South Africans are outdoor people. With long summers, and generally great weather conditions, we are not the poor cooped-up souls from Europe. We love nature walks, open air concerts, our gardens, and of course a good braai on the patio, one of the most important living spaces in our homes. And this (the patio) is where the new revolution has been happening for some time now. Gone are the days of cheap plastic chair-and-table sets bought from the local chain-store. South Africans can be a really stylish bunch, so lately, the outdoor area needs to be just as well dressed as the adjacent entertainment lounge with it’s splashes of Armani and Poltrona Frau.
Fortunately there are now a number of local and international manufacturers who have moved into the manufacture and supply of suitable outdoor furniture to satisfy even the most discerning tastes. There’s some really beautiful outdoor ‘thingys’ to be found, if you do a little Sherlock-ing. For real style, you will be hard pressed to beat the Italians (is Milan not the traditional trend- and fashion capital of the world?), so be certain to look at some Italian designs before making your final decisions on your outdoor living spaces.
For a while now the rage has been the standard grey fibreglass or plastic weave, but it seems that has now become a little “Gangnam style” (overdone and overplayed), and the new trend favours more original designs and materials such as polypropylene and acrylics that feel and look more natural. Another new trend is bright and bold colours for the outdoors, bringing a sense of fun and adventure to the outside. A big ‘yes’ is to go green – not in colour but more so in choosing products manufactured from recyclable and renewable materials. For the contemporary architectural style, minimalist, angular, clean lines in design are in as is the rough hewn, chunky or robust look, for more classical or natural settings. Be wary of over-designed space-station furniture can be out of place in the outdoor arena and may end up looking too contrived. Also try and avoid the staid and boring, kitsch cane pieces, or retro green cast-aluminium sets with twirls and furls”. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with these type of pieces, they are just not ‘now’. Here are some tips when choosing outdoor furniture.
1.Be an informed buyer:
Do your homework. In both the print and electronic media, you will find a wealth of information to guide you. The internet is awash with images and good ideas. Go surfing first!
2.Quality and longevity:
Look for durable materials that can withstand the onslaught of the harsh African elements in the long term – stainless steel, high quality aluminium, teak, balau, durawood. For the upholstered parts, choose fabrics that are UV resistant, colourfast, resistant against fungus, and easy to remove and wash. Low maintenance and functionality is in. Check on Warranties and Certifications of the supplier and/or manufacturer. See if their names appear on consumer websites like Hello Peter and see how they have dealt with comebacks. Rather spend a little more and ensure that you have years of good outdoor living than buying bargain-basement disappointments that need replacement as soon as the warranty expires.
3. Be practical about the design:
Over the top, elaborate designs may be stunning for a while, but the fashion may fade. Look for something with a more timeless appeal that will still be acceptable in 10 or 15 year’s time. Rather play with colours in the upholstery to create a “now” look, which can be changed every couple of years. For lounge sets, think about going the modular route, where you can always change components around to create a new look in a few year’s time.
4. Be comfortable:
Look for comfort. If you love having outdoor dinner parties on balmy summer evenings, it is important to ensure that your guests do not end up with sore bums. A long, chunky, rosewood bench seat may look wonderful next to the dining table, but ask yourself if you would be able to sit on it for three hours straight. Rather opt for comfortable dining chairs with backrests, or at least have decent cushions on the bench.
There are some beautiful accessories on the market. Outdoor blinds, coloured LED lighting (green and low energy), pots and vases, outdoor rugs, bio-fuel fireplaces, perfume dispensers and other interesting accessories can create beautiful and romantic ambiance.
Think about a large umbrella, sail awning, tension sail, or pergola to temper the harsh African sun, but preferably consider going the route of something that is retractable. It is now possible to enclose your entire outdoor area with a pergola that has an automated, retractable roof and sides. In summer you can close the roof to block out the sun and open the sides to welcome the breeze (which also protect you furniture). In winter you can open the roof to let the sun in and close the sides to block that chilly wind. However, khaki coloured outdoor blinds with clear, see-thru PVC inlays are not exactly stylish. Rather opt for retractable blinds in bamboo, or specialised, high quality shade-cloth such as Sunworker (not the green plastic stuff), or even beautiful outdoor curtains which are now available on the market.
Keep in mind that outdoor living spaces have become a very important consideration for property buyers in general, so consider setting up your outdoor area as an investment in your home. Look at the current value of your home and your investment in your outdoor area. Ask yourself if your investment will add more to the overall value of your property than the amount you are spending. If the anser is “yes” the only other question to ask is whether it is affordable.
8. Plan carefully
Do not make hasty decisions just because some company is running a great special offer. Plan your outdoor space carefully.Do your homework and if possible use a good designer to assist you. A qualified decorator might cost a little more, but it will be money well spent if the final result adds value to your home and you end up with an area you will enjoy for many years to come.