Sunshine State

Designer pieces, decorative fabrics and intimate spaces define the inside-out approach to outdoor areas. Piet Smedy consults the pros to show us how it’s done. 

Outdoor Fabrics

Photograph: Jim Thompson

Outdoor velvet, like the Camargue collection by Jim Thompson, has all the durability you need without the distinctly waxy, plastic-like quality of conventional outdoor fabrics. ‘The fabric feels luxurious to the touch while the colour options are rich and diverse and, because it is made of robust Dralon acrylic yarn, it won’t fade or shrink in the sun,’ says Tanya Sturgeon of T&Co Fabrics, which stocks the collection. 

The Alfresco Lounge

1. Sunken levels

Photograph: Dook

‘For starters, a sunken lounge provides a lot more intimacy as everyone is huddled together,’ explains architect Philip Briel, who designed this outdoor space. ‘Very much like a ha-ha wall, a sunken lounge also won’t contaminate any view corridors as it sits below eye level, which makes it ideal for spots that need to be left uncluttered.’

‘A sunken lounge is great as a second seating option as it won’t compete with a primary verandah’ Philip Briel 

2. Covered verandah

Photograph: Greg Cox/Bureau

‘Use a plain or striped outdoor linen or canvas in a neutral colour for the main cushions and introduce vibrant colour and patterning through the scatter cushions,’ advises Yvonne O’Brien of The Private House Company. She recommends opting for either bright shades or bold patterning. ‘An outside area needs to blend in with nature.’

3. The boxed-in effect

Photograph: Sharyn Cairns

A strong use of vertical and horizontal planes in both furniture pieces and topiary will create a cordoned-off appearance, making an outdoor space appear separate and cocooning. ‘Use pleached trees to define the architecture of a garden, demarcate allées and enclose intimate spaces,’ recommends gardens editor Heidi Bertish. 

Expert advice ‘The use of colour on exterior areas very efficiently encloses an area. A deep basalt grey wall creates a brilliant backdrop for plant material and in a very clean way, defines a wall and gives it a presence,’ says decorator ruth duke.

4. Modern gazebo

Photograph: Elsa Young

For a gazebo in this ‘constrained’ Durban garden, architect Joy Brasler created a varied experience by playing around with different levels. ‘That way you’d see the garden from different viewpoints,’ she says. ‘It made for a contained entertainment area, a neat focal end to the garden and a separate experience from the house.’ As for upping the comfort levels, Joy recommends using terry cloth or towelling fabric on zipped-up removable covers for poolside mattresses and cushions. 

The Poolside Retreat

5. Green canopy

Photograph: Courtesy of Uxua Casa Hotel

Instead of austere pruning, allow your plants to grow into shady ‘jungalows’ that offer dappled shade and an abundance of greenery.  The look is especially suited to a wilder garden and speaks to a hotter tropical or subtropical environment. ‘Pergolas create pockets of intimacy and shady zones. Drape them in hardy climbers that will thrive despite sun and wind exposure. Great examples of these include ornamental grape, bougainvillea, scented jasmine or wonderfully fragrant roses,’ advises gardens editor Heidi Bertish. She recommends opting for ‘Towering Rose Magic’ as it is ‘like heaven on the nose and gives rampant cover.’ 

Indoor/Outdoor Furniture

6. High design

Photograph: Courtesy of Ego Paris

Outdoor furniture has traditionally not been afforded much attention by designers and was composed mainly of unsightly plastic and wrought-iron pieces. All that’s changed. Consider Patricia Urquiola’s Butterfly range for B&B Italia, available at Il Lusso, which blurs the line between indoor and outdoor through a clever use of design and materials. These pieces can be easily reconfigured to create new outdoor settings.

‘I believe that the popularity of modular furniture is down to its versatility’ – Hylton Arelisky

7. On Trend: Modular-shaped pieces

The Hive collection from Ego Paris is the perfect expression of modular outdoor furniture: cellular in shape, infinitely moveable and refined in use of weather-resistant materials. It’s factors such as these that have seen a rise in modular-designed pieces. ‘I believe that the popularity of modular furniture is down to its versatility,’ says Hylton Arelisky, director of Cane Time, which stocks Ego Paris products. ‘The entire look can be updated simply by moving the pieces around or by adding to the collection at any stage.’ The Hive range includes armchairs, sofas, love seats and tables of varying lengths in a variety of customisable colours and finishes.