Taking it Outside
By Carolyn Camilleri
It seems everyone is adding a patio these days, whether a restaurant or lounge extension or an outdoor refurbishment. One of the more important decisions is furniture – and considerations start with that favorite Canadian obsession: weather.
The patio trend is booming and summer is coming up fast:
Are you ready for the season?
“The furniture needs to hold up regardless of the elements,” says Patricia McClintock, principal at Patricia McClintock and Associés, an interior design consultancy.
In Toronto, that means heat, humidity, rain, and wind. “Clearly, the furniture needs to be good outside – that’s number one,” says Tyler Longshaw, facilities manager at The Drake Hotel in Toronto.
“The design of the furniture selected is essential. It should be in harmony with the overall style of the architecture of the property.”
The Drake’s rooftop Sky Yard is sheltered on three sides, and while the wind doesn’t affect the furniture much, it is still a factor.
“We have four umbrellas out in the central part that we had custom done to fit the tables and the chairs perfectly,” says Longshaw. “For the side cafe patio, we have a fairly large awning that we had produced a few years ago. It works great, but we do have to be careful. We have to watch the wind. That stuff will get blown away for sure.”
At the Element Vaughan Southwest, the patio in an inviting outdoor space with a fire pit, barbecues, and wooden furniture.
“Durability took great consideration given the climate and conditions that can fluctuate from season to season,” says John Caneco, general manager. “Each season, our team stains the furniture that is used in our outdoor space. With this treatment, we are able to get a full season out of the furniture when exposed to the elements. Using this system, we have been able to use our tables and chairs for the last three summers.”
At the Sky Yard, they chose metal.
“You can get it powder coated and can use it year after year and not have to worry about rotting and bleaching from the sun,” says Longshaw, adding that the tabletops are durable Corian, which doesn’t bleach out.
The Sky Yard patio at the Drake Hotel works in conjunction with the hotel’s art department on furnishing decisions and does a different theme every year to change the decor elements.
Beyond durability is design.
“The design of the furniture selected is essential,” says McClintock, explaining that it should be in harmony with the overall style of the architecture of the property. “It should be expected and not conflicting. There should also be some logic between interiors and exteriors.”
She adds that it has to fit the environment and meet guest and brand expectations – an important consideration for Caneco.
“The style plays an important role and it needs to be in line with the Element brand, look, and feel,” says Caneco, adding that brand extends to tableware and to their environmental philosophy. “At Element, design incorporates eco-friendly materials wherever possible.”
Furnishing decisions at The Drake are made in conjunction with the hotel’s art department.
“Year to year, we play with different fabrics,” says Longshaw. “It’s really an ongoing test to see what might be more durable or last longer. Obviously, they’re going to get stained and a lot of wear. We get a lot of traffic through here. We have our favorites now, but every so often, we will try out new ones.”
And then there’s the budget.
“The cost of the selected furniture has to be realistic and in line with the overall cost of furnishings of the hotel,” says McClintock. “There is always a relation between the cost of FF&E [furniture, fixture, and equipment] and room rates.”
Especially since patio season isn’t year round.
“We’ve picked fairly simple furniture that fits our needs,” says Longshaw. “Every year on the patio, we do a different theme, which will bring in different colors for upholstered cushions, toss pillows, plants, and we’ll change it up with decor elements supplied by the arts department.”
Ultimately, patios are guest pleasers.
“Our guests love sitting outside relaxing with a drink, snack, or good book,” says Caneco. “That being said, the lounge chairs can become scarce when the weather is good and the sun is shining!”
With summer so short in Canada, it’s no surprise that patios are popular.
Eastern Hotelier Magazine