When I was a girl growing up in the north of England, dining alfresco was sheer luxury. My area has the highest rainfall in Europe, and even though this allowed us perfect rosy complexions, outside rooms were not the norm. As soon as the sun poked through the clouds, my mother would drag out the kitchen table, throw on a checkered tablecloth and shove a bunch of garden flowers into the milk jug. There was nothing better than having lunch outside. Manners weren't quite as strict, and everyone seemed so much happier. We didn't even have a barbecue. This was an American pleasure that had yet to cross the pond. Now, wherever you visit in the world, the millisecond the weather even suggests summer, the patios, balconies and terraces are full. This trend for relaxed outside entertaining has evoked its own lifestyle, and with it the choices for furnishings and accessories are nearly as vast as for interiors.
For many years, the traditional materials for outside furniture have been teak and wrought iron. Both are perfect for the elements; teak being the ideal wood, as it doesn't rot, and wrought iron because it doesn't rust. Plastic has always been the poorer cousin, inexpensive but never very stylish. Now that's all changed.
During the past few years, a new material called Hularo has become the staple of high-end contemporary design for exterior furnishings. Hularo is a man-made, totally weatherproof fiber, but unlike other plastic fibers, it contains no PVC, will not crack or fade and does not give off toxic fumes. From oversize lounge chairs to full dining areas, the first furniture made with Hularo weave has sprung up in chic hotels and around pools and beach decks. One of my favorite brands is Dedon, which is available in most large cities. This Italian manufacturer has captured the essence of a new generation. Its oversize, boxy sofas and low-slung seating are all very relaxed and clublike. The durable seating comes with washable cushions designed for the outdoors.
Resin weave styling is increasingly available at large home and outdoor stores at more competitive prices.
Once you have your furnishings set up, it's time to fill in the blanks. At this time of year, the array of table settings that are bright and cheerful, designed especially for summer fun, are vast. Outside rugs are making their way onto patios, too, and barbecues have become an extension of the kitchen, even with matching bars.
With a well-designed outside room, the next step is to try to extend the season with fans and exterior heaters. The latter first became popular on restaurant terraces and have now moved to the home. To me, they are worth every penny if you can squeeze a few more weeks out of summer and enjoy the pleasures of outdoor living.
Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019. Copyright 2007 Debbie Travis.
- Debbie Travis
- Theresa Cassagne
- This trend for relaxed outside entertaining has evoked its own lifestyle, and with it the choices for furnishings and accessories are nearly as vast as for interiors.