorsy look is a very popular request for clients.

Floral ring and stage decor

“We can create an organic vibe with a lot of trees that cast shadows on the ceiling and walls,” says Natalia.

Turning a couple’s ideas into reality starts with an appointment at the Satin Chair. Appointments last anywhere from half an hour to three hours, depending on how much help the couple needs to express their vision. The company uses demonstration tables and switches out linens and other decor items to give couples an idea of how the finished product will look at their wedding.

Criss cross backdrop and ceiling draping

“Some people are shy or they don’t want to be mean, but it really helps
me to know what direction to go in,” says Travis.

The Satin Chair also designs decor for graduation parties, corporate parties and other events. As wonderful as those gatherings are, the Meilses agree that weddings are special, particularly when a couple sees their venue for the first time.

“It’s kind of like a reveal,” says Natalia. “Their eyes get wide and they say, ‘It’s so much better than I imagined.’ ”

Photograph by Jeff Cagle