Outdoor design and fixtures are just as important as indoors. Zara Horner finds out why and what’s in store this year.

Whether it’s the main alfresco eating arena, a breezy walkway or intimate balcony, outdoor settings are every bit as important as indoor spaces when it comes to enhancing the guest experience.

Where once there was a very definite distinction between the two areas – out was out and in was in – nowadays there’s a much more symbiotic approach based loosely on guests wanting more interaction between the outdoors and indoors in their own lifestyle and own home.

The hospitality industry reflects this trend so buildings are much more sympathetic to their environment and landscape, while outdoor settings are expected to mirror the appeal, and comfort of the indoors.

But with this so-called ‘transterior’ approach comes a number of unique considerations to take into account when pulling an outdoor setting together.

The first is movement… how people, staff and guests, move and travel through the space. Secondly, how the area will be affected by the elements, perhaps especially sun and wind. Thirdly, of course is function… what activities might the space best serve?

How it’s done

“Outdoor spaces are definitely as important as indoor spaces,” Panai Phatanapirom, sales director of Suniture says.

“This reflects evolution in perception. We see people and clients more open to experimenting with outdoor furnishings now, all with the intention of making the space comfortable and best suited to different needs.”

One often overlooked aspect of this growing preference for outdoor living is protection. Sun damage is a very real danger and to that end Suniture products such as the company’s umbrella range are manufactured using fabrics recommended by the Skin Cancer Organization. Available in wood and aluminium the umbrellas come in free standing and overhang options.

Equally it’s important that these outdoor spaces reflect and connect with the overall look and feel of the property. The colour palettes, materials and textures chosen should make for a seamless integration.

“Shade solutions as well as outdoor-quality furnishings that are traditionally used indoors, such as carpets, lampshades, beanbags and upholstered sofas are some of the more interesting demands we are seeing from clients,” Phatanapirom notes.

This indoor/out connection means “clients now want things you find traditionally indoors without having to worry that they will fade or rot,” says Phatanapirom.

As a result technology has had to move fast to keep up. Furniture made using woven synthetic materials has become increasingly popular over the past decade, so too quick dry foam, anti-microbial treatments, solution dyed acrylics, and trims and zips that withstand the elements.

Suniture sofas, chairs and sun cubes can be left outside all year round thanks to special upholstery that is stain-resistant, machine-washable, bleach-safe and easily changed to suit changing events or seasons.

Sonja van der Hagen, chief communications officer with Dedon agrees that outdoor spaces are “absolutely” as important as any indoor setting.

“Today, guests expect a high standard in design and furnishing. They want to feel as comfortable as they are at home and be inspired by creative spaces and ambiences – outdoors as well as in.

“It’s important to create curated ambiences. For example, for under awning areas we can work with a wider range of materials. It motivates us to use a larger variety of materials in our developments, such as woven furniture combined with teak, ceramics and upholstery.”

For colours and textures it’s agreed that the more muted options popular over the past two to three years are giving way to bolder statements.

“It looks like we are slowly growing out of the nude/powder/pink cloud in which we have been floating the last couple of years,” van der Hagen says.

“Stronger colours are coming back, used as accent colours in accessories but also for larger pieces.”

Dedon has expanded its fabric collection to include 14 outdoor textiles.

Phatanapirom points out: “In our experience, hotels don’t necessarily follow trends but rather brand directions.

“We keep hundreds of fabric options and colours in stock to easily manage whatever particular décor schemes a hotel or a venue prefers.”

In particular this year, Suniture is “working on bringing more solutions” for quick service restaurants (QSRs). “Including out of the box solutions,” Phatanapirom says. “We are known to specialise in tailor-made solutions for the outdoors but there is now a demand to service the hospitality industry with ready-made products.”

Dedon’s Mbrace Collection, designed by Sebastian Herkner is something the company is focussing on in Asia this year. “A combination of woven seats on teak bases it is already successful in the region,” van der Hagen says.

“Generally, our most important ranges are modular lounges. Recently we launched the upholstered Brixx collection designed by Lorenza Bozolli, which had a very good response. In the dining areas our Seax chairs, designed by Jean Marie Massaud are best sellers.

“In Asia, in the resorts we furnish our iconic pieces are most popular, such as the Nestrest – and we all find those very exciting to develop!”