Modern Classics

Dining - Inside Out

Update July 20th:  I was sourcing some dining chairs for a client today and came across a couple of stunning chairs that are perfect for indoor and outdoor use and they're pretty reasonably priced, so I just had to include them with the post below ! (Room above: Hand Interior Design).

Web Chair $120

Stilt Chair $175

This will be my last post on outdoor furniture for the season, considering the weather’s been so lousy this summer we have yet to dine outdoors even once this summer.  But if we get lucky enough to enjoy a warm summer evening dining al fresco, then this is how I would make it more magical...

TAKE COVER.  For outdoor dining, I prefer a covered porch or awning rather than an umbrella, the post in the middle drives me crazy.  But i think my favorite summer product this season is Ikea’s Dyning Gazebo canopy, offerred in either a rectangular or trianglur shape.  You can string up one or two or three of these between trees or posts to create a dreamy canopy effect that looks like boat sails......  Great for irregular shaped spaces, and situations where awnings and permanent roof structures are not an option.  This is ingenious and a steal at $29.  

AVOID MATCHING suites of furniture.  Most people seem to have grasped the concept of not buying suites of dining room and bedroom furniture like our parents did, but somehow this concept hasn’t translated to our outdoor rooms yet.  Even though there is more of a selection than ever before, when it comes to outdoor furniture (most of it more expensive than our indoor pieces),,,,,I always seem to see entire backyards or decks furnished with matching sofas, coffee tables, dining tables, chairs, bar carts and side tables all from the same collection.  I know its usually less expensive to buy the entire set, but they will sell these pieces individually too so perhaps its a case of people rushing to furnish their outdoor spaces so they can just get busy enjoying them?

BRING THE INDOORS OUT. Whether its indoor dining or outdoor dining, chairs are always a big investment, because you need multiples.  Four, six or eight.  So why buy chairs that are only suitable for outdoors?  Stretch your patio budget by only buying 2 or 4 outdoor chairs, or one long bench, or,,,,,if you’re really tight on space and dollars, skip the outdoor chairs altogether and think multipurpose.   If you purchase chairs for your deck or balcony and they look like patio furniture then you minimize the amount of use they’ll get (I don’t think it ever looks appropriate to use them indoors, even in a pinch) and you’ll have to find dedicated storage space for them in the off season.   But taking your indoor chairs outside,,,somehow always looks decadent.

Today there are a variety great looking chairs that are suitable for both indoors and out (see photo collage at bottom of post) but you won't find these in outdoor section.   Initially you might have only ever considered these for indoor use, but surprisingly not only will all of these chairs look stunning in your kitchen, home office or dining room, they’re all suitable for outdoor use too!  And as a bonus, they all stack for easier storage if needed.   These are modern, clean lined and would mix well when paired up with chairs of any other style making them super practical. So if you buy a few extras, you’ll be prepared for extra dinner guests at anytime of the year and your mix of chairs will look stylish and chic as opposed to mismatched and makeshift.

EASY TO FIND.  These chairs are available in shops 12 months of the year which means you’ll never have to scour the city mid-way thru summer looking for some stylish outdoor seating.  If you’ve ever shopped for outdoor furniture after the May long weekend, you know how frustrating it can be to find anything.  But what do you do if its your first place, or your first backyard, its mid-way thru June and you’ve got guests coming for a bbq!?  You may not even have dining room furniture yet let alone patio furniture.  Investing in 2 or 4 of these chairs will give you the flexibility to use them inside or out.

I'm partial to these chairs paired with old rustic wood tables, especially trestle style, or chunky teak tables.  If you're outdoor dining space is well protected and you have a place to store a table in the off season, you can get away with almost any inexpensive table or create one using workhorses and plywood or an old slab door, then layer it with table cloths.    

Photos:  Living Etc., ebay, DWR, Living Etc. (3), Apartment Therapy, Chairs clockwise left to right, top; Alonzo Chair DWR $44 (sale),  Air Chair DWR $98 (sale), White Bertoia Side Chair DWR $450, Ikea Urban Chair $50, Navy Chair DWR $415, Ghost Chair DWR $400, Marais Arm Chair DWR $135 (sale), Panton Chair DWR $250

Outdoor Lounging - A Modern Classic

When I think of the perfect outdoor lounge chair, two images come to mind. One is the traditional and classic Muskoka Chair (more on that in the next post) and the other, is the iconic modern Butterfly chair, also known as, the BKF Chair, or the Hardoy Chair.

The Butterfly chair is a favorite of mine because of its sculptural lines, its affordability, its flexibility, it can be used both indoors or out,,,,and folds up or stacks for easy storage, and the covers can be easily replaced or changed. With its steel frame and hammock like seat it evokes a relaxed mid-century style - this chair will instantly add a hip modern edge to any setting. I prefer it used in either simple modern, or simple rustic settings.

In 1937, Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy apprenticed under architect/designer Le Corbusier in Paris; the following year they invented the "BKF" or butterfly chair. In 1941, MoMA design director Edgar Kaufmann Jr. brought the first two chairs to the United States. One chair went to the museum, the other to Fallingwater, his home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Most people associate this retro cool looking chair with the 50's when it was being mass produced, its hard to believe it was actually designed in the 30's and first used in North America in a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The chair was originally mass-produced by Artek-Pascoe. In 1947 Knoll acquired US production rights of the Hardoy butterfly chair, bringing international notice and commercial success to the design. Unlicensed knock-offs and the loss of a Knoll copyright suit have made this one of the most copied chairs of modern design and it became one of the most widely copied chairs in existence. After losing their claim of copyright infringement, Knoll dropped the chair from its line in 1951.

In 1997 Circa50 resumed mass-production of the chair to the exact dimensions of the Knoll version. Their frames are solid steel and do not fold or disassemble. Both black and stainless steel frames are historically correct, while stainless steel offers additional benefits: stacks for easy storage; contains 75% recycled steel and is totally recyclable; does not corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel. An estimated 5 million of these chairs were produced during the 1950's by numerous manufacturers under various name and all varying in size. Circa50 makes covers for any size. Today, the canvas covers in use at Fallingwater are made by Circa50.

Steel Frame and cowhide cover by Circa50.

Folding frame and leather cover by Urban Outfitters.

Butterfly chair shown both inside Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater house, and outside (below).

The ultra chic Parker Palm Springs hotel.

The Starlux Hotel, NJ.

The butterfly chair in a bamboo garden.

I owned a house last summer that I was renovating, we actually didn't do any new work to the backyard but it had a big huge beautiful tree and large level deck. I brought over a couple of my butterfly chairs and set them up under the tree and we sat and had lunch or coffee there almost every day. We often received comments on how great the backyard looked,,it was quite a mess actually but I think the chairs alone just brought a whole new modern vibe to the setting. (this picture was taken during a freaky summer hail storm)

Used indoors as often as outdoors. This image and more of this home can be seen at Dwell magazine.

The mesh version in all black seen in Elle Decor.

Today the Butterfly chair is part of these permanent collections; MoMA, Fallingwater, Knoll Museum, Vitra Design Museum.

Photos: Canadian House & Home, Knoll, Knoll, Circa50, Urban Outfitters, Flickr, Parker Palm Springs Hotel, Starlux Hotel, Flickr, Carol Reed, Dwell, Elle Decor, Living Etc., Country and Modern by Dinah Hall, Style at Home May 2008