The Gulf attracts a fair number of tourists because its leisure activities and the allure of a sunny day near a palm tree are appealing to Europeans in the winter, according to Antony Guss, VP international, Casualife.
The UAE-based firm of Australian origin is just one of many in the region that supplies outdoor furniture to commercial spaces. In spite of harsher temperatures during the summer, the market for these particular types of products is hot in the Middle East.
Guss said hotel exteriors are often used in brochures and recreation facilities as a selling point. Comfortable and good looking outdoor furniture is important for repeat business in hotels.
Zenia Home, established in 2009, also targets hotels and restaurants with its fair weather pieces, mainly made of faux rattan, which is highly durable, lightweight and easy to maintain.
Reem Nassar, managing director, Zenia Home, said the firm does not stock lines of furniture, instead choosing to customise everything according to the needs of its clients — from selection of rattan to colours and quality of fabric used. “This ensures that every piece is unique and personal,” she said.
Angel Salvador, international contract director, Dedon said trends, even in outdoor furniture design, are driven by the basic need to feel comfortable. “We are not only selling chairs and tables; we are offering a new outdoor lifestyle. Emotions will become the key of every trend.”
Balchik General Trading is a family-owned business which specialises in high quality outdoor furniture. The firm, which is named after the city Balchik on the costal side of the Black Sea in Bulgaria, has a wide range of products for summer residences, and other garden pieces and accessories for hotels, country houses, restaurants, cafés and shops.
Arina Essikova, general manager, Balchik said the goal when designing its products is to create simple objects, made from teak wood with a high quality finish.
In the Middle East, durable raw materials such as polyethylene, faux rattan and aluminium framing are suitable for the humidity and protect against rust, said Nassar. Stainless steel can be used instead of aluminium, which although more expensive, gives certain pieces a better polish and modern look.
Colours in outdoor design are also important, with neutrals, tans and teal in vogue this year. “For durability and anti-fading, an excellent quality of fabric is a must, and we recommend Sunbrella fabrics, which offer excellent quality and a myriad of colours,” added Nassar.
Guss said it’s silly to follow trends; designs should be chosen based on other factors. “For example, if a resort has a Tuscan feel then a wrought design may be best, or if it’s an ultra modern hotel then stainless steel will suit.”
He added synthetic woven wicker, which is a durable rattan-looking fibre woven around a frame is a very popular outdoor style. However in dusty areas, wicker can attract a lot of dust and look shabby quickly, so a smooth surface like an aluminium frame suits these areas better and is easier and quicker to clean.
“For outdoor furniture, hoteliers need to: choose a design that suits the décor including colour; pay sufficient attention to the quality level versus the maintenance and replacement costs of cheaper furniture; and deal with the best value-for-money offer,” said Guss.
The weather conditions in the Middle East are often cited as a challenge when it comes to designing outdoor furniture.
The approach needed to create collections is different because any material used in the region needs to withstand tough climate conditions, such as sun, rain, dust cold and warm temperatures, for which Dedon developed the original Dedon fibre, manufactured to withstand tough weather without maintenance.
Guss said the Gulf region, which has one of the harshest climates in the world, plays havoc with exterior fittings. “Similar to the automobile industry in the Gulf, which uses special plastics and rubber compounds in a ‘Gulf-spec’ car, Casualife builds special ‘Gulf-Spec’ furniture, using quality raw materials, which can guarantee performance in the Middle East.”
Materials and after-sales service also needs to be considered. “Well-built furniture backed by local service agents and companies can supply spare parts. Buying direct from a trader or supplier from China does not guarantee spare parts in the future,” Guss added.
Nassar agreed and said sourcing materials able to withstand the heat and humidity, heavy use and maintaining appearance is challenging. However, Zenia Home uses synthetic rattan, which results in no colour fade and the ability to clean the furniture every day with water without adverse effects. There are also varying grades of fabrics for cushions and umbrella shades that reduce the amount of fading from strong UV rays.
Essikova had a different view to the matter and said the region’s biggest challenge is the variety of tastes firms have to satisfy their customers with, in a distinctive yet classy manner.
Sustainability is another factor incorporated into the design process, with a demand for green products and certifications on the rise.
Dedon recently won the Good Design Green Product award for two of its products: The Nestrest Hanging Lounger, a concept developed with Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet, and Play by Philippe Starck, a collection of tables and chairs.
“The Dedon fibre, which has been developed more than 20 years ago, has always been environmentally friendly and we are improving it day by day.
The material we use is 100% recyclable, does not pollute ground water and is produced under socially responsible and eco-friendly conditions,” said Salvador.
Essikova agreed on the importance of sustainability in design, and said Balchik tries to follow the same ideal since the “green concept” is an international issue, not just a local one.
“Most of our furniture is made out of 100% wood, as we try to keep other elements out of our production including metal joints and screws,” she said.
The popularity of outdoor furniture, both for public areas and homes, is high in the Middle East region.
“People all over the world increasingly like to spend their free-time outdoors and hotels will need to consider this trend even more,” said Salvador.
“Being a coastal country with a climate that has over eight months of good weather, the UAE is a good outdoor furniture consumer,” added Essikova.