Johannesburg - Time was when a steel-frame garden swing was a must-have for your outdoor pleasure. Then there was the ubiquitous green plastic table and chair set, or the wrought-iron chairs imbued with Provençal charm, but which were cold and uncomfortable to sit on.
We’ve travelled light years since then in the realm of garden furniture design and manufacture, which is ever more inspired.
A Nordic-feel, minimalist-design ethos has been trending for a while, but the materials used are softer and more luxurious, yet extremely durable. A good example is the Italian De Padova range, available from the Generation store in Joburg’s Hyde Park shopping centre. Clean classic lines aside, the furniture is made of powder-coated aluminium alloy that resists rust and corrosion even at the coast.
You have weatherproof sofas, ottomans, pouffes and cushions that you simply “dress” with bright fabric coverings.
A piece that caught my eye was a circular lounger for two or more, woven with colourful polyester belting and dressed with cushions. Completing the De Padova range are railway outdoor tables that premiered at the Milan Furniture Fair in April and timeless Vico Magistretti-designed silver chairs.
In Generation, you also see seats with a difference, like the white “wave chair” made with synthetic fibre, as well as new twists to accessories, such as citronella mosquito-repelling spirals that double as ornamental hangings, or an outdoor bird-cage lamp that you charge, then hang from a hook or branch, and outdoor rugs that you can just hose down.
Essentially, outdoor furniture designers are seeking to eliminate the disconnect between indoor and outdoor furniture with softer textures, cutting-edge colour and interesting detail befitting an indoor space.
Embracing this idea is Corradi’s superlative 2012 Vinca furniture range, featuring cushions upholstered in durable Cordura fabric – in apple green, petrol blues and lilac that you can mix and match – paired with honeycomb-textured aluminium frame seating.
Its Foglia range features colourful metallic chair backs that emulate branches filtering through the light, while, for smaller areas, it offers the Too Slim collection, minimalist yet striking seating, again in on-trend colours.
“Black, white and grey are fading, as is the glitzy, shiny stuff,” says Gianluca Rossi, artistic director for the Corradi group.
“Natural light brown is more acceptable, especially when contrasted with brighter colours in the fabrics. The new direction is for slim, minimalistic designs with clean lines.
“Fabrics and manufacturing materials have to be able to stand up against the elements without losing their appeal or functionality. You do not want to rush outside to cover the patio set every time bad weather threatens.
“Products should be easy to maintain and require the minimum effort to clean. Modular designs are making more of an appearance, allowing more flexibility and versatility in the layout of your patio.
“Overdesigned pieces are also now being replaced by more subtle designs, but the boldness and flamboyance are retained by using bright colours in high-quality, colour-fast fabrics.”
The most cutting-edge designs in outdoor furniture are chiefly from Europe, and targeted at the most discerning consumers.
But SA designers are getting in on the act.
One of the hottest young outdoor design teams is Jamie D Design, which offers a thoughtful range of garden furniture and accessories as well as environmentally sustainable products for everyday use.
A favourite is their range of custom-designed chairs, a colourful collection aimed at creating a playful atmosphere in any area – whether in a tea garden, on the patio, in an entrance hall or in a boutique. The chairs’ bold designs and colours have a hint of attitude without diminishing style.
Specialists in landscaping, Jamie D Design also launched a set of clever green products recently. “Garden in a Tube” contains all the necessary items, including seeds, a design plan, fertiliser and step-by-step instructions to plant and maintain a small designer garden. It was designed to ease the process of installing a garden, and equips anyone with the tools and know-how to landscape their small patch.
“Post a Plant” is a clever way to send someone a plant without the risk of its being damaged on the way. The plant fits inside a recycled and reusable carton cylinder, entirely shielded until it reaches its destination.
Even if you don’t post it, it makes for a nifty, easily transportable gift.
With the trend to reuse, reduce and recycle, consumers are looking for eco-friendly products, so local furniture makers such as Green Projects & Furniture – which sells maintenance-free, weatherproof garden benches and picnic tables made of recycled plastic that looks like wood and in any colour – are doing well, too.
We’ve come a long way in making our famous outdoors more comfortable to enjoy. - The Star
*l Generation: Call 011 325 5963