Furniture Alfresco

Thanks to new materials, fabrics, and designs, today’s hottest outdoor furniture styles are not only more functional and practical than ever before, they’re more stylish as well. In fact, now that fabrics can withstand the elements and be luxuriously soft, outdoor furniture design has fundamentally changed for the better.

The shape of outdoor furniture is changing too, says Ann Marie Vering, an architectural designer and product developer who creates furniture lines for brands like Brown Jordan and Restoration Hardware (profiled below) from her base in Los Angeles. “Outdoor furniture is going smaller,” Vering says. “And customers are mixing and matching pieces, so collections are being designed to intermingle with other collections.

Kathleen Dauber, a partner at HBA Los Angeles, the West Coast headquarters of the global design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, adds, “It’s very important that the design aesthetic and ergonomics be correct. One or two signature elements add drama and personality to an outdoor space.

New materials that offer durability and minimal care are debuting at a rapid pace. This allows the outdoor furniture manufacturers and designers to concentrate on unique, interesting designs each season.”

Stephen Elton, chief brand curator at one of the world’s leading high-end outdoor furniture retailers, Brown Jordan, couldn’t agree more. “The latest trend in outdoor furnishings is really all about choice,” he says. And Brown Jordan’s new collection, Oscar, by designer Ann Marie Vering, features attractive all-weather fabrics and stylish powder-coated aluminum frames. The collection includes a chaise, sofa, bench, daybed, and nesting tables and is made to be flexible and interchangeable. Its defining design, an artisan’s take on rope detailing, has a classic, comfortable look that fits a variety of locations. “The Oscar series can withstand the elements of time and weather,” Elton says, “yet it’s so attractive that customers may choose to use it indoors or out.”

Meanwhile, Vering’s new pattern for RH, Restoration Hardware features an elegant, breezy latticework design on teak or aluminum frames. The Greystone Collection brings to mind lazy days outside, with nothing more to do than watch flowering vines grow. “The inspiration for Greystone was sparked by the classical details of the Greystone gardens [part of the Tudor revival Greystone Mansion perched above Los Angeles],” Vering says. “I was inspired to take something with a rich history—latticework—and meld it with something modern. The latticework on this collection is quite delicate, almost like fabric.”

So many clients coveted the look and feel of Serena & Lily’s indoor Hanging Rattan Chair for their porches that the California-based company developed an all-weather version that functions indoors and out. With an airy design and comfortable scooped seat, the sturdy chair is being enjoyed outside by legions of clients. “Many of our customers visit our design shops looking for pieces that translate across their indoor and outdoor lifestyles, especially in the warmer summer months,” says Serena & Lily Chief Design Officer Kirsty Williams. “All outdoor furniture should be able to perform equally as well indoors, without sacrificing style and customizability.”

Tidelli designers know how important texture is in home furnishings, including outdoor seating arrangements. The company’s new Obsession collection, which debuts this year, features woven nautical rope pieces in luscious colors. The collection was designed in an international partnership with Tedelli and South Korean artist Kwangho Lee.

Lee learned weaving techniques from his grandfather, a farmer who created artful objects from natural materials found on the outskirts of Seoul. Lee’s works are in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. His innovative collection is a way to experience art without leaving home. The collaboration produced five new pieces for the Obsession line: bench, ottoman, rectangular coffee table, square coffee table, and lounge chair.

Highly regarded German manufacturer Dedon is also debuting several new collections this year, each one based on a thoughtful philosophy. The CIRQL collection represents a new shape for the company, one with an iconic ring, the circle. “The highest goal is always to achieve an archetypal new shape, not too complex,” says its designer, Werner Aisslinger. “When you design a chair, it should create a natural sense of connection, as if it had somehow always been around.” The designer also found inspiration in another of his design projects, the newly opened 25hours Hotel The Circle in Cologne, Germany.

Just as homes often have stories to tell, so do certain furnishings. When designer Sebastian Herkner designed the Dune collection for Gloster, he and his collaborators thought deeply about the nuances of pattern design. Soft and easy on the eyes, Dune’s seating arrangements and tables combine soft lines and repeating patterns—just like an ocean dune itself. “Dune is all about evolution and innovation that allows for change,” Herkner says.

Dune’s upholstered cushions, quilted blankets, and pillows—set atop aluminum frames with a teak base—make a plush perch. The key is the fabric’s 3D knitting technology, which Herkner explored with his collaborators, the fabric manufacturers Glen Raven and Sunbrella. There is a distinctly breezy feeling in the line. In fact, Herkner was inspired by one particular image: “The scenario of having a good time with friends on the terrace, enjoying a cocktail and conversation in amazing comfort.”