This year, the outdoor room comes of age. Not just a Big Green Egg and some deckchairs, but a full-blown lounge, as if we lived in Palm Springs. Just as we now love to bring the outside in we are discovering that a raft of technical innovations mean we can bring the inside out.
The most intriguing thing about the “Loft” show apartment in Canary Wharf’s new circular residential tower, One Park Drive, is not the inside, but the outside. The three-bed flat has five terraces, set around the curvature of the building’s dynamic geometry, designed by starchitect firm Herzog & de Meuron.
The flat is set out like a slice of the Trivial Pursuit board, and with 1,200sqft of internal space, a terrace for your outdoor office, one for drinks, one for dining, one for the BBQ and a small one just for the hell of it. And because the terraces are undercover, your smart contemporary outdoor furniture is nicely sheltered.
At Beau House in Jermyn Street, the penthouse’s wow-factor is its fully furnished 807sqft roof terrace, with TV lounge, formal dining table, kitchen/bar and underfloor heating. “Each material and finish has been selected for use outside the whole year, not just in summer,” says Alex Holden, managing director at interior design studio Oliver Burns.
“The built-in technology is specifically for outdoor use. We chose a 42in Aquavision TV, which is designed to work in all weathers, and George Smith all-weather sofas and chairs, while the firepit and underfloor heating provide warmth for chillier days.”
In South Ken, Blakes hotel’s courtyard garden, revamped by Matthew Williamson, is colourful and characterful. “I had in mind a chic, uplifting, inspiring space full of colour, pattern and texture,” he says. The use of Mediterranean-style paving gives a modern sense of indoor/outdoor living, and the idea of garden sculptures and artworks on show here are also big this year, as I’m sure we will see next week at the Chelsea Flower Show. A hot tip from Blakes is to zone your outdoor space with planters, adding uplifting natural fragrance.
John Lewis is one company among many with eye-catching contemporary outdoor sitting-room collections right now. If you are lucky enough to have a garden room with folding doors or a conservatory, then you have the ideal inside/outside space, so take a look at the John Lewis Design Project collection, which can be left outdoors in summer and brought in in winter.
Sofas and chairs have cool handwoven rope frames, solid wood bases and showerproof cushions and its colourful Salsa range can be left out all year. “The cheerful rattan chairs and tables are completely weather-resistant, and the low seats and lightweight materials are perfect for London balconies or smaller gardens,” says Vicky Angell, John Lewis’ outdoor living buyer.
For more tech-focused innovations revolutionising the outdoors, check out the huge canopy awnings by Extremis (extremis.be and houseology.com) and the Extremis Kosmos parasol wind-tunnel test on Vimeo.
Outdoor living was also big at the Milan furniture fair, with the likes of uber-stylish Dedon’s outdoor rocker (dedon.de) and, if you’re intrigued by the idea of outdoor rugs, look into Patricia Urquiola’s boho Garden Layers (patriciaurquiola.com).
Fire Magic (fire-magic.co.uk) and Paloform (paloform.co.uk) are high-design names to look out for in outdoor kitchens, BBQs and firepits; and to keep the soundtrack to your life close at hand, portable DAB radios and speakers, such as the good-looking Ruark Audio R1 (battery pack, leather carry case) and the mighty B&O Play, are your musical companions in the sunshine.