Outdoor seating materials highlight comfort, durability

Summer is here, and travelers will be looking to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. The days of hard plastic or metal chairs are long gone, and new options and designs are making it easier than ever for hotels to source comfortable and attractive seating that can stand up to wind, water and sunlight in a range of designs. 

Stone, of course, is classic, and can withstand just about any weather. “One of the great things about natural materials is they just seem to look better and more a part of the landscape as they age,” said Stone Forest founder Michael Zimber, noting that solid stone can last indefinitely in the right circumstances. “We're talking not just a year from now but at least decades, if not hundreds of years,” he said. Some stone surfaces can change over time, he acknowledged, especially when polished, but the main structure should be considered in terms of “geologic time.” 

Caz Walker, manager—West Coast contract/hospitality at Harbour Outdoor, has noticed declining interest in traditional outdoor fabrics, including Sunbrella, from clients in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, she said, hotels in that region want Textilene fabrics, which allow for improved flow-through and quick drying after rain. For frames, especially in humid climates, Walker likes teak—a strong wood that is naturally resistant to the elements.

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Aluminum’s Appeal

For outdoor chair and sofa frames, aluminum has plenty of qualities to recommend it. “It doesn't rust and it can go in any climate at all,” said Walker.

Furniture designer Antonio Larosa, who has created several lines for Benchmark Contract Furniture, uses aluminum as the frame for the company’s Pak and Garda benches. “It’s 100 percent recyclable,” he said, estimating that 70 percent of all aluminum that has been manufactured into products is still in use today. “Also, it’s lighter than other materials, so it’s easy to ship,” he added.

Paco Pons Salvador, VP in the U.S. and Canada of Spanish furniture company Point, noted that when coating aluminum frames, designers can add textures that help the furniture blend in with the surrounding environment—or stand out, if desired. For windy environments, Pons recommends securing the chairs and sofas to the ground or deck to prevent lightweight aluminum from being picked up by strong winds.

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