Innovative material developments have been giving new impetus to trends in outdoor furniture design for years. Our changed habits during the pandemic are also giving the “outdoors” living space a whole new popularity. The company volkerweiss is a manufacturer of high-quality products for private and public outdoor areas. We spoke to founder Volker Weiss about the current challenges in the development of contemporary furniture design, customer expectations and his critical view of supposed trends.
There is certainly a multitude of influencing factors that are bringing the outdoor area more and more into focus. Everyday working life often takes place at the computer, which makes fresh air all the more important for recharging one’s batteries. Balconies and gardens have become even more of a safe place to catch up with friends during the pandemic. Are we sitting sheltered from the wind and comfortable, how is the light? Outdoor furniture is now definitely part of the core segment of contemporary furnishing.
The outdoors is a rather hostile environment for furniture. Our climate is a particular challenge if furniture has to be weatherproof and weather-resistant. It’s not so much about giving things a certain trendy shape, but first of all about meeting the adversities of the external environment and knowing the materials and their long-term properties. That is why it is the constructor rather than the designer who is called upon here. With my outdoor series I pursue the goal of creating furniture for outdoor use that is just as durable as the architecture that surrounds it.
I am particularly sceptical about the currently much presented furniture design with a retro look. In many cases, the furniture is not particularly innovative either in terms of its materials or its construction. Take teakwood, for example: thanks to its noble appearance, this type of wood has been very trendy for quite a while; it looks exotic and creates Far Eastern holiday inspirations. However, the UV light-induced greying of the wood is often not taken into account in the design process, so customers are often disappointed. In addition, teak has a problematic ecological balance. In my many years of research, I have come across some interesting alternatives. Particularly resistant is thermally treated ash, which I like to use in my projects.
My work is based on constructive solutions with weatherproof materials. Hot-dip galvanised steel proves itself time and again as a material. The combination of textile and slotted steel surfaces is certainly my recipe for success. A harmonious play of contrasts also takes place here aesthetically: The soft, very comfortable cushions rest on a base that is resistant to any weather-related wear and tear. The cushions can remain permanently outdoors through the system of vapour-diffusion-open construction. Thanks to the slotted seat and a special technology inside the cushion, moisture can escape reliably and quickly. The whole thing is called the Water-Go principle. Actually I see the only real trend in the development of sustainable, durable furniture that can withstand extreme temperatures, sun, wind and weather – without the customer having to sacrifice his own comfort.
The public space is coming more and more into focus due to the pandemic. Since the furniture is left outside, it has to be firmly anchored. So, within the framework of our outdoor furniture design, I have developed wall-mounted modules which can no longer be moved or carried away. Companies in the catering industry are also increasingly planning outdoor areas. It is important that the relevance of these areas is newly recognised. Some charming examples are shown by Oona Horx-Strathern in the latest issue of the Home Report. The comeback of the village is mentioned as a current trend on the topic of quality of life. She names the village as a countertrend to the megatrend of urbanisation. Village squares should once again function as meeting places and places to stay and no longer be empty places of passage. There are exciting new challenges ahead – not only in the field of outdoor furniture design.
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