The Outside Edge

The Outside Edge

June 28, 2011
Photo by: José Picayo

Dragging indoor furniture out to the patio for a soiree under the stars has become this summer's hot design move. Irreverent? Sure. Risky? Yes—sudden rain or a splash from the pool are constant threats. But asking your living room furniture to brave the outdoors is increasingly unnecessary. Imaginative, sophisticated, and practically indestructible, a new breed of all-weather furniture has sprung up to replace the generic metal mesh that has made the inside-out trend so urgent.


These new designs are particularly welcome when it comes to outdoor dining: Whether you're serving a meal around a table or letting guests casually lounge with their plates, a place for everyone to sit is a basic requirement. But why should those seats have to look—and more discouraging yet, feel—so basic, too? Lately, we've begun to see seating that is more stylish and better suited to the outdoors than anything you're harboring inside: chairs that are graceful and moveable (for gathering in circles or accommodating unexpected diners), sofas that are casual enough for daytime lounging and refined enough for evening affairs, seats of all kinds that are inviting to look at and occupy.


The evolution is visible in Brown Jordan's Architect sofa, with state-of-the art fabric that looks too sophisticated to be all-weather, couched in an imposing industrial grid of a frame. The Luna chair from Gloster similarly makes no bones about its strong constitution, but stakes its appeal on style and comfort—its lightweight (and stackable) aluminum frame is topped with touchable teak, and its fabric-mesh seat supports an adult for hours. Restoration Hardware's Majorca lounge chair takes the opposite tack: With its aluminum frame inside a chunky modern cube of chocolate-brown wicker, we're tempted to drag it inside the next time we entertain indoors. The rugged materials and oversize scale of these pieces hold their ground in any environment. Their classic shapes, on the other hand, allow you to mix a traditional teak rocker, like the Avignon, reintroduced by Smith & Hawken's new owner, Target, with an object as edgy and versatile as the Nautilus Spot table. Like Frank Gehry's Left Twist cube—a favorite of ours, now available in seven new colors—a small table like the Nautilus can add an interesting shape or dash of color, while doubling as an impromptu seat. Can Room & Board's recycled-plastic 405 chaise, an update on a basking platform from a Poconos resort, really live next to an upright chair like Lee Industries' slipcovered Sunset lounger—even if the slipcover can withstand the elements? You be the judge. But you can be sure that the next time your guests look around for a place to sit, they'll have something to look at.

This article was first published in Garden Design July/August 2011