Summer is all about blue skies and grey outdoor furniture this year, writes Colleen Hawkes.
The inside goes outside this summer, as interior decorating trends influence a new crop of outdoor furniture. It’s scarcely surprising considering how much we love our indoor-outdoor flow. After all, we have the perfect climate for it.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a greater emphasis on the idea of an outdoor living room, complete with weather-resistant sofas, armchairs, coffee tables and even rugs. It’s a much more sophisticated look than earlier decades.
Jules Lloyd-jones of Mitre 10 says outdoor spaces are no longer just used for dining or lounging in the sun. “More often, we are seeing them used for day-to-day living. With this, comes the greater integration of plush cushions, outdoor rugs and throws, all of which help to create a cosier, more inviting space.”
This year, comfort, longevity and flexibility remain a focus for outdoor furniture manufacturers. However, there’s also a definite colour trend.
Sebastian Nash of King Living says we can expect to see a lot more grey this summer. “We always work in with the indoor furniture trends to provide that seamless visual flow,” he says.
“This year we are seeing a lot of warm neutrals, from off whites, taupes and light greys right through to dark greys and gunmetal shades.”
For colour accents, including cushions, Nash says blue remains a hot favourite. “Blue is still incredibly strong and will be for a number of years – these major colour cycles usually continue for 10 years. Navy is an absolute classic, but we are seeing all shades of blue, from duck-egg blue through to aqua.”
Other on-trend colours include green, which Nash describes as “the neutral of the garden”.
Jayne Cross-hunter of Mckenzie Willis says charcoal teamed with crisp, white powder-coated aluminium is especially favoured at present.
And Lloyd-jones also notices a continuing demand for greys, creams and whites, but the store is seeing a greater use of more vibrant colours as well as patterns. “This may be through accessories, such as bright plants and pots, placemats or runners on tables, a painted feature space, or with statement furniture pieces, such as a bright Cape Cod chair.
“In terms of textiles, we’re seeing more natural materials and rustic textures, such as woven rope, bamboo and wicker. A popular trend is to mix these age-old materials with modern materials and design.”
In keeping with this trend, King Living has introduced a new rope-like fabric called King Cord. “Some weaves can look a little bit plastic,” says Nash. “But this one imparts a very natural look that’s understated and sophisticated.”
Cross-hunter says copper and teak are also appearing in new outdoor furniture lines. And ceramic tops for dining tables are meeting the demand for a concrete look, without the associated bulk and weight. “This is now the top-selling table surface in Europe,” she says.
Although many people like a co-ordinated look, there is a move toward mixing and matching dining furniture. “Traditional ‘rules’ that required tables and chairs to match perfectly are relaxing as we see new materials introduced and mixed in with old, creating a plethora of options for customers,” says Lloyd-jones.
Comfort is paramount. Nash says King Living is now incorporating pocket springs within layers of foam in its outdoor sofas, not just in the indoor versions.
“To protect the springs, the fabric is not just water resistant, it’s actually waterproofed,” he says. “The water simply runs off, which also means there’s no need to wait for furniture to dry after a quick summer storm.”
Mitre 10 has also upped the comfort levels in its outdoor furniture, following a demand for deep seats and plush cushioning.
Modular furniture is another trend that mimics what’s happening indoors. Sofas and chaises can be moved and repositioned as required.
To complete the setting, don’t forget the lighting. Solar lights have the advantage of not needing cables, and, fingers crossed, we will get plenty of sunny days to keep them charged.