The Outdoors Come Alive
I let myself be carried by an ocean breeze today, an easy illusion thanks to brilliant blue skies outside and the airy, light-filled Hall 7 at devoted entirely to the indoor-outdoor environment, with many of the exhibits seemingly taking sail with some fanciful new shade providers.
The category has grown exponentially since M&O gave it its own and separate hall roughly three years ago. At the high end, the event unites the key players in design of versatile furniture and accessories, adapted to both home and garden. A fusion of interior design styles realized with new materials and the designers’ creativity, the event has now reached the stage of a completely new decorative world offering diversity, high standards of aesthetics, quality and consumer appeal.
Starting with high demand by the hotel and resort trade, the national background demonstrates the importance the French people assign to and the pleasure they derive from the outdoors. The number of gardens has doubled in France in the last 30 year; 58% of households have one garden or more, and 21% of them tend to gardening on their balconies and terraces. With 90% seeing the garden as a pleasure for the senses, it is significant that the value of gardening is greater in France than the consumption of IT hardware.
It’s not surprising therefore that "gardens" have increasingly broadened the concept of indoor-outdoor living with outdoor fireplaces, kitchen appliances, waterfalls and jacuzzis.
The garden is starting to replace the kitchen in French affections. The garden is now the second most important room in the house after the living room and before the kitchen. Who knew? What would Julia have to say? For one French person out of two, the garden is one of the two rooms which give a person’s home the greatest value.
Vertical Gardens, too, are on the rise as a way of integrating vegetation/nature into the daily life of city dwellers. Christian Vialle is one of its strong proponents, with technology/hydroponics making the naturalness of his elegant squares of grass, wheat, peas and basil possible. Simply water the seeds and they grow all on their own.
What I saw in the way of new outdoor furnishings was both delightful and astonishing. The greatest number of innovations are lavished on outdoor seating and shelters. Chaises for one or for two are super comfy and super large with lots of cushions for leisurely lounging. These pieces are usually made of a fiber construction, more often than not man-made rather than natural materials so as to withstand the elements better.
They have stopped, too, trying to look like wicker or rattan but are unabashedly made of plastic coated tubing, plastic caning or metal framed molded forms. Many bedlike forms or tents are covered by shading umbrella roofs or sails reaching the size of garden pavilions. Many of these new shade sails can look poetic, such as in the shapes of large leaves, or, in one case, the shape of a whale’s tail.
Large pool pods can be floated with a couple of chairs or a chaise creating its own island. Or, on a more modest scale, hammocks are back and will rock you to sleep in the fresh air just the same.
All of them are meant to stay outdoors permanently including their water-repellent and sun-resistant fabric covers. One company calls them "Perennials" as to be at the ready at any time the weather permits.