Furnishing and lighting an outdoor hospitality space

Emu Luciole Table Lamp

One of the great joys of Australia is living life outdoors, and hospitality venues with terraces, rooftops, courtyards and decks are often sought-after destinations all year-round. But designing an exterior space involves a number of challenges that differ to interior spaces, and the need for different furniture and lighting. We spoke to Angus Edward, associate interior designer at KPDO, for his advice on selecting furnishing and lighting for an outdoor hospitality space.  

A balance of privacy and openness is required in the design of outdoor spaces to cater for guests’ needs, whether it’s an intimate dinner, casual coffee or celebratory drink with friends. Furniture, lighting and plants can be used to divide up a space and provide different settings for guests to choose from. They should be positioned so that staff and customers can move safely between tables and chairs, and to moderate acoustic levels so that guests can have comfortable conversations.

Vondom Africa collection

Having chairs that are easily moveable can help accommodate different size groups of guests, as well as the challenge of inclement weather. “Chairs and stools need to be light enough for people to move them, and depending on the location we opt for heavy, permanent tables that cannot be moved or that easily blow away,” Angus says. Some outdoor spaces will also require furniture to be packed up and stored at the end of a night, or a season, in which case lightweight, stackable chairs, such as Vondom’s Delta and Africa, are a smart solution.

Vondom Delta chairs and tables.

A stool is also ideal for providing additional lightweight, moveable seating and is a piece that Angus will often include as a safe and convenient place for guests to put their possessions. “I am mindful of users and where they place possessions. A lightweight stool can serve as a place to put a bag, or additional secure storage can be provided back-of-house for patrons with luggage,” he says.

Outdoor furniture needs to be hardwearing and high quality, made with robust materials to withstand the elements. While some furniture can work indoors and outdoors, metal should be resistant to rust and corrosive salt; timber should be treated; and outdoor fabrics should be able to endure rain and UV rays. “In regard to true outdoor fabrics, we try to opt for neutral colours and bold prints as these tend to not date, and its less noticeable if they do inevitably fade,” says Angus.

Mesh seating is another alternative, as water can trickle through the seat rather than pooling on top. EMU’s Round, Heaven and Darwin collections have mesh seats that are gently curved for the human body.

The Emu Heaven collection includes seating, stools and dining tables.

Aluminium is one of the most popular materials for outdoor settings, particularly those near the ocean. EMU’s Terramare, which features on the terrace of Saké Manly, has an aluminium frame and EMU-Tex seat, which is water repellent, UV resistant and can cope with the elements, humidity and temperature. Teak is durable outside; polypropylene is easy to clean; and steel is a great choice when heavier furniture is needed for rooftops or balconies. Andreu World’s Reverse collection of tables are elegant, sturdy and solid, weighing upwards of 12 kilograms.

Emu Terramare seating collection.

Depending on the outside area there can sometimes be an uneven ground surface, resulting in wobbly tables or the need for coasters under one leg. EMU’s self-levelling Nova table resolves these issues with a steel monocoque structure that enables the dining table to self-level and compensate for any variations in the height of the floor.

Emu Nova self leveling table and chairs.

As per inside hospitality venues, lighting outdoors needs to be both practical and decorative, providing illumination for purpose and safety, as well as atmosphere. “Indirect, low-level lighting works best to create an intimate setting. Battery-operated lanterns on tables and low-level landscape lighting, such as pathway illumination, generate ambience,” Angus says.

Parachilna Denglong outdoor suspension and floor lamp

It’s important to ensure the lighting is suitable for outdoor environments, and particularly resistant to salt. “When it comes to specifying lighting it’s important to check componentry and suitability to marine and erosive environmental conditions. Lighting sets the tone for the entire venue and blown or damaged lights can make or break a space,” Angus explains.

Vondom planters including the Organic collection provide an ideal vessel for plants in hospitality environments.

Plants are another way to set the tone for a space, adding life and enhancing the sense of being outdoors. Plants can be used to help create privacy and are an easy way to inject colour. Be sure to incorporate hardy plants that can weather the outdoors and keep them looking lush with water as needed.

For more information about outdoor furniture and lighting for hospitality venues, drop by the KE-ZU showroom at Alexandria or view the products online.

KE-ZU would like to thank Angus Edward for his assistance in developing this story.

Angus Edward

Associate Interior Designer, K.P.D.O.

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