Hotel owners and designers continue to raise the bar when it comes to outdoor furniture and today’s manufacturers are eager to meet their challenge for sophisticated yet practical applications that look good, wear well and help to create an “experience.”
For Mark Daniel, creative director at m.a.d. Furniture Design, the top three considerations when creating or enhancing a product for a hotel’s outdoor spaces comes down to “comfort, durability and flexibility, in that order,” he said. While the latter two are obvious key concerns for owners/operators, Daniel said, “Ultimately, the furniture has to perform for the end user. Outdoor furniture by its very nature is more casual and, in general, more time is spent sitting in an outdoor chair than an indoor one, so comfort is key.”
On the trend front, Daniel said, “As the lines between indoor and outdoor continue to blur, metallics, such as brass, are making their way into outdoor settings. Pairing these finishes with raw materials, such as concrete and natural woven fibers, serves as a balancing counterpoint to the metallic.”
According to Nick Ades, VP of hospitality sales at Woodard Furniture, there’s been a “whole shift toward more contemporary products. It’s certainly not a fad.” He noted Woodard, which has been in business for more than 150 years, historically has been more traditional in terms of design. “We’ve done an incredible job in the last 10 years in getting more contemporary but still remaining true to who we are,” said Ades.
“A big trend in the outdoor space has been away from the traditional dining to more of a casual conversation area,” observed Ades. “So we have a huge offering of sectional and lounge seating that has become a really big part of what we do and what we sell.”
He noted the use of modular furniture gives hoteliers flexibility in terms of how they use their outdoor spaces. “In a lot of these cases, they are revenue-generating spaces so maybe it could be a lounge at one point, then bring in some bar-height tables at night. Or take it all away where a pool deck becomes an entertainment area,” said Ades.
To go with the sectional seating, Woodard also has developed C-tables. “They kind of slide into the sectionals,” said Ades, making it easy to pull up to hold a drink or laptop. “It gives you that same type of functionality [as a traditional side table]but in a more-casual seating arrangement.”
Maintenance is always a major consideration, Daniel noted. “Hotel specifiers seek outdoor furniture that will sustain through heavy traffic and various weather conditions. As a manufacturer, it is our focus to choose durable materials that can handle the expected wear and tear. We construct our outdoor products with a galvanized and powdercoated, solid-steel wire frame. The steel ensures strength and durability, and also keeps the product light for easy movement and storage. Our products also feature caged designs, so they can be rinsed down easily to prevent any buildup of dirt and debris,” said Daniel.
“The lower the maintenance, the better,” agreed Ades, adding Woodard has a large array of waterproof or water-resistant fabrics that eliminates the need for hotel staff to lug cushions in and out nightly or during inclement weather, and wards off staining when guests spill anything.
“Cost is also a large factor,” said Daniel. “Because our manufacturing process is streamlined, we are able to keep costs low. This allows our products to be accessible for lower-budget projects.” Ades agreed: “There’s a premium on being able to get product out the door quickly and also be of value to the customer. As important as design is with these projects, budget has strongly worked its way back into the equation.”
As far as the next “big thing” in outdoor furniture, Daniel said, “We have noticed designers are looking for statement-making, ‘Instagrammable’ furniture. For an outdoor application, this can be achieved with pops of color, bold patterns, unusual shapes and mixed materials. Designers can also customize the pieces by accessorizing chairs with patterned outdoor seat cushions.”
“There has certainly been a movement toward ways to get color into a space without being obnoxious,” said Ades. “We’re developing product more toward the hospitality design community than anything else.”