"Terrace and garden have become a second living room"
1 Jun 2023
Design journalist and trend researcher Frank A. Reinhardt
You know the scene and the industries, look for trends and accurately formulate developments in the living area. How would you describe the current trend in garden furniture and which innovations are currently in particular demand?
The design and product quality of outdoor furniture has increased enormously. It can often be used both outdoors and indoors and is therefore increasingly influenced by the general design trends in furniture and interior design. Manufacturers are responding to the desire for cosiness on the terrace with material innovations, the use of more and more upholstery and textile elements, as well as an increasing focus on collections.
How do social changes, such as the increasing trend towards outdoor living and the shift of social life outdoors, influence the demand for garden furniture? What new needs are emerging as a result? Also with regard to the main theme of this year's spoga+gafa.
In the psychology of living, we speak of "appropriation" of space - we simply want to expand our space and mark it as such. But the question is, why? Why are motorhomes and campers booming? Psychologically, it is certainly also an attempt to reclaim a piece of freedom in an environment that is perceived as increasingly hostile and stressful. To transport the domestic feeling of security to the outside world, to establish satellites in the outside world, shelters in which we can experience sociability in a carefree way. This is certainly also a legacy of the pandemic experience. It is no coincidence that many young people still meet in semi-public places in the evening. In addition, there is a mixture of a bit of nostalgia, of a newly understood sociability that lets us bring the beer garden and allotment garden feeling home to the terrace or backyard, as well as a kind of flight from the world in the face of the climate crisis reports, which makes the topic so attractive at the moment, and this is interesting, just as much for young people as for older people. We are searching for the "ideal world" from our childhood memories, in which we generally encountered nature as an idyll. And with every horror story about climate change, we long more for normality - which is why many people, even in the city, are looking for their own personal experience of nature. This emotional mix can be "lived in" with the homely furnishing of the terrace, which conveys cosiness and security as well as freedom, with sofa, table, lounger, hanging chair, outdoor kitchen, planters and herb stairs.
What new usage concepts and consumer trends can we expect in terms of garden furniture in the coming years?
For a few years now, we have been observing that the terrace or garden is developing into a "second living room". A completely new sense of entitlement prevails here today than the DIY ambience that was prevalent just a few years ago, and the industry is responding with high-quality outdoor furniture and water-resistant materials and fabrics that still look tip-top even after a shower. This development could already be observed at spoga+gafa 2019. This is no longer just due to the desire to be as close to nature as possible, but also to the increased need for space. We are opening up new spaces with greater freedom. This means that some functions of the home can be moved outside, such as socialising while cooking and eating with friends.
Interesting are design-oriented partitions that can be installed on the balcony as well as in the garden and not only serve as privacy screens, but also increasingly take on noise-reducing functions. This can also be a hip plant wall at times. The background behind this development: In our garden, we want to withdraw - also from the neighbour. Conversely, we also like to invite friends to our balcony or garden: to barbecue, cook or get together. That's why outdoor kitchens and barbecues are booming.
What advice would you give to manufacturers and dealers of garden furniture to prepare for future trends and remain successful?
The topic of colour is important and sensitive at the same time. In the run-up to a new outdoor season, assessing which colour will generate the highest possible sales is a task for professionals. spoga+gafa is a trade fair platform where precisely such developments can be read off. For buyers, spoga+gafa is ideal for assessing current design and colour developments in outdoor furniture. For example, while the colour grey dominated the basic shades for a long time, there has recently been a change to a homely colour palette in the beige colour range. In the luxury segment, a renaissance of white can also be observed. In general, the basic "colour" wood is no longer alone on the terrace, but is getting competition from "real" colours such as yellow and green tones or the currently hyped pink. Knowing about current colour trends in the run-up to a trade fair is therefore crucial for the sales success of the current season. Every supplier should conduct professional trend research here.
What factors influence consumers' decisions when choosing garden furniture? Are there certain aspects to which they attach particular importance?
The demands on garden furniture are already high per se, especially in terms of weather resistance. In addition to high material quality, however, the demand for high, contemporary design quality with sometimes trendy designs is also growing - regardless of the sales channels. Lifestyle and fashion are gaining in importance. The collection idea, i.e. the possibility of individualisation with different modules and furniture, also seems to be becoming more and more important. This also implies a repurchase guarantee for a certain period of time - this is undoubtedly a new challenge for the industry.
How do you see the future development in the field of sustainable and environmentally friendly garden furniture? Which materials and manufacturing techniques will gain in importance in the coming years?
I'll be honest: Yes, there has been a wave of ideas for sustainable outdoor furniture for maybe two years - but at a rather low level. But I expect a significant increase in the next few years, because sustainability should be a core competence in the outdoor sector. The pressure from end consumers will increase and we will already see more exhibitors at spoga+gafa 2023 who place the topic of sustainability at the centre of their communication. I also don't want to see the topic of sustainability as a classic trend topic: In the medium and long term, sustainably produced outdoor furniture will become a matter of course.
What role do technological developments, such as smart functions, play in the design of garden furniture? Are there already innovative examples that you would like to highlight?
With LED technology, garden lighting is becoming a real playground for lovers of atmospheric ambience designs, and the homely character of the outdoor area is taking on a whole new dimension. Another trend is coming from China: there is hardly any furniture without a power or USB connection. It remains to be seen whether this will catch on in Europe and in the outdoor area. But we also want to make phone calls and use a tablet in the garden, so charging and repeater functions for the home network can also be integrated into outdoor furniture.
What role does the multifunctionality of garden furniture play in terms of limited space and flexibility? How can manufacturers respond to these requirements?
I still see a great need for optimisation here. A solid deck chair or a trendy daybed is certainly a nice thing, but if they are difficult to transport - especially for older people - the purchase decision is likely to be difficult. Some exhibitors at spoga+gafa have already reacted and are presenting ergonomic sunshade stands and shading systems, for example - these are also easier to move for older people.
I don't know whether eight square metres of rolled lawn behind a narrow terraced house or a small balcony can already be described as an experience of nature, but for many this little retreat is already something like heaven on earth. Therefore, the multifunctionality of outdoor furniture and accessories for use in small spaces is very important. Similar to other living areas, strategic cooperation with the hardware industry could therefore play a key role. Multifunctionality is a growing area of responsibility in all product ranges. At spoga+gafa, you can certainly see many examples of this again - the industry has long since taken up this challenge.