Neale Whitaker: Outdoor furniture inspired by our surf culture
NOBODY HAS PERFECTED THE OUTDOOR ROOM QUITE LIKE AUSTRALIANS
There’s a lot to love about our new apartment. Like its wafting distance from one of Sydney’s best sourdough bakeries and its walk-in wardrobes. But I’m most excited about our generous covered deck, aka the outdoor room.
It’s a significant transition for me – I’m an Englishman, after all, and just as our homes are our castles, our gardens are places to potter and drink Pimm’s. But I think I’m finally done with the planters and pots, the weeding and watering. I want sofas and rugs, and down the track – dammit – a fire pit.
The outdoor room is something Australia can really claim as its own. We invented it and nobody does it better. Jamie Durie played his part (remember the TV show?), as have retailers like Domayne, and Gordon and Susan Tait, whose company (madebytait.com.au) celebrates its quarter-century next year. The Taits realised early on there was a gap in the market for outdoor designs that could withstand fierce Aussie summers.
“Twenty-five years ago, outdoor furniture was just tables, chairs, benches and a few lounges,” says creative director Susan Tait. “There weren’t many upholstered pieces. Huge advances in fabric technology mean we can now design with lots of colours and options.”
Tait’s outdoor range is manufactured in Australia and the brand believes in engaging local creative talent. Designers Adam Goodrum and Ross Gardam, and design studio Daniel Emma, have all contributed. And new this summer is Tidal, a range by Trent Jansen, inspired by 1970s Aussie surf culture.
Tait agrees nobody gets indoor/ outdoor living quite like we do. That’s what attracted California-based outdoor furniture brand JANUS et Cie to our shores in 2015. “All our furnishings are tested for harsh climates,” says local sales manager Steve Liggett. “Janice [Feldman, company founder] is known to place a
prototype on her beach-house balcony to see how it holds up to the salt air.”
Dedece’s Tim Engelen shares Feldman’s hands-on approach. His company brings the big guns of European outdoor furniture – like the Paola Lenti range – to Australia. “I trust nobody,” he laughs, admitting he tests furniture on the roof of his Sydney showroom. “We have an environment like nowhere else and we’re very cautious when it comes to European claims for outdoor furniture.
“Comfort and shade are the next big things. It’s all about outdoor living under cover.” That is music to my ears.