Furniture goes inside-out

In Britain, summer sun can quickly turn into a seasonal downpour. So it makes sense to have items that work as well in the living room as they do on the terrace. Nicole Swengley looks at the furniture that does it in style
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The Independent Online

Making the most of a British summer means grabbing every ray-filled moment. So it's worth investing in furniture that you can shift quickly on to a patio or deck then whisk back inside when it clouds over. Designers and manufacturers are now waking up to these needs and producing lightweight or folding furniture that's as stylish and practical to use outside as indoors.

Making the most of a British summer means grabbing every ray-filled moment. So it's worth investing in furniture that you can shift quickly on to a patio or deck then whisk back inside when it clouds over. Designers and manufacturers are now waking up to these needs and producing lightweight or folding furniture that's as stylish and practical to use outside as indoors.

Pick-up-and-pop-out ideas abound at modern furniture retailers like Aram where the cute Little Albert chair, £240, designed by Ron Arad for Moroso, is this summer's big hit.

Sir Terence Conran uses Philippe Starck's polypropylene Bubble sofa, £360, in the garden of his Berkshire home. Also available from his shop is Starck's oval polypropylene Ploof sofa, £395, while colourful polypropylene Cheap Chic chairs by Philippe Starck cost from £132 at Viaduct.

For sheer ooh-ah factor you can't beat Dalilips, a faithful copy of Salvador Dali's original Thirties Mae West's Lips design. It's made by BD Ediciones of Barcelona in rotation-moulded plastic and costs £1,095 at Geoffrey Drayton.

Fun designs from Italian manufacturer Magis include Michael Young's colourful Yogi Family of seats (from £132) and low tables (£66), Matteo Thun's Tam Tam stools (£73) and low tables (£52) and Denis Santachiara's Pankassa indoor-outdoor bench, (£319). All are available from Geoffrey Drayton along with Driade's sculptural polyethylene Tokyo-Pop seat, £462, and sofa, £377.

Vitra has adapted some classic designs for outdoor use. Its Standards Collection includes fade-resistant, weather-proof versions of Ron Arad's Tom Vac stacking chair, £143, Verner Panton's curvy Panton chair, £152, and Eames Contract table, £288.

Dining à deux on a balmy evening? Then pop the Atlantic two-seater folding table on the patio. It's made of hard-wearing Courbaril wood and its matching chairs have locking mechanisms which stop them collapsing when drawn forwards. Table, £99; chair, £79, from John Lewis.

Or check out Ocean's aluminium bistro set. The two lightweight chairs and circular table (£125 plus £14.90 delivery) are sufficiently sturdy for kitchen use, yet light enough to plonk outside when eating al fresco. A budget alternative is available from Homebase where a Paris café-style circular table costs £39.99 and matching chair, £24.99. Or go online to order Cassis, a compact café- style circular table with two folding chairs in an aluminium-coloured finish available for £99 from John Lewis's website.

Entertaining friends? Then choose a lightweight six-seater mesh metal table, £99.99, in dark green or granite with matching chairs, £34.99 each, from Homebase's Manhattan range.

Iron furniture looks equally chic in a courtyard or conservatory. OKA's Boulevard range has a shabby-chic look created by "antiquing" the powder-coated iron. Although sturdy, the folding chairs are easy to move around, but you will need cushions for comfort. They're sold singly, £135, or in pairs, £240, or as a set of four, £440 (plus £4.95 delivery). The table, £165, has a removable top and seats four.

The Iron Made Company, a new mail order business, specialises in folding and flat-pack ironware furniture. Its contemporary Portobello set folds away when not in use (table/two chairs, £150; table/four chairs, £199, plus £15 delivery). Or be seduced by the curlicued charm of its Rococo love-seat, £230.

Just as conservatory-friendly are Marks & Spencer's Victorian-inspired wirework chairs, £99, and table, £199, while the store's contemporary aluminium Lattice collection (circular table with four stackable chairs, £399) is suitable for permanent outdoor use.

Habitat has given the classic folding director's chair a new twist with its patterned canvas slings. Wooden chair-frames from £20; striped or geometric slings, £9. Square chunks of solid oak, £100 from Habitat, are handy as stools or side tables. Even more stools -- cork ones by Jasper Morrison, £16, and Philippe Stack's polypropylene molar-like Tooth stool, £75 -- are available at Viaduct. All can be easily whisked indoors or outside.

Rattan is another easy-shift option. Soak up the rays in OKA's deep-seated woven Mattaban armchair, £350, or sink into the Conran Shop's natural rattan tub-shaped Basket chair, £395, with a Pimms beside you on OKA's woven circular Mandalay offering table, £149.

Marks & Spencer's rattan ranges include an "antiqued" two-seater, priced at £225, complete with seat pads. A matching set of two circular tables costs £175. M&S's Malaya range comprises a luscious dark-chocolate, double-woven, rattan two-seater, from £899, with a matching coffee table, £225, and side table, £175, that's perfect for al fresco entertaining.

But if you just want to curl up solo with a good book then why not check out John Lewis's colourful waterproof and suntan oil-resistant beanbags, £99? When it clouds over you can sling them indoors and watch TV instead.

www.aram.co.uk, 020-7557 7557

www.conran.com, 020-7589 7401

www.geoffrey-drayton.co.uk, 020-7387 5840

www.habitat.net, 0845 6010740

www.homebase.co.uk, 0845 077 8888

www.ironmade.co.uk, 0845 644 7072

www.johnlewis.com, 08456 049049

www.Oceanuk.com, 0870 2426283

www.okadirect.com, 0870 160 6002

www.viaduct.co.uk , 020-7278 8456

www.vitra.com, 020-7608 6200

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