Outdoor furniture becomes condo-friendly

With good planning and smart purchases, having a small patio doesn’t have to be a major barrier to outdoor-living enjoyment

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      It’s easy to get discouraged paging through outdoor-living magazines or watching home-décor shows when you have to deal with the confines of a Vancouver-scale condo patio. Oversize recliners, dining tables that seat eight, plus end tables, ottomans, and canopies? In your dreams.

      But it turns out there are ways to outfit your postage-stamp-size piece of paradise so it becomes an oasis in the city. Yes, Virginia, there is a way to entertain on a condo balcony. It just takes a little design know-how and an eye for some of the new condo-scale furniture that’s out there.

      Andrew Bockner, the long-time Canadian patio-furniture designer at Andrew Richard Designs, has been targeting the market, particularly with a new collection called Condo. It’s a bit ironic, considering he and brother Richard got their start supplying hotels and resorts with outdoor pieces. “There, space was never an issue, and in that case it was ”˜We need larger-scale pieces,’ ” he tells the Straight, speaking over the line from his Toronto showroom.

      Bockner still outfits those places around North America, but he’s also started filling a niche for people who want chic, smaller-scale pieces. “Why should people be unable to entertain and enjoy a six-foot or eight-foot or even five-foot space?” he says. “I saw people were trying to shove some of the bigger pieces into their small spaces. Outdoor time is gold, because we all work hard and have commitments, but to feel cluttered and bothered in the space ruins that. You have to be able to walk around.”

      Nowadays, Bockner sells several city-friendly collections, including the Condo line, through his retail stores in Toronto, and via his website and interior designers out here on the West Coast.

      Bockner shares some of his best tricks for outfitting a smaller outdoor space.

      Any pieces that can do double or triple duty allow you to “re-create your environment to suit your needs”, Bockner advises. Furniture that can offer storage is a plus too. Andrew Richard’s collections include a side table that can take a cushion to be used as seating and an ottoman that can be combined with either a glass or a cushion top, depending on what you need. He’s also a fan of sectionals that you can break up for different occasions.

      Go lounge
      Everyone assumes you need a dining table outside, but Bockner advocates for a lounger and coffee table for a smaller space. “Dinner is going to be over in an hour, and 90 percent of the time you’re going to be having cocktails or drinks in a more casual way,” says Bockner, who adds that food can easily go on the coffee table. “You can’t use a dining table both ways. You can’t put your feet up. With the lounge [concept], you can still have that barbecue and then you can enjoy the whole night out there, too.” His Condo line reflects the idea, with a modular sectional, love seat, and lounge chair, all with cushions and frames that feature a wide, sophisticated weave. (Prices are about $1,500 and up.)

      Think indoor-outdoor
      New patio-furniture designs, with their metal frames, chic cushions, and textural weaves, offer pieces that can easily be hauled inside for use when the weather turns cooler.

      Make it monochromatic
      Don’t feel like you need to contrast your cushions and frame. Not only will choosing a single colour way make your space read like it has more flow, it will look more up-to-date, too. Bockner says his urban clients are big into blacks, whites, and especially greys this year. “You can add colour in with accents, like lanterns, candles, and planters, and leave the furniture clean and contemporary,” he says.

      Invest in living things
      Don’t forget the plants, or your downtown oasis can come off cold. “When you’re on a terrace in the city, you may not have a tree right there, so you need to bring the outdoors to you,” Bockner says. And think beyond just potted plants: items like bamboo or birch dividers can add the same kind of texture and natural feel, the outdoor-furniture designer adds.

      The best news is you can banish all notions of plastic stacking chairs, and shake yourself up a summer cocktail: you can still live large in your small outdoor space.