A well-designed garden, like an interior, reflects the balancing of color, texture, scale and use of materials. And whether a garden, terrace, deck or the house itself is the backdrop for an outdoor room, keeping it simple is key to furnishing.
Which is why when the media are mixed, the message, more and more, is modern. Not modern for the sake of being edgy, or even minimal. It has more to do with clean lines straight, curved, sometimes tailored.
Wovens, some with the desired look of something hand crafted, show an exciting range, stretching in new directions beyond wicker and rattan clones. Theres also a bit of retro styling, in some instances actually revisiting a previously introduced design and tweaking it for today. Even slipcovered looks feature updated upholstered silhouettes with squarish or curvy shapes.
Increasingly, consumers are mixing materials and even styles. In other words, the idea of totally matched sets can be as boring outdoors as it is indoors. Not coincidentally, some of whats driving the expression of more modern designs is advancing technology both in terms of how indoor items have been adapted for outdoor use as well as how the building blocks themselves have evolved with new sophistication.
Virtually anything that was previously used exclusively indoors has been adapted for the outside, says designer Richard Frinier. Kitchens, TVs, rugs, lighting, sculpture, artwork.
Frinier is particularly excited about textiles because technology now allows such innovations as stretch and tight mesh weaves, as well as hybrids like a linen and burlap that he recently designed for Glen Raven. His Origins collection has recycled yarns with a rich, mottled color palette. Fabrics, of course, can introduce color and texture, in solids or bold or subtle patterns. In addition, dressmaker details such as piping (especially contrast), fringe and buttons (tufted looks) add more of the touches were accustomed to seeing indoors.
But form is especially compelling with some of the newest designs.
Glosters modular collection has a familiarity, yet is oh so fresh with its overscale weave. Add to that a rich curved shape with deep seating, all on a powder-coated frame, which makes it cocoonlike. Not surprisingly, the concept was imagined by German textile designer Mathias Hoffmann, as its wide straps channel fabric more than synthetic wicker.
Also cradling is the chair from Glosters new Dansk collection. Designers Povl Eskildsen and Philip Behrens nod to 1950s Danish style for inspiration in frames that are solid teak with tapering legs and upholstered in faux leather.
Outdoor furniture designers also are taking note of interiors trends. In some instances, as with the Marin dining and lounge collection from Brown Jordan, its credenza is handsome and stylish enough to be welcome inside. Designed by Michael Berman, who calls his signature style American Trans-Modern, in natural plantation teak wood, the chairs feature striking details, such as cording through stainless steel eyelets on the sides of the chairs.
A move to warmer metals, particularly a burnished brass, is reflected in a collection that actually is a new iteration of the iconic Kantan, which was designed in 1956 by Tadao Inouye for Brown Jordan. Richard Frinier reimagined the mid-century pieces in brass frames with the companys proprietary Suncloth straps.
One style that embodies the cozy factor is the Nomad seating from Gloster. The armless chairs are wide and serpentine, and they draw style points with horizontal striped fabric cladding.
Skinny horizontal stripes are garnering attention in mesh as well. Mamagreen, a Belgian manufacturer, introduced a striped collection whose upholstery is quick drying mesh, made from a strong polyester or hemp nonstretch yarn coated with vinyl, all mold and UV-resistant. The design actually was inspired by Navajo textiles.
Mesh as upholstery also is part of the innovative design for the Luna group from Lloyd Flanders. Its taut form is relieved with gentle curves, but even more intriguing is the materials sheerness, with a peekaboo to the frame. Shown in a shade of taupe, the hue signals a strong color shift to grays thats also happening in kitchens and surfaces, for example.
The other potentially seismic shift is to white. In Paris, at the twice-yearly international furniture show, Maison et Objet, white was more than a blip in exterior furnishings. In the U.S., it is starting to show up both in frames and in upholstery.
The teaming of marine blue and white is especially crisp. An updated classic strap design called Flex from Brown Jordan features Suncloth straps hand-woven over a sleek white powder-coated aluminum frame a design from Richard Frinier.
At Tropitone, white faux leather is a sexy entree into the contemporary category. Even more drop-dead, is a chair that combines white cushions in a supple frame of rich red faux leather on polished stainless-steel legs.
Splashes of color can lift neutral groupings. In showing off two of its slipcover looks, Lane Venture teamed an armless chair with a wide seat in raspberry and a beige sofa, highlighted with a touch of yellow and raspberry accent pillows. Its a simple design concept borrowed from interiors that resonates equally in the al fresco landscape.