What's hot in outdoor living this summer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am


We really have no right to complain about Hong Kong winters. Compared with many countries, ours are relatively brief, blissfully mild - a welcome respite, even, from the lengthy heat. But it's only with the spring sunshine that our thoughts turn to outdoor living: to sunset drinks, dining alfresco, and what we can bring home to rejuvenate our courtyard/rooftop/balcony.

The trend to zhoosh up any available outdoor space is fairly new in our traditionally indoor-loving city, but it's taken off at Olympian pace. This means that a much wider range of outdoor kit is now available locally - and if it's hot today in Europe's gardens or Asia's resorts, you can probably find it in Hong Kong, or at least bring it in thanks to online shopping.

So what's new this season? Move over wicker furniture and make way for a new trend. So says Everything Under the Sun CEO Janice Ortmann.

'After 10 years of synthetic rattan products, the trend this summer is to use aluminium and sling or stainless steel and sling,' she said. These are softened by plump cushions made from quick-dry foam and finished in stylish yet robust all-weather fabrics in a range of white and brights.

Everything Under the Sun also has outdoor lamps and floating pool lights that can change to suit different moods. Vondom lighted pots, floating cocoon lamps and Serralunga lamp art pieces are expected to be hot sellers this summer.

The humble barbecue has made way for complete outdoor kitchens. Ortmann cites the Viteo Outdoor brand, which uses Corian tops and Gaggenau burners - 'the same as their indoor kitchens'. 'Our Cadac Braai Max barbecues now come with a pizza stone, wok, paella pan, and teppanyaki grill - and, of course, a regular grill for sausages and steak,' she said.

For the ultimate resort look, it's hard to go past German brand Dedon's range of gorgeous City Camp daybeds and swing seats by Austrian designer Annette Hinterwirth. Hinterwirth calls her four-poster, fabric-swathed creations 'an all-in-one outdoor living unit for modern nomads'.

'Wherever you are - by the sea, in the desert or on a metropolitan rooftop - City Camp is your retreat, your shelter, a place to eat, drink, relax, sleep or just be with family and friends,' she said. The daybed incorporates a table element and comes with tatami-style mattress or, alternatively, a plush foldable mattress.

Also new this summer is Dedon's collaboration with Flos. K-TRIBE is a new outdoor standard lamp collection by Philippe Starck made of hand-woven synthetic Dedon fibre.

Dedon also brings the Babylon collection of planters, garden vases and stools by celebrated Barcelona design duo Harry & Camila. Characterised by their ribbed, asymmetrical, seemingly collapsing forms, these striking pieces can give the impression of being handcrafted one-offs. In fact, they're the product of complex algorithms, years of development, and no shortage of imagination by their creators, who cite inspirations as diverse as Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel and a pair of soft suede boots Harry wore in the 80s.

Blume Living could spark a summer romance with its cosy sofas and day beds for two. Founder Grace Carrey invoked her experience in developing trimmings and accessories for Polo Ralph Lauren to create furniture designed to 'blur the line between outdoor and indoor living'.

'At the time we were pioneers in creating the distressed look for garments. I have used this skill to create many unique finishes for my PE [polyethylene] rattan materials: leather, bamboo, rosewood and bark. They do resemble the real thing,' she said. The signature Blume chair comes in multiple colours. Carrey believes open weaves, like her Tendril sofa set, will be popular.

Designlink offers lounge-by-the-pool reclining Lazy sofas from Royal Botania's Red Label Collection, and versatile outdoor lounge sets that can be arranged to suit your space. Designer Kris Van Puyvelde's slick 'pure look', in spite of its boxy appearance, is also intended to be big on comfort.

If ultra-mod is not your thing, TREE has Vintage Outdoor, a collection of dining tables and chairs inspired by classic Scandinavian designs that echo 1950s and 1960s charisma. Described by TREE managing director Kate Babington as 'pure retro chic', Vintage pieces are made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled teak.

' We use aged teak, decades old, which has been salvaged from fishing boats, houses and railway sleepers to create the designs you now see. So each piece actually carries a story of where it came from and no two pieces are the same,' she said.

As with indoors, the finishing touches matter. For something different, check out the eco-rugs made from recycled plastic bags, hand-carved art in recycled teak (the Guilty and Innocent range) and terracotta lanterns, designed to look good and keep those mosquitoes at bay, from Wicka Designs. A wide range of outdoor rugs is also available from www.outdoorrugsonly.com.

As for the season's must-haves, Life Styling creative director Nathalie Edwards surprisingly cites 'a patch of grass'. Privacy, water features and jacuzzis also continue to rate highly.

'The aim would be to make the space most usable and comfortable - heating in the winter, and fans with misting effect in the summer - so that it can be used all-year round,' Edwards said. The overriding design trick is clever combinations. 'To create a space that works you need to have a good mix of product and finishes,' she said.