Marge Says, "Make It Colorful, Comfortable and Durable!"
If there’s one thing my cat Marge is an expert at it is lounging. Her favorite spot is the new furniture on the front porch. I can tell because she always leaves behind plenty of cat hair, dirt and who-knows-what. But I don’t sweat it because my outdoor furniture is covered in what is referred to as performance fabrics. Given the fact that Marge is spending more time on the furniture than I am, she’s a pretty good source for describing these fabrics and how to use them.
Marge Talks Performance Fabrics
Like most cats, I can take a nap just about anywhere. Be it a cardboard box, freshly tilled flower bed or just a warm spot of sunshine, with proper kneading, it can be made comfortable. However, I do have my standards and given the choice I much prefer a soft pillow.
Until recently the seating selection in our garden consisted of a hard wooden bench, a 3-legged stool and wrought iron dining chairs. All very practical for the outdoors, but hardly on par with a soft pillow. Then Allen came home with a pair of wicker chairs with cushions! I could hardly believe it and immediately set about staking my claim on one of the chairs. Although he tried several tactics to keep me off the furniture, I was persistent and he finally gave up. I’m not sure why he ever cared because the cushions are covered in performance fabric, which means they are completely cat, dog and even kid friendly.
Performance fabrics are the answer to traditional outdoor options such as cotton duck cloth or, heaven forbid, that plastic coated material that gets hot and sticky in the sun. An evolution of awning and marine fabric, performance fabrics are fade resistant, durable, water repellent, quick drying, and easy to clean while also being as soft and sophisticated as indoor fabrics.
His discovery of performance fabrics has allowed Allen to truly extend his living space outdoors with slipcovers, tablecloths and even drapes. And now that he has somewhere to sit besides a 3-legged stool, he spends more time outdoors. This is good for me because the only thing better than lounging in a big, cushy chair is lounging in a big, cushy chair with Allen.
If you need an instant pop of color and want to make your outdoor rooms more livable, consider performance fabric. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Selection – Use your garden and the exterior of your home as a springboard when selecting fabric colors and patterns. If you already have a large established garden filled with your favorite plants, use that as a basis to find coordinating fabrics that echo your color scheme. If you are establishing a new garden, and haven’t settled on a color scheme, I’d suggest you choose a neutral palette that will support your plant experiments. Some people love to change things up from year to year and neutral fabrics give you that leeway.
Extend Interior Colors Outside – Patios, decks and terraces can often be viewed while sitting indoors. To make a seamless transition between home and garden, use fabrics that echo the color scheme from your interior room to your outdoor setting.
Use Fabrics to Set the Mood – Cool colors in shades of blues, pastels, and whites have a calming effect, while hot colors such as red, yellow and orange have an energizing effect. Decide what activities you are planning for your outdoor area and use fabrics in colors that will set up that atmosphere.
Don’t be Afraid to be Bold – Outdoors the eye has more things competing for its attention, so bolder patterns and colors can be used to get the notice they deserve. On the other hand, if want your garden to take center stage, fabrics in a neutral palette can blend in beautifully in a supporting role.
Don’t Use More than Four Different Fabrics – I love to blend solids, stripes and patterned fabrics, but for each one to be fully appreciated, it’s best to hold the number of different fabrics in a garden room to four. It’s the same advice I give to gardeners about plants in a border; a large grouping of the same plants has a stronger visual impact than dots and dabs of different plants throughout the bed.
Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out – Performance fabrics are versatile and comfortable enough to be used indoors as well. And don’t limit them to just upholstery. With so many colors and patterns available, you can use them to make more than just pillows and cushions. Try them on towels, tablecloths, place mats, awnings and window treatments.