In best case scenarios, outdoor furniture calls for materials that strike a balance between durability, sustainability and good design. For professionals and specifiers selecting these is vitally important when selecting outdoor furniture products for clients. But the process has grown more complex: architects and designers today are faced with choosing materials that not only balance aesthetics with durability and performance, but also with environmental impact. Plenty of options exist, but those that comprise these products are not created equal.

For the end user, in making these material decisions, numerous factors come into play: project design and sustainability goals, a site’s climate and the intended traffic, plus evolving green building standards and new material options.

From crossover to outdoor – what defines the best contemporary furniture?

Darren Postan of Casarredo imports the outdoor brand Kettal. Their raison d’être is the creation of timeless outdoor furniture, which is functional and expressive, and that represents a contemporary culture providing solutions to the emerging needs of modern life. It’s based on a blend of creativity, customisation, innovation and modern production processes.

He says: ‘Indoor-style furniture can struggle with Mother Nature. What we are seeing more often are outdoor ranges being specified for indoor applications. The theory is if it works outside it’s going to do an even better job inside. Kettal’s designs are so unique and multifunctional that the question often arises whether an item is an outdoor or indoor piece, which was the intention during its R&D. The most prestigious designers are involved and include: Patricia Urquiola, Jasper Morrison, Hella Jongerius, Rodolfo Dordoni, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Doshi Levien. It’s vital for these designers to share the company’s values and style in creating their new collections.’

Here in South Africa, the most favourite season for many, spring is here. It offers so much, most of all hope for rebirth; this surely a current prerequisite. So, with warm summer days on the horizon it’s an apt time to prepare patios and terraces for outdoor living and entertaining.

Habitat’s research indicates that the colder contemporary materials – like wrought iron and aluminium, concrete and certain faux-wood plastics – are no longer at the top of the wish list. For summer 2017 / ‘18 it seems to be more about naturals, retro-inspired style and cool, soothing colours and textures. Here, we reflect on some of the top pending indications.

Indoors Out

‘The latest styles that ably define the indoor / outdoor trend are typically fully upholstered lounge suites, which have the look of an indoor set yet literally can be left outside in all weather conditions,’ says Alon Sachs of Mobelli. Recent R&D for such collections is moving towards inventing technical fabrics that can handle the sun’s UV rays, but still feel soft to the touch. Happily, the fabrics being developed are beautiful, textured and tactile. Consumers are shifting towards hassle-free or practical living with easy cleaning and maintenance.

One simple and effective additive is to employ cushions that can easily be switched, coordinated and / or reupholstered as needs and trends change. Popular in the US are cool, coastal colours: neutral ivory / beiges, sea greens and blue highlights from marine to grey blue, while thicker textures for upholstery point towards heavier woven cottons and faux jute. Such neutral shades are used to create a visual balance as weighty volumes of vibrant colour can overwhelm even the largest patio. Neutral off-white umbrellas / shades and slipcovers can work further in extending a pleasing balance of light tones.

Select cushions and pillows that use polyurethane foam, which unlike polyester-filled cushions, will allow water to literally flow through them. And for upholstery, ensure that solution-dyed acrylic fabrics are used. Today these are widely available – in a vast variety of colours and patterns – and are moisture / mildew and UV-protected so they won’t fade in SA’s harsh sunlight.

So, what is the latest research and development?

‘All-weather wicker furniture is now extremely popular in SA,’ says Mia Delport of Patio Warehouse. ‘Its longevity is phenomenal and it’s available in different colours and various types of weaves to suit a given style and budget. A combo that’s impressive is an aluminium frame, mated to quick-dry foam cushions clad in Sunbrella fabric that can remain outdoors in the sun and rain; without need to remove them.

‘In patio and terrace planning, keep it simple, no fuss, with concentration on low maintenance. And don’t clutter; choose neutral coloured pieces; the look can be updated with high fashion scatter cushions to add zing.’

In creating the space – what are the basic rules?

Heather Olivier of Gardens & Roses says: ‘Decide on the functionality of the space – will it be a place for entertainment or a more tranquil area for personal relaxation and alone time. Once chosen, don’t overcrowd or over accessorise statement pieces of furniture; for example using too many scatter cushions on a sofa, or massing lanterns on a table. Go for clean, neutral colours like off-white, grey and taupe and change accessories such as cushions to suit the individual mood and occasion. Employ different materials – ceramic for its heat resistance – and add touches like ropes and straps.’

The choices in 2017 South Africa?

The last touch? It could be a year-round green lawn. ‘Duraturf artificial grass by Belgotex is ideal for play zones, pool areas, landscaped gardens or difficult-to-cultivate places where natural grass refuses to grow. It provides a perfectly trimmed, low-maintenance solution that needs no mowing, weeding or watering and is manufactured locally with expert advice and after-sales service,’ says Helen de Villiers from Belgotex Floors. She adds: ‘Duraturf adds a perfect touch of green without any hassles. It’s non-slip, soft and completely safe for family and pets; and is hypoallergenic and easy to install over flat and smooth surfaces. And even easier to clean by simply washing away any marks or mess with a hosepipe and / or using a stiff-bristled garden broom to brush it back to life.’

For the full article see Habitat #261 September / October 2017

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