John Muir is often remembered as an environmental philosopher. Americans knew him simply as John of the Mountains. Indeed, it was he who first suggested walking in the woods as a means of escaping our minds and finding our souls. One of the great 19th-century thinkers, he knew then what researchers would take decades to decode: that real replenishment takes place outside.
This spring, his words seem to have found special resonance at some of our favourite design houses. Across Europe, makers from Copenhagen to Brianza have made time to wander outdoors. And they haven’t come back empty handed. Each has been hard at work dreaming up alfresco versions of indoor classics. Sensitively translated for their new context, they promise to turn lacklustre gardens into unprecedented Edens. Here’s all the ones we think you should know…
Bat & Beetle Outdoor Chairs
For organic styles like the BAT and BEETLE, the new alfresco versions are more of a homecoming than anything else. While the shells have hung on to their distinctive visual language, the base has been reimagined to resemble the forthright branches of trees. Much like their namesakes, they promise to tread lightly upon the Earth, with each crafted from 100% recyclable materials.
MG501 Cuba Lounge Chair
The Cuba collection is one of the season’s lost and found designs. Originally designed in 1977, it reveals the dual nature of Nordic styling — a tradition in which objects can be both understated and imposing at the same time. Its plush teak frame is light and foldable and so easily stowed away or hung on a wall. However when it’s open, be it in the lounge or on the patio, it has all the warmth of a classic wood sculpture, designed to hug the contours of the body close.
IC Outdoor Lights
The IC SERIES is perhaps the only good idea to ever come out of a YouTube binge. Inspired by a video of contact jugglers, each globe engages in a daring balancing act that is hypnotising to behold. Last year saw the arrival of a beautiful new alfresco variant — a real turning point for gardens that had been characterised by bulky bollard lighting thus far. Indeed on a dark night, the loveliness of the IC OUTDOOR FLOOR LAMP is rivalled only by the moon itself.
If you’ve ever read anything about the architect LE CORBUSIER you’ll know that he spent much of his life organising inner worlds. The way a room fits within a home. Or how a human sits inside a chair. We wonder then, what he would think about seeing his greatest masterpieces out in the big wide world. Set against acres of sky, the clean lines and tight shapes seem to take on a new importance — moments of controlled perfection in an unruly universe.
Panton Dining Chair
The best thing about VITRA chairs isn’t just that the style (although we like to think that’s reason enough to invest). It’s also that they tend to be tremendously hardworking. The eponymous PANTON chair is one such story. Suitable for use indoors or out, this spring it’s being reintroduced in a selection of new seasonal hues, from softest sage to deepest plum.
Fly is an example of what ANTONIO CITTERIO likes to call good design: the functional type that’s as interested in being comfortable as it is beautiful. A bestseller since its inception, it was an obvious choice when FLEXFORM sat down to consider which pieces of the collection they would like to invite outside. Lightweight and lovely, its pedestal base means it can be used in alfresco settings of all sizes, from petite city balconies to generous rolling paddocks.
Ottoman Lounge Collection
The OTTOMAN collection sits in the sweet spot between laissez-faire aesthetics and Middle Eastern lounging. It has no interest in anything other than conveying an immediate sense of comfort, and so forgoes sharp lines in favour of generous curves. As loungers go, it’s about as cosy as they get. Originally designed for a lush hotel in Marrakech, it is now available in a wide variety of weather-hardy fabrics with a clever hidden drain to ensure that water doesn’t pool up.
Saarinen Tulip Tables
You’ve probably heard of the SAARINEN TULIP table. Immediately recognisable by its sinuous base, it shoots up from the ground like an alien bloom. Nowadays, the classic laminate version can be purchased with a special resin coating, ideal for those who wish to experience the same thrill of perfect design in the outdoor environment.