February 22, 2024

Hot seats | National Post

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During the pandemic, having a plot of outdoor space at home was a godsend — a place to enjoy a chardonnay and a snack unmasked. And the drive to create intentional lounge-worthy spaces outdoors continues.

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“I don’t know if there’s a correlation with COVID, but people are putting more focus on their outdoor spaces,” says Parris McKenna, the designer of Parris McKenna Interior Design Studio. “I’ve found a shift in the importance of outdoor furniture. People are setting up an actual zone to entertain.”

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In fact, McKenna, who works primarily in Muskoka and Toronto, has fielded an uptick of requests for terrace features that extend the season.

“In a lot of my renovations, people are installing built-in heaters in the soffits in the porches or back decks, so you could sit out in early spring or fall,” McKenna says. “Or we’re putting in standing gas lanterns you would typically find in bars or restaurants.”

Light-coloured cushions and wood tones

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In terms of the palette, “the sense of charm and durability of wood is popular,” McKenna says. “I’m seeing a lot of teak.”

The rustic brown is paired with neutral cushions such as white, sand or oatmeal-toned. “That California outdoor style of wood and light-toned cushions is trending,” says McKenna who often turns to CB2, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn for her designs. “I like the bulkiness of their furniture.” The pieces have a strong presence on a patio.

For tight quarters, McKenna suggests forgoing a formal dining table. “I always lean towards a lounge. If you want to eat outside, you can make it work with a lounge but not vice-versa.” After all, there is an inherent casualness to being outside. “If you’re limited on space, you can eat on your lap.”

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Relay sofa
This modular Relay sofa by Burrow is easy to customize for various sizes of outdoor spaces. Photo by Burrow photograph

Richard  Bockner, the owner and principal at ARD Outdoor and partner of the Vondom flagship shop in Canada, has seen a pull to the lighter side, too.

From 2000 to 2020, we were seeing a lot of grey, charcoal and black,” Bockner says. “Everything in design and outdoor furniture was trending in darker colours from fabrics to frames,” he says. “Post-pandemic we’re seeing a movement towards lighter colours such as beige, light grey and white.”

His point is well-illustrated by the shop’s Gatsby line. Designed by Spanish architect Ramón Esteve, luxurious white cushions sit atop a resin base, which has an intricate fluting detail — a trend indoors, too, in glass and wood on everything from kitchen islands to cabinetry doors. Gatsby also comes with coordinating planters and lamps.

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Modular magic and a flexible design for small spaces

Flexibility is also trending on the terrace. Burrow, makers of crisp, compact modular sofas and chairs — can be reconfigured on a whim.

“Modular seating is great for outdoors because it allows you to rearrange your outdoor setting as often as you’d like,” says Stephen Kuhl, co-founder and CEO of Burrow, referring to the brand’s Relay collection, which sports a slick powder-coated steel frame. “And modular pieces are easier to store indoors in the winter.”

All-in-one gazebo
Home Depot’s all-in-one gazebo includes privacy shades, loveseats and tables. Photo by Home Depot photograph

Kuhl notes, “while neutral tones like grey are always popular for outdoor collections, we’ve seen off-white really pick up in recent years.”

To keep the pieces pristine if it rains or a squirrel stops by to couch surf, Burrow’s fabrics are weather-resistant. “The use of ultra-durable materials makes white fabrics in an outdoor collection possible,” Kuhl says. “Our Salt colourway has performed very well.”

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Home Depot also makes a no-fuss design to kick off patio life in smaller spaces. “The Tuscan Hills Gazebo is an all-in-one solution for backyard relaxing or entertaining,” says Natalia David, trend and design manager for Home Depot Canada.

The set includes a corner gazebo with two adjustable privacy shades, a right-arm loveseat, a left-arm love seat, a side table, a coffee table and a C-table to support a laptop for work-from-home situations.

Terrazzo and concrete going strong

 Terrazzo, the speckled composite material that’s been jazzing up floors, accessories and backsplashes in the past few years, is also popular on the patio. The tables on Home Depot’s Tuscan Hills Gazebo feature a terrazzo-inspired finish.

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Parris McKenna, meanwhile, says, “A lot of the accent furniture like coffee tables or side tables are big chunky terrazzo tables or concrete-style tables. There’s a focus on natural-looking materials.”

Gatsby sofa
Vondom’s Gatsby sofa is sophisticated in on-trend white. Photo by Vondom photograph

Katelyn Rempel, who runs an eponymous design firm in Toronto, and works in Los Angeles for HGTV’s Property Brothers, also favours terrazzo on the terrace.

“Indoor trends usually migrate outdoors,” she says. “Travertine, concrete and terrazzo are perfect outside,” says Rempel. “As is natural stone.” Think organic, misshapen tables that have a handmade quality.

Metals and colour

Rempel’s personal favourites, though, are colourful metals like pieces from the HAY collection she recently used on a patio project. “I love that you can see through the Palissade chair to provide an airy feeling,” she says of the slatted design. There’s also a lounge-chair version, a bench and a table. “And I love the deep oxblood red or green.” Ikea’s red or grey “Brusen” bench is another metal option.

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Palissade chair
Hay’s Palissade chair in powder-coated steel provides an airy shot of colour. Photo by Hay photograph

Elana Safronsky, principal of Emme Design, also gives props to HAY’s Palissade line.

“This colourful collection perfectly straddles old and new, with a timeless and minimal slatted design.” If you’ve been in Paris, you might have noticed the iconic green steel chairs in their parks; they’re cult classics, Safronsky says.

“Imitations can be found in plastic, but these beauties are forged in powder-coated steel, making them extremely durable as well as a no-brainer style choice for traditional, transitional and modern gardens and exteriors. How could one argue when the original design was commissioned by the Paris parks department?”

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