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Italian designer Paola Lenti, known for revolutionising outdoor furniture, shares its most important facets

Italian designer Paola Lenti, known for revolutionising outdoor furniture, shares its most important facets

Furniture design, Outdoor design, Paola Lenti

How has outdoor furniture evolved in the past few years?

When I started thinking about outdoor, in 2000, there were only products made of metal and plastic, which were very rigid, quite uncomfortable and with few variations in colour and finish. I started to do research, along with our external collaborators, and little by little collections were born. Over time, through the use of colour, structures in fabric, metal and wood, they have come to coexist with comfortable chairs and handmade rugs — all products for which the choice of materials is fundamental, and simplicity of the form. From the very beginning I was convinced that our outdoor furniture should be different, and then we started to imagine soft and pleasant shapes, which over time proved to be suitable not only for domestic environments, but also for furnishing contract and public spaces projects.

Today, more people feel the need to live in the open air, and therefore the tendency to invest more has increased. The outdoor areas are considered with greater attention. As an integral part of the living landscape, they are no longer just a supplementary or a temporary place to stay in. Bringing comfort to the outdoors is now commonplace, but to do so, a special care must be taken: the most common mistake is to take a product from indoor and bring it into the outdoor environment simply by changing the fabric. Unfortunately, it is not so easy, and there must be a real project. This is why we, as a brand, have two distinct collections, born from very different production approaches.

What are some of the technological innovation in outdoor furniture materials?

I can say with certainty that Paola Lenti as a brand did basic innovation in the outdoor fabrics field. We felt the need to have comfortable outdoor upholstery that looked the same as those used in the interior. We do not refer to “decoration”, because Paola Lenti fabrics are not decorated, but to the possibility of getting the right colours for each different context. It was a real intuition, because up to when we started working on them, there was nothing on the market with these characteristics.

 

The fabric we made is produced with a yarn derived from a polyolefin fibre which, by itself, does not have all the characteristics necessary to be used outdoors. The research led us to modify the basic material to obtain the right performances. We did not work on the field alone, but with universities and professionals, because at the time, there was no real literature on the topic to refer to. We must say that today, we are satisfied; intuition has become a reality which lets us develop new outdoor fabrics each year.

The end of life cycle in our products is foreseen to have the least possible environmental impact. We want our products to have enviable performances, but not without considering the world around them. Our choices have always been dictated by an ethical duty, both towards nature and towards people.

What kind of outdoor products work well in the harsh climate of this region?

All Paola Lenti’s products are conceived to work well even in any harsh climate, but products can’t last for long by themselves. A regular maintenance activity, even if soft, should be done to preserve them from degenerating. No product, brand or material is indestructible.

What are the current trends?

We do not follow trends and we don’t want to create them, but indoor and outdoor environments need to have a dialogue with each other through colours, materials and finishes. Well-designed products do not lend themselves to conventions and do not impose definite characteristics, but allow possibilities.

Read designMENA’s report on Japanese landscape-inspired design preference by Cracknell’s Chia Wen

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