Changes in Latitude
Jamie Sorcher -- Furniture Today, May 21, 2012
Our world, the "Big Blue Marble," may seem small in the context of outer space, but from our own backyards, it couldn't be larger. With its vast mix of countries, cultures and climates and with so many cuisines, languages, fashion and, of course, people, there are countless differences, and yet, there is much we have in common.
Outdoor living is one of them. Around the world, more people are embracing the concept and, increasingly, gardens, terraces, and balconies are becoming more than just extensions of the living room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen. The outdoor room is becoming an entity in its own right. But how is the outdoor room interpreted in different countries? We reached out to our contacts in several time zones for a global look.
"Being outdoors is year-round in the islands," said Carolyn Novak, the Caribbean Islands representative for Telescope Casual, Palm Springs Rattan, Seawinds Trading and Carlton Manufacturing. "Everybody that buys furniture has a pool."
Novak's clients tell her that important trends are the infinity-style pool with built-in chaise decking as well as the full-blown outdoor kitchen. Material-wise, teak stands the test of time in the islands and remains a major material for both residential and commercial markets. "Many homes have several areas that are fully exposed so that natural breezes can blow," Novak said. "And most residences don't have air conditioning,"
Mold can be a huge issue, she said, so a must-have is a tech textile like Sunbrella for fabrics. Colors for fabrics on the islands go bright- aqua, reds, tangerines, lime greens and yellows. According to Novak, everyone stays away from dark colors because they attract mosquitoes.
Not surprisingly, she said, many of her clients get ideas from high end vacation spots like the Seven Stars Resort in Turks & Caicos. On Grace Bay beach, it is known for its 3,000-sq.-ft. deck. The outdoor area is a vision of teak, hammocks, palm trees, fire pits, and lounge chairs on two levels. Who wouldn't want some of that at home?
DESIGN GOES DIVINE
Hotels, agreed Dedon's Marketing Director Tom Wallmann, are a guaranteed source of inspiration. "Hotels want to have what people would love to have in their homes," he said. "You have to help them fulfill the dream."
Dedon, the Philippines-based, high-end manufacturer with product in 85 countries, does just that with its dreamlike signature items like the NestRest, a hanging lounger which is best described as a suspended sanctuary, or its newest CityCamp, an all-in-one outdoor living unit that is based on the camps of ancient explorers.
Weather-resistant materials have always been important, noted Wallmann, but now there is more emphasis on bringing indoor qualities to the outdoor furniture. "It's about more comfortable cushions and elaborate design trends," he said.
Also raising the tide are European brands - particularly Italian ones - that are taking it outside, too. "We're seeing the high-level, premium end of the business growing, which gives this industry more attention and credibility," Wallmann said. "The more premium players there are, the more lucrative it is to designers. When designers are more interested in product development, you have better brands, better materials. Then the residential designers and the architects want to see it, too. It raises the level for everyone."
According to Marie Hoyle, the U.S. sales and marketing director for Michael Caravita, a German manufacturer of sun shades and pavilions, if there is an outside terrace, Europeans will cover the majority of the space. "In this culture, people spend their personal time in gardens, neighborhood pubs and restaurants," she said. "They want to be outdoors as much as they can, but they also take a hard look at functionality and that means having shade that can cover a space."
"We do well with our pavilions which open and close like a convertible car," confirmed Paulo Medeiros, director of contract business development for Jardin de Ville, a Quebec-based company. "If you look at the country of France, they have a culture that loves the outdoors, the bistro. The roof at a restaurant is used when needed and opened up when it isn't. Our Terrace Concept strings several units together and embraces that bistro style. It allows for shading when needed, but for open air as well when the weather is good."
According to Greg Voorhis, design manager of decorative fabrics at Glen Raven, manufacturer of the Sunbrella brand of outdoor fabrics, the scale is also different in Europe than here in the U.S. "They have smaller spaces to work with and are more efficient in how they use it," he said, adding that Europeans favor more contemporary, modern looks.
There is also a nod toward sustainability and reusable products and fabrics. According to Suzie Roberts, Glen Raven's vice president an d business manager of furniture, Europeans go for linen, real natural looks and textures. "In France, though, it trends toward color and lots of old-meets-new, mixing naturals with brights, but they want that pop of color to give looks more energy," she said. "Don't forget the influence of Paris and Milan that are major fashion capitals nearby."
Color is a huge element for design-forward furniture company Domitalia, based in Italy, which is famous for its Phantom chair that can be seen all over the world. The distinctive chair, made from molded polyethylene, has modern arms and back with soft, drape-like folds at the base. It comes in a range of candy colors from pink to orange to lime green.
"We could do this chair in black in Miami and with this material it will not absorb any heat," said Terry Seitz, president of Terry Seitz, Inc., which distributes the Domitalia brand in the U.S. "The white one you could leave outside in the sun for 30 years and nothing would happen to it. The material is literally indestructible. You could bounce it off a concrete wall and nothing would happen to it. We do it in a range of colors and these work indoors or outdoors equally well. They can go effortlessly between the two."
Meanwhile, in India, the outdoor room is having its moment. Dinesh Chengappa, owner of Patio, an outdoor lifestyle store in the city of Bangalore, said the outdoor room is now catching on in a big way. "All of this has happened in the last two years," he confirmed. "The outdoor lifestyle is a recent phenomenon in India and it's due to the exposure. We have lots of Indians returning back here after spending time in the U.S. and they want a similar lifestyle back in India so our clients are asking us to design outdoor rooms for them. More folks use their outdoor space here for entertaining and usually it is in the late evenings."
In cities like Bangalore, said Chengappa, it is mostly high-rise apartments and villas. "Most people use the balcony space as an outdoor room," he said. "With penthouses, the open terrace area is used for an outdoor room. And courtyards in India have been around for centuries, but only now people have started to use them as outdoor rooms by covering the top with something like the Smartroof."
A unique roofing system, Smartroof is an array of motorized aluminum louvers that open so people can enjoy the tropical Indian climate when outdoors, all through the year, but also during extreme temperature fluctuations. With the flick of a switch, the movement of the louvers can be controlled to an angle that suits the needs and mood of the moment.
By spanning the globe, we know there are inspirations for outdoor living everywhere. There is a growing range of furniture, shade, seating and table options not to mention improved materials and higher-style fashion. Nowadays, it is possible to transform any backyard, patio, deck, balcony, courtyard, or sunroom into a slice of any place in the world.
Yes, the outdoor room may look different in each part of the world, but when we look up it is all the same. We all share that same big blue sky no matter where we are. "The outdoor space is another room in the home with the highest ceiling, you know," said Wallmann.