As our lives get busier and busier, we look for places to retreat, relax and unwind. Your outdoor space has the potential to become a peaceful comfortable place, furnished with comforts once only relegated for interior spaces. Everyone can live comfortably outdoors these days, provided you have thought through and provided some functional key design features such as choosing the right exterior furniture for your outdoor room.
Never before has there been such an emphasis on fresh innovative ideas for outdoor living. Creating stylish exteriors, designed to fit the individual design aesthetics and lifestyles of those living in them is an important job to fulfill as a designer. The line between the indoors and outdoors continues to blur as features such as furniture , lighting and heating now play an important role in our comfort outdoors.
Whether your preference is for minimal, modern, clean lines or a more traditional look, the range of furniture styles available these days are endless. However there are a few basic things to remember before rushing out and purchasing the latest Domo lounger or just any old outdoor dining setting.
Firstly, its commonsense that exterior furniture needs to be built to live outdoors 365 days of the year. To weather the elements without fading, breaking or being damaged by the rain, wind or UV rays as New Zealand has some of the highest ultra-violet light levels and extreme coastal conditions. Some of the newest all-purpose furniture designs coming out of Europe and New Zealand are extremely hardwearing as well as sleek and great looking.
Once upon a time manufactures and furniture designers were limited to just a few more traditional materials to work with such as timber and wrought iron. With today’s technology we have a great range of styles, materials and designs to choose from such as concrete, woven wicker, anodized aluminum, stainless steel and fiberglass, not forgetting the exciting new range of woven fabrics in a variety of colours to compliment any outdoor setting. A hot trend at the moment is “mixed media” wood partnered with aluminum. It’s sleek and contemporary and the wood adds a touch of warmth.
We are also not restricted to just chairs and tables. Outdoor sofas, sun loungers, armchairs and even footstools are available… now that is taking indoor comfort outdoors. However, here lies the dilemma. With so much on the market to choose from, how do you know what to buy?
It all depends on where you live and how you live, certain materials will work better for you. Also think about how much time and effort you’re willing to put into maintaining your pieces. Consider where the furniture is going to be located. If you live by the coast, then iron, which rusts is not a good choice and you are better to go with anodized aluminum. If it’s a poolside, then you will have to think about the frequent splashing of chlorinated water. You will need a material that can hold up to this.
Lets get back to basics for a second. The some times arduous process of purchasing furniture for the interior of your home, is no different in my eyes to choosing furniture for your outdoors, for we really are just decorating a room… outdoors. Your home will have a certain look and feel that you have either deliberately created or accidentally put together. Whether it has a modern apartment feel, or a more casual bach feel, the furniture needs to be functional and comfortable. It also needs to work harmoniously with that specific interior style. The same rules apply outdoors, but with a few other things to consider.
The furniture pieces need to compliment the surrounding garden style. Try not to give mixed messages on what you want to achieve. If its a modern, contemporary courtyard space that you have created, with simple lines and minimal plants, I would suggest using a light weight concrete table with bench seats or perhaps white polyester fabric and steel lounge chairs.
Teak or Kwila furniture settings are good in combination with native or sub-tropical style gardens. Their natural good looks blend with the leafy, lush foliage and have a soft silver/grey weathered look over time. Spend time researching whether the timber comes from a sustainable resource if you are eco conscious.
If you like to entertain a lot, where style and comfort is important to you, then the new woven fabric designs with comfy cushions will suit you. Quality fabrics that do not rot, or fade and can be easily cleaned are something to look out for.
If you have a family then you will be safety conscious. You probably have less time and require furniture that is durable and can handle a few knocks. Look for pieces that are not too intricate, where little fingers can get pinched and caught in gaps. Look for solid pieces with clean lines such as an aluminum frame and seating that is durable and easy to clean.
Hot dipped galvanized hand forged steel has a timeless elegance for the more formal outdoor setting. You can get fabric to tie in with you interior décor.
Of course these suggestions are always relative to your budget. Choosing furniture for you and your lifestyle is important. Think about paying for long lasting quality-crafted furniture to decorate your outdoor room, as this is probably a one-time investment.
Sandra Batley is an Auckland based landscape designer.
Sandra Batley Dip LD