David Perry -- Casual Living, March 9, 2012
The move to create sophisticated and unique outdoor living spaces continues to move in a strong direction.
Patios are no longer designed just for relaxation, but for decoration, adapting typical indoor fixtures to outdoor applications. Gone are the days of rough-hewn tables sporting checkered tablecloths and plastic covered seats. Innovative materials with luxurious, functional and colorful finishes are transforming the exterior in a contemporary way.
While consumers still need the modern-day equivalents of light, heat, food and a place to sit, outdoor-appropriate living rooms and kitchens are now standard fare.
Even doghouses are getting in on the trend. Case in point: In Gloucestershire, England, a $417,000 two-bedroom doghouse is being designed for two Great Danes boasting sheepskin-lined, temperature controlled beds, a $250,000 sound system, a 52-inch plasma TV, an 18-inch spa bath and automatic food and water dispensers.
At Material ConneXion we scour the globe for the latest consumer trends that are driving design and material applications across all industries. We are seeing three significant forces that are influencing new designs and material choices in outdoor spaces, driving designers and decorators to widen their spectrum of choices.
Outdoor Oaxacon clay incorporates authentic Huichol Indian hardwood patterns.
More than ever, consumers are looking for the comfort of the old and familiar products of their youth, updated with modern technology features. For example, Greg Brill, a New York City entrepreneur, avidly collects old antiques such as the ‘Shyvers multiphone.' He restores the façade and imagines new possibilities for the function he can integrate internally.
"There was a craftsman ship and ferocious pride in these old devices," Brill said. "They are beautiful, aesthetically and mechanically. They are soulful. Designed before transistors and most kinds of plastic, there is nothing better than taking the multiphone in their native state, putting a nickel in them, and watching them whir and illuminate as you command your iTunes library for whole house audio."
Rejuvenating antiques and adapting them to the outdoor elements is a meticulous process that requires material knowledge and technique, but we are seeing an increase in the integration of these types of Retro/Now products into outdoor environments, from gooseneck barn lighting to the retro modern bullet planter.
The Retro/Now trend can also add charm and character to outdoor environments through smart materials choices like reclaimed teak. Sourced from old houses in Thailand and other regions in Asia, this wood is by nature extremely durable and termite-resistant. However, now treated with a borate-based, EPA-registered termiticide, it is approved as an additional termite barrier. Not only extremely functional but also highly stylish, it features a worn, rough texture and can be used for exterior decoration.
Another interesting option is a hand-braided tubular floor covering that is suitable for outdoor applications. Composed of 100% polyester, it has high strength and durability thanks to the material's properties and the way it is braided together. What makes this material extremely functional for outdoor applications is its UVresistant, waterproof, water-repellent, and colorfast characteristics. Its texture and zig-zag pattern has the charm of old-world crafting modernized for today.
Haute couture lace embedded in acrylic steps off the runway and onto outdoor spaces.
More than meets the eye
Increasingly, as we bring our indoors outside, we need higher-performance materials to protect against the elements. For example, Neoteric Luxury guarantees its woven outdoor furniture collections against the "harshest weather conditions without cracking, peeling or fading." A Tampa, Fla.-based company, WerEver, designs outdoor kitchen cabinets made from marine-grade polymers that resist warping, rotting and cracking. These modular cabinets are designed to withstand sun, rain, snow and even pool chemicals.
Another favorite is Accoya or Titan Wood. This timber has been chemically treated using "acetylation" to render it more durable. The treatment process uses heat, pressure and acetic anhydride to change its structure rather than by coating or impregnating the wood. It is more durable than teak and dimensionally stable, reducing shrinkage by 75% or more compared to the untreated wood.
Accoya is non-toxic, sourced from sustainable forests, and is resistant to mold and insects. The timber is Cradle to Cradle CM Goldcertified and has a warranty of 50 years above-ground and 25 years in-ground. Extremely ductile, it can be used for various outdoor applications such as furniture, decking, windows and external façades.
Another high-performance and striking material is Metal Poppy by Heumelic Inc. It uses a high-precision process to decorate stainless-steel surfaces. The manufacturer originally developed this photo-etching process for producing semiconductors but now applies the technology to product design. The process allows the manufacturer to impart gloss and surface texture on stainless-steel surfaces in photorealistic etchings. There is no surface coating used, but the sheets maintain good abrasion resistance and they can be used for exterior stainless-steel surfaces such as decorative cladding.
Braided tubular fl oor covering adds retro appeal.
Authenticity is a new luxury in an increasingly jaded culture. Consumers want to know everything about the items that they buy, from material ingredients to the origin story, challenging designers to think of product development in a new way by incorporating a true story behind the object.
Sami Hayek, renowned designer and entrepreneur, showcases the brilliant craft smanship of indigenous peoples of Mexico to produce amazing interior products. For example, tables made from hand-molded Oaxacan clay that turns characteristically black when cured in underground ovens and cabinets that use authentic hardwood patterns handcrafted by the Huichol people.
Origin stories are adding interest and mystique to outdoor environments through materials as well. For example, Rigid is a material made of translucent and transparent panels that incorporate Handmade French haute couture lace. The lace is embedded in clear acrylic (PMMA) cast sheets, and a range of lace designs are available. The panels have up to a 92% light transmittance (for the clear acrylic) and have excellent flame retardance (UL 94 HB). The panels are suitable for outdoor applications such as decorative paneling, furniture and even room dividers.
These three trends - Retro/Now, More than Meets the Eye and Origin Stories - are gaining momentum as homeowners and designers seek to transform their outdoor spaces into something individual and unique. They emphasize research toward products that offer more than just good looks. Decorators are constantly looking out for new materials that present both style and advanced performance, and now the industry is listening.
Treated reclaimed teak lends a rejuvenated antique feel to casual.