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Al Fresco with Style

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June 15, 2012


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For up to six months of the year, the outdoor life beckons. Our gardens, terraces or balconies become places to relax, and enjoy a meal or drinks with family and friends. At this time of year, many of us are hauling our old outdoor furniture out of storage, or from under its covers, and discovering that it’s time for a change. If 2010 is the year you’re going to invest in some new exterior dining sets or loungers, you’ll be spoiled for choice. In fact, this season’s offerings are so stylish, they wouldn’t look out of place indoors. There are new versions of classic wicker furniture and some stunning futuristic designs.

If you fear that stylish looks might mean a lack of comfort, worry not. New here this spring is a range of chairs made by British manufacturer Westminster – with a distinctive ‘Bauhaus’ look. Made from foam, they’re superbly comfortable: “You don’t need to use cushions, covers or anything else on them,” says Justine Knox from Knox Design in Santa Ponça, the island’s distributor of Westminster’s products (sold in Harrod’s in London). The material used is called soft foam. A variation is Twitchel, which isn’t woven, but a stretchable material tightened over a steel frame. Because of the extreme weather conditions to which outdoor furniture is subjected, producers have to be creative and innovative in the materials they use.

“Quality manufacturers use newly developed materials, which sets their products apart from those on offer in hardware stores,” says Justine Knox.

Quality is often apparent at first glance, and some of the more superior outdoor products are stylish enough to be used indoors – despite having been designed for durability. Not surprisingly, prices often reflect this. “This model is the most expensive one and it costs 170 €,” says Rüdiger Messerschmidt from Messerschmidt Mediterranes Interieur, indicating a couch from the Italian manufacturer Braid. The material is called Sunbrella; it can be easily cleaned (important if you have children) and resists sunlight-induced fading. “This material is also used for upholstery on boats. It makes your life easier, because you don’t have to worry about it getting dirty or keeping it in the shade,” says Messerschmidt.

This material is also used for the TUUCI sunshades, offered in different shapes – rectangular, round, octagonal – and in no fewer than 40 colours! The bracket can be made of stainless steel or powder-coated aluminium. Paint with aluminium particles added forms a hard alloy impenetrable by moisture. “You don’t get any bubbles as you do in pure aluminium,” states Rüdiger Messerschmidt. And it is guaranteed to be easily maintained. For stainless steel, polishing once a month is recommended to prevent rust, caused by Mallorca’s salty, humid air.

If you’re looking for a truly Mediterranean outdoor style, colour is important and Justine Knox says there are clear trends for 2010: “Light, and with lively accented elements – such as cushions. Contrast is still the basis of furniture: white, beige and mocha.” What else is highlighted in outdoor furniture trends for 2010? “We’re seeing a lot of modular systems this year, where you can adjust the individual parts,” Justine reveals. The modular sofa can quickly be turned into a bed or a chair with armrests.

But individual pieces also have their charms. Among the most unusual design is surely the Wave Bed by Royal Sun Botania. The hi-tech hammock with sun protection was last year awarded “Best of the Year” by ‘Interior Design Magazine’. The crest is the roof, where the waves break, so it forms a tube, in which designers Erik Ström and Gustav Nyberg have mounted the seat. The entire wave construction is held only by one column – and it looks impressive.

Good design doesn’t have to be expensive and that’s evidenced by Nardi furniture. The chairs are made of plastic and are surprisingly stable. The chairs cost 89 € each, the tables less than 700 €. Anyone who doesn’t want to spend more than 4.000 € for a sofa, won’t miss out on quality. That brings us to the classics, the wicker furniture.
Simone Scholz from Casa Bruno, Santa Ponça, says that the manufacturing process is even more important in basket or wicker furniture. Products from the company Point are made using material in lengths of from eight to ten yards a piece, and this is the key for a very good quality – such as offered by Royal Garden. They offer a substantially adjustable table in a basket design:

“It can be lengthened from 1.40 to 2.70 metres,”says Simone Scholz, whose company is the exclusive distributor for the Australian manufacturer.

The traditional basket-style in high-quality, in an unusual design, is the concept of the German manufacturer Dedon. The fibres, resembling rattan, are called Hularo and are specially developed at the company headquarters in Luneburg. They are manufactured according to strict guidelines in the Philippines. This furniture is extremely durable. “The things have their price, but they are super-robust. I recently delivered a Dedon chair to a customer who purchased the same model five years ago. The two chairs could not be distinguished,” says Ulli Schuettke from Lares in Bendinat. In Dedon’s current summer catalogue there’s a combination of table and two chairs that not only looks elegant, but can also be elegantly stored: Assembled it has a cylindrical obelisk – and this is the name of the model. The obelisks designed by Frank Ligthart have a platinum and stone appearance. On Dedon’s sofas everything is smooth and fixings are not visible. You can wear your cashmere with confidence, knowing you won’t snag it on any rough parts.

Whether made from wicker, aluminium or foam-cover, 2010’s elegant outdoor furniture has the good looks for interiors but, being completely resistant to even Mallorca’s extremes of weather, it deserves pride of place in the garden, on the terrace or balcony. Not only will it look good this year, it’ll keep its looks for 2011, 2012 . . .

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