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We hear you love to travel—what are some of your favorite destinations and what have you found in those places that inspires you? By far my favorite travel experiences have been Italy, Greece, Spain and South Africa. I could go back to these countries over and over again. Culture—how the people live—always plays a big part in my design aesthetic. People in these countries appreciate the small moments in life, much more so than Americans do. For example, the outdoor canopy I designed was inspired by a little hotel in Italy where we spent a few rainy mornings reading books and sipping red wine.
What methods do you use to draw people away from their televisions, computers and air-conditioners to spend some time enjoying the great outdoors? I think in any outdoor space, if room allows it, there should be an outdoor living room. I love how outdoor lamps can sit on a sofa table outside and make people feel as if they're inside in their comfy living room. An outdoor firepit or even just music can draw someone outside. It's bringing the inside comforts outside—today, it's very easy to accomplish that. Of course, beautiful landscaping, color and the sound of water (waterfall or water wall) are a great draw, too!
Let's face it—Mother Nature isn't always the most accommodating hostess. How do you overcome the challenges of her capriciousness when designing an outdoor living space? If you want to use your outdoor space in heavy rain, something like a retractable awning is not a great idea. A stationary awning will hold up to heavy rain, but if it's large, it's not going to hold up to heavy snow. A beautiful cedar pergola is a great way to get coverage from sun if you can grow greenery on it. Sheers added on a track to a pergola or awning help eliminate mosquitoes on hot summer nights.
What materials are your favorite to work with? What's their effect? I really love resin outdoor furniture. It has a great look and lasts a long time. I also love teak furniture, aged. In my opinion, teak furniture, when left gray, with a nice clean, modern line, is the perfect backdrop for some beautiful outdoor fabrics. I've seen outdoor fabrics that are only about a year old, but when the teak ages a little more, the fabric will really pop.
Just as design trends are always evolving, natural environments can't be expected to stay still. How does this play into your approach to outdoor design? Outdoor fabrics are constantly changing, and their resistance to mildew and staining is getting better and better. Outdoor fabrics can be easily washed in a washing machine on the gentle cycle—always stretch them back onto the furniture piece to dry in the fresh air. The nice thing about outdoor fabrics and furniture is that if you take care of them, they should last a long time. Of course, like a natural environment, outdoor design changes. Try to keep your furniture as simple and clean-lined as possible so that aesthetically, the styles will grow with you over time. Use the trends for fabrics or even great outdoor accessories.
What emotions should an outdoor space evoke? A sense of calm, peace and tranquility.