Outdoor styles move forward by looking back

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.

Increasingly, consumers are finding that it’s kind of cool to mix materials and even styles — and manufacturers are beginning to get the message. In other words, the idea of totally matched sets can be as boring outdoors as it is indoors. So even those whose vocabulary is more traditional might be attracted to something more contemporary, and a single piece can really pop if it’s deftly integrated.

Not coincidentally, some of what’s 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, who is based in Long Beach, Calif. “Kitchens, TVs, rugs, lighting, sculpture, artwork.”

Frinier is particularly excited about textiles, not only because technology now allows such innovations as stretch and tight mesh weaves, but also hybrids like a linen and burlap. 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 we’re accustomed to seeing indoors.

But form, like the architecture of a home or shrub, is especially compelling with some of the newest designs.

A move to warmer metals, particularly a burnished brass that’s less strident in color and finish than in the past, is reflected in a collection that actually is a new iteration of the iconic Kantan, which was designed in 1956 by Tadao Inouye.

Many of the modern styles are inviting, perhaps more approachable. Mesh as upholstery also is part of the innovative design. Its taut form is relieved with gentle curves, but even more intriguing is the material’s sheerness, with a peekaboo to the frame. Shown in a shade of taupe, the hue signals a strong color shift to grays that’s 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, white was more than a blip in exterior furnishings. In the United States, 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 features Suncloth straps hand-woven over a sleek white powder-coated aluminum frame.
Splashes of color can lift neutral groupings. In showing off two of its slipcover looks, Lane teamed an armless chair with a wide seat in raspberry and a beige sofa, highlighted with a touch of yellow and raspberry accent pillows. It’s a simple design concept borrowed from interiors that resonates equally in the al fresco landscape.


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