x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

White can be absolutely right for outdoor furniture

Take your cue from Greek Island simplicity or Miami glamour.

Going all white outdoors is a great way to create a cool glamour, as seen on this terrace styled by Gandia Blasco, using its Na Xamena furniture collection.
Going all white outdoors is a great way to create a cool glamour, as seen on this terrace styled by Gandia Blasco, using its Na Xamena furniture collection.

From the famous white voile-veiled decadence of Philippe Starck's Delano hotel in Miami to the curved calm of villas on the Greek island of Mykonos - white used outdoors has always taken intriguing forms. But its consistent theme is a cool, modern serenity - and it's easier than ever to recreate at home. Jayne Wunder - the South African-born interior designer who lives and works in Dubai, and is known for the calm simplicity of her work - adores white. When she designed a beach house recently on Mykonos, she didn't worry about the huge potential for glare. Instead, like generations of designers and builders in the Greek Islands before her, she made the most of the vast, vivid sky and the preponderance of light - from an early onset of dawn to a late sunset.

"White is so effective in a place that's so bright, light and clean, so I integrated the interior of the house with the outside for a really seamless effect," she explains - which, since the life of any Greek island house always flows in a continuum from inside to outside and back again, makes perfect sense. The difference Wunder brought to her white is a new practicality and a sense of fun added to the traditional and soothing low-slung curves of Myconean architecture. "Of course, when I use white outdoors my clients will often worry about getting it dirty - about suntan oil, and so on," says Wunder. "So I use a combination of things to keep it super-bright: on all my furniture I use a white exterior vinyl, which can be wiped clean and which I cover in a loose elastic and then drape over the top a lot of towelling, which is removable and washable."

One of Wunder's trademarks is scaled-up furniture - a look that in white, outside, is even more dramatic yet also more accessible. "I've created these huge oversized ottomans covered in strips of towelling; they have a certain mixture inside them so that when they're thrown into the pool, they float." (And would any other colour look so abstractly chic, bobbing in a pool?). Wunder also took "heaps and heaps" of oversized towels in very fine cotton - "I call it a waffle-weave and wafer thin", she laughs - and turned them from a necessity into a display, heaping them in baskets around the outdoor area.

White has always been brilliant for its ability to be both starkly simple, and elegantly delicate - as well as being classic but always, always looking modern. Take Paola Navone's Ivy sofa for the Italian furniture company Emu: it's made of lacquered steel but, with its loose mesh weave, appears to be made of a delicate net. Also by Emu is the brilliant Retrouvé range by Patricia Urquiola, based on delicate, large loops of pre-galvanised steel, which includes garden pots, tables with elegantly cage-like supports and basket-style armchairs - for which the cushions could equally well be white or a contrasting, fresh and grassy green.

The Spanish company Gandia Blasco came into existence after its founder, José Gandía-Blasco, couldn't find the right furniture to match the cool all-white house he'd built on Ibiza. The only outdoor furniture at that time was heavy, made from wood or wicker, and altogether wrong for Gandía-Blasco's dramatically contemporary home. Today the Gandia Blasco style is emblematic of cutting-edge design for outdoors - always comfortable but always avant-garde - as far removed from the wicker of bygone years as it's possible to get. Take its hugely successful Na Xamena line of furniture defined by bare, sleek bones, clean-cut edges, striking shapes and anodised aluminium finishes.

At last year's Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan, Gandia Blasco's installation in a courtyard in Zona Tortona was dazzlingly all-white in the simple but stark style that's become the core of its success. The German company Dedon embodies the cool of the European beach club in its Barcelona, Daydream and Summer Cloud collections - all swooping canopies and laconic loungers. Like the soft muslin curtains that hang high above the windows at Starck's Delano (an idea worth replicating at home), the cloth used by Dedon works with the light and moves with the air to make the most of an outdoor space.

And you needn't confine white to furniture and fabrics; think of your walls and even use it underfoot. In Battersea, London, a grey-toned white paint finish is scraped over the fashion designer Ben de Lisi's outside decking and up the paneled fence walls, giving it a warm feel and softening its otherwise urban edge - reflecting how white is as perfectly purist as ever but with a new, handhewn feel. It is, de Lisi concedes, more Cycladic than south London - and ideal for entertaining or simply sitting reading.

Alternatively, consider Dedon's Green - a horizontal wall screen of two layers of slightly crazed criss-crossed metal, ceramic pots suspended between the two layers, for a customised, planted white wall of your own design.