Recent hospitality projects in the region – such as Four Seasons hotel in Dubai International Financial Centre, which has access to outdoors from each public area, St Regis Dubai with its vast atrium or the refurbished Kempinski Mall of the Emirates where the food and beverage venues are now connected through the terrace – all show that accesses to the open air is becoming a vital design element, directly influencing the guests’ overall experience.
Tapping into both the commercial and residential market, another increasingly dominant concept among interior designers is the drive to take the indoors outside. CID talks to regional experts about the newest and most interesting directions in outdoor design as well as the challenges they are facing while trying to incorporate elements of interiors outside in the harsh Middle Eastern climate.
In the newly opened Four Seasons DIFC, every public and food and beverage area in the hotel has an outdoor space as well. Giving them a strong residential look and feel, designer Adam Tihany explains that the outdoor space is becoming increasingly important.
“An outdoor area has to be an extension of the indoors, not something else as people would like the same experience,” says Tihany. “That is why we have rugs even around the pool area. We want to make it as compelling and comfortable as inside.”
Featuring 54 private villas, all with secluded walled gardens, swimming pools and extensive areas for sunbathing, the Mandarin Oriental resort in Marrakech is another good example of the way interior and exterior spaces co-exist. The architecture was done by Pascal Desprez while the design was created by French architects Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier.
Bridging the gap between outdoor and indoor while mixing furniture and art is a prevailing trend among outdoor furniture manufacturers.
Mirko Habek, managing director of Sun and Shades, says that outdoor furniture designs have dramatically changed over the course of recent years and that the majority of designs are now suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, because of the use of stamskins, a new generation of vinyl seating fabrics.
“Materials which we are using completely resemble the indoor ones while at the same time providing resistance to the outdoor weather,” he says. “Stamskin is an artificial leather of the highest quality, durable for all weather conditions, even in Dubai’s harsh and high sun. We are using this excellent material as a fabric for completely upholstered outdoor furniture.”
Building on this concept, London duo Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard presented at Salone Del Mobile in Milan new outdoor furniture for Italian brand Driade. Camouflage is made from all-weather, powder-coated aluminium in white or rust effect.
“We feel that we have created something new, something so obvious, but never actually realised into a commercial outdoor furniture collection before,” says Fredrikson. “Modernism killed so many of the human nuances, such as the importance of sculptural aesthetics, that make our lives richer. With outdoor furniture, the design criteria was always to be able to fold, stack and store the outdoor furniture until the weather allows us to spend time outside again. We feel that this collection offers not just an alternative, but also a new solution. The furniture can be left outside all year and additionally enrich the environment as sculptural objects.”
For Paul Azzopradi, managing director of Toscana Landscaping, functionality is the key to modern outdoor design.
“People don’t just want to sit in gardens, but want to use them for entertainment, sport, dining and relaxation,” says Azzopradi. “This has challenged designers to be creative in the use of outdoor space, and they have looked at interiors for inspiration. Pools have become sports facilities and BBQ areas come with fully equipped outdoor kitchens. Sitting areas now also incorporate bars and climate controlled outdoor rooms. Plants are the accessories that decorate the outdoor space and help create artistic finishes. The limited availability of space in certain dwellings has been maximised by creating a seamless connection with the outdoors, thereby enlarging the living space.”
Eileen Jaffary, interior design director at U+A, says interconnectivity between interiors and exteriors is becoming an increasingly important factor.
She says: “In the past few years, the general design view and perspective have changed as clients are increasingly aware of the importance of the connection of interiors and the outdoors. They are now appreciating taking the same look and feel from the interior to the outdoor and study the proposed designs more carefully.”
Partitioning is according to Jaffary one of the most interesting and important design elements that can connect the two.
“You can see more and more people that appreciate the climate in Dubai and would like to take advantage of it during the good weather seasons,” she says. “So the defining, dividing and joining element between the two is essential to design. There are nowadays many interesting high-tech design solutions, which I believe all designers should try to get themselves familiar with.”
Commenting on the latest innovations for exteriors, Azzopradi says: “We see technology being incorporated into the garden. From smart home features such as mood lighting and automatic shade structures to apps which monitor irrigation or pool sanitation at the touch of a phone. Projection TVs and surround sound systems are key along with WiFi. Pool sanitation system is fully computerised and with minimum maintenance required. Lighting is multi-coloured LED with low energy consumption. Laser-cut panels offer versatility as light sculptures and decorative accessories.”
Charles Constantin, managing director of Geze Middle East, which provides doors and windows solutions, sees his company as a ‘connector’ of interior and exterior spaces, especially for corporate buildings.
“Large buildings are increasingly open to the public and used not only by employees or visitors but also by interested passers-by,” says Constantin. “So the trend in architecture is to establish an ‘inviting atmosphere’ in which façades are no longer barriers to buildings. The outside and inside aspects of a building flow into each other. Another consequence of this open public-oriented approach is the need for a greater number of entrances and doors.”
The automation of doors is another progressive trend, says Constantin.
“Transparent, automatic door solutions make the passage from inside to outside, for example to covered gardens and outside areas, almost imperceptible. Because buildings are increasingly assessed according to wellness aspects too, the connection between inside and outside areas on higher storeys is often achieved by using viewing platforms which can be made accessible thanks to an automatic door.”
Azzaparado says that maintaining an outdoor area in a dry desert environment requires a greater use of fertilisers and pesticides so his approach to design has to accommodate these factors.
“The challenge is therefore to design a garden which still looks green and feels like a garden and also is aesthetically pleasing. This means balancing areas of tiling with areas of planting in proportions that feel right and connect well,” he says. “We look for products with a durable, long-term and low-maintenance requirement.”