Reference outdoor furniture for summers in the garden
It’s that time of year when outdoor furniture comes to mind (further sharpened by Covid restrictions). Could you offer some advice on setting up glorious outdoor spaces, including stylish alternatives to the ubiquitous all-weather boxy wicker?
With all the uncertainty surrounding holidays abroad (remember that?) this summer, most of us will be spending more time in our gardens than in previous summers.
We consoled ourselves: yes, the thought of a spritz and a nut in a square in Ravello, the sound of church bells and the heavy smell of bougainvillea in the air is delicious. Pasta and granita with lemon and passeggiatas!
Corn . . . no matter. If we can’t get to Italy, we’ll still have our hollyhocks and foxgloves, the cows and the bumblebees and maybe even a little warmth. There’s an ice cream maker under the stairs, and I’ll buy the Campari wholesale.
The key to making the most of our time at home this summer will be good planning. I recently ordered a yellow and white striped awning from vintage tents which will be ready in time for June. It has a scalloped edge and more than a hint of Camelot on it, which suits me just fine. My plan is to put it in the middle of the lawn at the back of our cottage, which we let grow tall and wild.
To go underneath, I’ll find a simple wooden trestle table and some folding bistro chairs will do. (I’ve been slowly adding to our collection of green painted oldies; for similar versions try salvage dealers such as Salvaged world and Pepper mill interiors.) I envision long summer lunches followed by naps in the tall grass.
Maybe I’ll go into the middle of the Renaissance and commit to my idea of adding a small pavilion type tent to our front garden. Think Napoleon’s campaign tent, but with olives and cocktail stirrers.
Earlier this year I acquired a set of four white painted faux bamboo chairs made by Angraves which I am also looking forward to using. (In 2011, after eight years working with Angraves, the last rattan workshop in England, Lulu Lytle of Soane Britain rescued the company from administration.) I’ve seen plenty of Chippendale style rattan chairs but those -these have a very pleasant gothic form, which I had never encountered before.
They were a great steal and should look wonderful pulled in our vegetable patch, the beans as a backdrop and a little table in between for a jug of Negroni. I suggest looking on eBay and The auction room for similar examples – there are great deals to be had.
What else? I love the Portuguese brand Adico 403 bistro chairdesigned in the 1950s. Available through The Conran Shop, it’s crafted from wood and painted metal, and comes in springtime hues such as bright yellow and sage green.
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I also like, Viticcio chairs by Oka and bench, made of twisted metal, which gives them the fantastic look of being covered in vines, while its practical all-weather rattan Sydra side table would work well as a chaise-side receptacle for books and sunglasses.
I would advise against the ubiquitous look of synthetic rattan-effect furniture – those L-shaped sofas and club chairs that are always so blocky and inelegant and usually ash gray in color, with sad throw pillows to match. It’s a cold, hard gaze that always seems to me so at odds with what gardens should be (in my mind, anyway): a natural, free, bucolic exquisiteness.
However, if you are looking for outdoor furniture with clean and contemporary lines, go for Jennifer NewmanStudio. Its range of Linear and Angle tables and benches are made of powder-coated welded aluminium. I love the simplicity and boldness of these pieces and the fact that they can be painted in any RAL color. The sharpness of these patterns would provide a very satisfying contrast with lush vegetation.
If I can bear to remove them from my workshop, I look forward to using the chairs I acquired last fall from Now on the oceana company founded by Najim and Othman, who manufacture furniture in Morocco inspired by rustic 18th century English designs.
My chairs were strawberry wood and painted a glossy phone booth red. They look pleasingly imperfect and irregular, like strands of coral woven together to form a throne for an ancient sea god.
Finally, look Raj tent club. I like his cane painted green bentwood table and chair set, and Palm Springs metal chair, which, with a good cushion, immediately transported someone to a Slim Aarons stage set. The company also sells vintage items (I have my eye on a Regency Diaphragm Chairoriginally from the orangery at Shardeloes House, Buckinghamshire).
Plus – the clue is in the name – it makes for a variety of charming tents. His tea tent would be just perfect for my outdoor bar. We’ll call him Merlino after our whippet Merlin. (I have to admit, I’ve already designed the coasters.) If we can’t get to Amalfi, she’ll have to come to us.