Innovative materials inspire outdoor pieces

Aluminum and other metals are effective for outdoors, but the physical weight of a piece should be considered before being used. Pictured: Aluminum and other metals are effective for outdoors, but the physical weight of a piece should be considered before being used. 

Outdoor furniture is constantly under the gaze of the sun and at the mercy of rain, so it is crucial for the furniture to be resistant to fading and wear. Thanks to new innovative materials, patterns and bright colors are now able to better withstand any outdoor onslaught.

“The sun is very bad for bright colors over time,” said Antonio Navarro, creative director for Kettal. “We have been working with suppliers to bring shiny and light colors outdoors for some time. We work very hard on getting the colors right.”


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Barbara Keller, trade liaison for Outdoor Elegance, said outdoor fabrics must resist stains from sunscreen, wine and other things guests could potentially drop or spill. Proactive designs, such as cushion pieces designed to drain water automatically, also last much longer outdoors, according to Keller.

While teak is a popular material, it does have a tendency to fade in color over time. One alternative is a type of marine grade polymer being produced by Telescope Contract Furniture, a developer of outdoor furniture for the hospitality and contract furnishings industry. Primarily used as the material comprising the decks on yachts, this polymer is resistant to salt where aluminum fails, making it preferable for salt-water pools and seaside locales.

According to Keller, woven mesh is still a popular material for outdoor fixtures due to its easy maintenance. Mesh is not heavily affected by weather whereas wicker items must be periodically checked for mildew. When wicker is used outdoor in hotels, Keller recommended a resin-based product to create a softer, homey look.

“Similar aesthetics can be achieved with cast aluminum and iron seating, but they are harder to move,” Keller said.

Though Kettal is always on the lookout for new outdoor materials, finding them is difficult and tougher than for indoors, said Navarro

“There are many tricky requirements for outdoor furniture to be effective over time,” he said. “Outdoor designs always require a lot of investment.”