Many of us have some kind of outdoor space, be it big enough for a cushion, a chair, a table, or, if you’re very lucky, a swimming pool. We look at what’s hot out there for the different ways we use our outside space, and how best to choose it.
Sometimes it’s too hot, often it’s too humid, and when it rains here it really means business. But living in a tropical climate also affords us the chance to enjoy some balmy weather and savour some outdoor living, whether it’s in the pool, sipping sundowners on the balcony, or dining under the stars.
If you consider your outside space as another room in your home – and you should – there are some important factors to take into account. Firstly, think about how you will be using the space. Is it for entertaining, for social events, or will it be mostly used for family time? How big is the space? Some spaces, balconies for example, may be too small to fit much in; but conversely, small furniture can look swamped in large spaces.
Your outside space should tie in closely with the inside, so think about the current style of your home, and whether there’s a theme inside that you wish to carry on through to the outside. If you already have certain pieces for the outdoors, then work out what may complement them.
Bright colours can be fantastically eye-catching, but check whether they might clash with the plants in your garden. The materials the furniture is made from will also reflect your style. Funky ironwork may look cool, but will it stick out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the furniture?
Materials for outdoor furniture in Singapore
Wood: Teak is the most expensive, but is very durable (it lasts up to 100 years) and weathers from brown to silvery grey if left unvarnished. Eucalyptus can last almost as long if it’s treated annually with a water-based sealant. Cedar furniture lasts about 20 years and needs an annual coating of protective oil.
Metal: Wrought iron is hammered over a fire, and should be powder-coated to last. Aluminium is rust-resistant, light and easy to move. Stainless, galvanised and powder-coated steel sets are a good choice.
Synthetic: Plastic sets are generally the most affordable, easily stackable and almost indestructible. All-weather wicker is easy to clean, reasonably priced and weather-resistant.
Aside from the popular dark synthetic rattan outdoor lounging furniture you see in many homes, eye-catching sculptural pieces are finding themselves in favour, says Leon Choong, manager at Marquis@QSquare. “Designer pieces are always popular,” he says, pointing to the Emu Heaven lounger by Jean-Marie Massaud as an example. “Lounging pieces are usually for entertainment purposes, and so would normally occupy a more central part within the space. As such, people look for statement pieces.” The collection does not neglect function or comfort either, and the armchairs are stackable. The steel is woven like a fabric, making it light and comfortable.
Simplicity can be seen in the new Shine collection from Emu, designed by Arik Levy. It is created exclusively in aluminium, making it light, functional and resistant to atmospheric agents. The seats are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and the stackable armchairs, seats and loungers feature teak armrests and tabletops.
Much of the Emu furniture is metalwork, either steel or aluminium, and almost all of it has a powder-coated finish to protect it from rust and colour-fading. “Among the materials suitable for outdoors, it stands with plastic as one of the more hardy materials, but with a refined look. While basic care like cleaning is required, it’s relatively minimal.”
Emu is moving more into wood-based furniture and, in collaboration with Italian design studio Chiaramonte-Marin, has created the Kontiki collection, featuring strips of solid teak and an irregular grid for the frame that is then mounted on two tubular steel legs. The look is sculptural and classic.
■ Most new outdoor cushions are treated in some way to protect against the sun and other elements, but do check the label.
■ If your cushions aren’t treated with a rain repellent, or have a core that isn’t waterproof, then covering them up in bad weather is essential.
■ Cushions can be susceptible to suntan oils and creams, so cover them with a towel when necessary.
■ Regularly clean your cushions. If the fabric has been treated with acrylic (such as Sunbrella), spray them with a hose once a month.
■ Mould can be cleaned with water containing a very small amount of bleach, but always check the label to see if bleach is allowed; if you’re not sure, carry out a spot test.
■ If going away for an extended period, make sure you dry and store your cushions.
The first and most important factor is the amount of space you have. You can’t plan on entertaining dozens of friends around an outdoor table if you have a one-metre-square balcony.
When meeting a customer for the first time, Kevin Olliver, marketing manager from OHMM, not only finds out how much space they have but also discusses the pros and cons of various designs and material options, as some require less maintenance than others. “The geometry of the chairs is also important, as some offer a more relaxed seating position and others are more formal,” he says.
A nifty way around space constraints, however, is to bring the outdoors indoors. “We’ve noticed an increase in this trend, because of the beautiful materials, designs and durability of our outdoor furniture. Traditional weaving techniques have been paired with new materials in contemporary designs.”
For smaller modern apartments and smaller gardens, there are interesting compact dining sets and modular lounge seating.
“The lines that define indoor and outdoor furniture have become blurred. This is particularly the case in modern apartments with balconies, where the outdoor area is a seamless extension to the interior. We are all leading increasingly wired lives and the desire to escape to our own oasis of calm is on the rise.”
In fact, Kevin says that when looking for a dining set for his contemporary, minimalist apartment, he chose the Breeze collection from Harbour Outdoor. “The mix of polished stainless steel with teak inserts, Batyline sling and clear, bevelled, tempered glass gives the set a modern industrial look, and the clear, tempered glass top gives it an almost weightless feel,” he says.
There’s far more to outdoor lighting than sticking a few tea lights across your lawn (although there is nothing wrong with that!).
The Bali Flame pole lantern from Lightcraft creates a dramatic effect, lighting from the inside of the cane-effect basket. The plate on the top reflects the light downwards to illuminate the surrounding area.
Lightcraft also stocks the LED Canvas, a slim tower with a cylindrical acrylic lampshade that can be customised with printed designs. The pole is slightly tapered and lit by low-power LED lamps, which are encapsulated and protected from the weather. It comes in white, black, anthracite or metallic silver, and a colour-changing LED driver is installed in the pole.
Xantian, retailed at OHMM, is a cool take on outdoor illumination. It includes small egg-shaped pieces, cubes that are strong enough to sit on, and cones and pebbles that shine in different colours.
For a futuristic look, check out Emu’s Floora fibreglass lighting along with its Ivy pouffe-shaped luminescent LED light tables made of steel (white, sky or orange). Both are available at Marquis@QSquare.
Boulevard’s Pop range of fibreglass outdoor lighting comes in a variety of designs and can also serve as side tables. These electrical outdoor lights use energy-saving light bulbs and have a sealed power cable for outdoor use.
|Remember to always tan safely. Stay out of the midday sun and use a high factor sun cream. Go one better and buy a sunshade or even invest in a gazebo – a perfect place to seek sanctuary from the heat|
Who says you have to have a pool to have a sunlounger? As long as you have space for a lounger, and maybe a paddling pool to cool down in, then you’re set. Happily, the days of having to lug clunky wooden loungers into the right position, only to run them over your toe or trap your finger whilst adjusting them are gone.
“Customers prefer low-maintenance ‘sunning’ furniture that is also multi-functional, such as a chaise longue that you can lie down on to tan and also use as seating for guests,” says Boulevard marketing manager Tammy Htar. For modern simplicity, she recommends either the Sadao or Iriga, both of which Boulevard recently supplied to two new condominiums, the Dorsett Regency and Oasis@Elias. “The Sadao sunlounger is zero maintenance, but luxurious and comfortable, and the Iriga adds an inviting touch to the poolside.”
For those who have a swimming pool with a shallow end, an amphibian sunlounger is a great way to soak up the rays. “The Cebu amphibian is a sunlounger that you’d normally use on a pool deck; but, since the material is waterproof, weatherproof and highly resistant to chlorinated water, you can place it in the shallow pool water and suntan in style,” says Tammy.
The technology used in the weave of both the Iriga and Cebu means that the wicker is 4mm wide and it’s flat, so the seat and back of the loungers have a very smooth surface. Basically, that means no unsightly criss-cross marks as you get up off your lounger to dive into your pool (or wiggle your toes in the paddling pool). “They are comfortable as they are, even without cushions,” adds Tammy.
Boulevard, Marquis and OHMM sell outdoor furniture for almost any use. For more information, contact:
Boulevard (Ubi): 6742 0102 | boulevardoutdoorfurniture.com
Marquis@QSquare: 6383 0119 | marquis.com.sg