Design Exterior Living Spaces To Enjoy The Last Vestiges Of Summer - 27 East

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Design Exterior Living Spaces To Enjoy The Last Vestiges Of Summer

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A pair of chaises sit poolside with vintage oars at this Southampton estate. PATRICK CLINE

A pair of chaises sit poolside with vintage oars at this Southampton estate. PATRICK CLINE

A relaxed sensibility defines this eclectic contemporary ensemble. STEPHEN BUSKEN

A relaxed sensibility defines this eclectic contemporary ensemble. STEPHEN BUSKEN

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Interior Report

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Aug 31, 2021
  • Columnist: Andrew Bowen

Labor Day weekend is finally upon us. Despite the title of this column, squarely centering on interiors, there’s an entire related world of exterior design that warrants a conversation — particularly during an annual event marking the symbolic end of summer that practically demands everyone spend as much time as possible outdoors.

First and foremost, it is sometimes shocking to see how little attention is paid to outdoor furniture. The reasons we hear in defense of cutting corners seemingly never change: “It’s going to get ruined anyway,” “I just want something to lie down on a few weekends per year,” and the list goes on.

Bizarre as this may seem to people in the industry, it does follow some bona fide logic: Outdoor furniture pieces in the Hamptons are part-timers, with occasionally shorter-than-average lifespans, and they require an ungodly amount of maintenance in comparison with their protected and precious indoor counterparts.

On the other hand, since the pandemic began, there’s simultaneously been an obvious renewed interest in spending time outdoors. And when the weather permits, socializing or spending solo time outside is an enjoyable and, frankly, traditional way to savor life on the East End.

In other words, for many, the tide has turned — more and more people are investing in furnishing their outdoor spaces.

Assuming you’re sold on improving life outside of your four walls, when furnishing any outdoor area, it’s important to first determine how you want to use the space at hand. It’s generally good practice to create a wide variety of uses through furnishing, so that you and your guests can enjoy all that this sacred weekend has to offer: lounging, dining, sunbathing, imbibing, and so on.

This means more than just placing a few chaises on a patio and calling it a day. Rather, budget permitting, manifest an outdoor living room, an al fresco dining veranda, a poolside cluster of chaises, and a high-top bar table for a late-morning mimosa or an early evening aperitivo.

When planning, start with a space plan — to scale! — and collect from there. Consider carefully the position of the sun at various times of day, and the distances to move from one activity to the next. (There are undoubtedly a handful of outdoor dining tables out east right now that are positioned more than a 30-second walk to the nearest kitchen — which is, simply put, not ideal.)

Additionally, it’s usually best to arrange items in a similar way as you would indoors, recognizing that it’s often the pieces themselves that define exteriors rather than their surroundings, given the open-air nature of the setting. Seating arrangements, like the people who use them, should foster and not inhibit conversation.

As for quality, this is perhaps one of the most important details to consider. While lower-end pieces may be easier on the wallet, they generally don’t last very long at all. Down the line, you may find that their frequent replacement costs after years may very well exceed the initial price of a higher-quality original — and it would have lasted much longer.

When it comes to the selection process, there is an odd trend afoot whereby people who would never be comfortable purchasing an entire bedroom set or dining room set are suddenly fixated on doing just that for outdoor spaces. While having some cohesion or consistency — especially when space is limited — can absolutely be a good thing, avoid sticking to just one source or retailer (and especially one line!), and instead mix and match just as you would inside.

In addition, for historic homes in particular, be open to vintage pieces, like side tables, accent chairs or pots; especially those made of heftier materials like stone or metal. They usually possess substantial longevity, improve with age, and add a sense of place that is otherwise challenging to create if everything is brand new.

Lastly, it’s critical to properly care for your outdoor furniture. While some pieces do just fine sitting out in the rain or snow all year round, others do require covers in situ or another form of interior storage. A hassle, yes, but as they say — the juice is worth the squeeze.

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