Large windows, natural lighting, hazy shades of green and blue, botanical inspired fabrics and wallpapers – for interiors this season, it’s all about bringing nature inside. But a growing number of Hong Kong residents are taking the trend one step further, creating new and functional rooms outside – whether in a large, verdant garden or on a tiny urban balcony or rooftop. The city’s fragrant flowers and plants – bougainvillea, frangipani and orchids – provide the perfect backdrop for any décor. Simply layer in lighting, fabric, outdoor rugs and comfortable sofas just as you would any room indoors, and create your own modern oasis.
“Where possible, we are definitely seeing people extending their internal living to outdoor spaces,” says Nicole Cromwell, director of Hong Kong-based Nicole Cromwell Interior Design. “The modern garden is comfortable, colourful and filled with lush vegetation, creating clever ‘rooms’ for relaxing and dining.”
Cromwell says building a stylish outdoor area has been made easy thanks to innovations in furniture and fabrics. Options are no longer relegated to chintzy patterns made of plastic that crack and yellow with age. There is a veritable smorgasbord of glorious weatherproof materials – resistant to sun, water and mildew – that are of such high quality, you can’t tell the difference from those textiles you would use indoors.
For example, Osborne and Little’s Ionia collection in acrylic includes the chic, trellis-inspired Ithaki line in a palette of turquoise and lime, as well as the bold hexagonal graphics of Zante in a rainbow of bright hues.
Christopher Farr Cloth has a sublime collection of fabrics, with each colour and pattern more gorgeous than the last. His Kazulu zigzag fabric in blues and creams are on trend, or for something brighter in the current bohemian, hippie-chic theme, try Mare Outdoor in Rosa – hatched reds, purples and greys.
Meanwhile, more traditional outdoor brands like Sunbrella are offering everything from florals and plaids to denim and stripes, and all promise to stand up to even the toughest tropical climes.
When thinking outdoor fabrics, don’t forget about the floor, where you are equally spoilt for choice. Pappelina, the brainchild of Swedish designer Lina Rickardsson, creates heavenly rugs made of plastic – although you would never recognise the material. From checks and stripes to stars and African motifs in everything from bright, bold hues of red, pink and green to soft pastel shades and neutrals, the rugs can be made for the largest patios or tiniest balconies.
Furniture has also seen a renaissance when it comes to the garden, and the pieces you choose will set the tone for the whole outdoor area.
“There should be a mix and match of different materials, colour schemes and textures used in today’s garden,” says Florence Jonkers, regional marketing co-ordinator in Asia-Pacific for outdoor furniture specialists DEDON. “Outdoor plots are no longer equipped with a single furniture collection in a uniform design or colour scheme. The look is about combining decorative elements and mementos from your personal history – the places you’ve been, where you’re at and where you’re going – and arranging them to create a beautiful, lived-in space.”
DEDON’s MU range, conceived by Milan-based French designer Toan Nguyen, was designed for living spaces inside and out. “MU offers a combination of sophisticated lightness and versatility to garden furniture through a range of sofas, day beds, benches, coffee tables and side tables. All elements are of different design and are available in sizes as varied as the functions they perform. Their slender and compact structures allow you to utilise them exactly as you wish.” Jonkers suggests combining pieces with DEDON’s graphic DALA line of woven chairs and lighting in reds, blues and greens to give an eclectic, colourful look and feel.
French powerhouse Ligne Roset also offers furniture that is functional and beautiful and can be used in the house as well as the garden. Its Passio chairs and couches from award-winning Parisian designer Philippe Nigro are sculptural and curvaceous, made with shiny, stainless silver frames and removable covers in neutral tones.
British-based Gloster offers its Dansk line, which has a modern bent: teak and outdoor leather combine to create a suite of lounge chairs, dining chairs and tables fit for the finest of homes.
To add some bright colour and contrast, look at Missoni Home’s delectable Cordula Chaise Lounge, constructed of a steel frame with a seat made of thick cords in Missoni’s inimitable stripes of purple, blue, yellow and grey. Offset this piece with the gorgeous Petal outdoor coffee table – think white daisies – from Knoll International.
According to interior designer Cromwell, even the smallest balconies can accommodate the latest in outdoor furniture – it’s all about making the most of your usable space. “Adding decking to a balcony to raise the floor to the same level as the interior space will make it an extension of the living area and make it feel bigger. Don’t overclutter; choose a comfortable sofa or a small table with a few chairs.”
For additional seating, try something portable. Mattias Stenberg made a splash at last year’s Milan Furniture Fair with his clever Carry On Stools for Offecct – the bold tones promise to add a pop of colour to any garden.
No room would be complete without a little mood lighting, and balconies offer the perfect opportunity to add a bit of luxury with an outdoor chandelier. Fatboy’s RockCoco chandelier by Amsterdam-based designers DeMakersVan is a combination of Louis XV meets rock ‘n’ roll, and is cleverly designed from polycarbonate rather than crystal, giving it a tough, modern edge. And it doesn’t just look good, it’s also weatherproof, dirt- and moisture-repellant, and is easy to clean.
For something more rustic, Oka’s Centuri lantern is made of strips of birch and painted white to create a large, three-dimensional star. For lighting you can use on special occasions, try paper lanterns from Ikea – string them across your outdoor space or on overhanging branches. Wind LED fairy lights along the string to add softer light, or simply cover the area in tea lights and scented candles to create a romantic ambience.
To help keep enclosed outdoor spaces cool and green for summer dinner parties, invest in one of the season’s major trends: a lush, vertical garden wall. Companies such as Woolly Pocket in the US provide living wall planters – small tanks that are fastened to a wall and filled with green foliage. Choose vines, ferns or ficuses that will spill over the edge of the box, making it invisible.
DEDON’s Green portable room divider is like a modern-day trellis. Complete with ceramic pots, it’s easy to grow your favourite blooms and move them around to section off your garden or balcony space.
For a simpler option, fill plain white pots with local beauties like orchids and jonquils, or use large vases, storage jars, glass cloches and the like to create terrariums. Fill them with ferns and vines – plants that love the warm, humid weather. Then sit back and enjoy the outdoors, Hong Kong style.