Luxury Alfresco: Designer Richard Frinier Talks Trends in Outdoor Luxury Market

Designer Richard Frinier reveals that luxury, more than anything, is a state of mind, and the willingness to unplug from our screens

A set of white, elegantly designed furniture in a building with a mountainous landscape behind it.

Outdoor furniture manufacturer Brown Jordan’s Connexion collection by Richard Frinier is designed for “comfort and versatility in arrangement.”

Uniqueness, quality, personalization and experience: these are keywords for the ultra luxe market in outdoor living. 

“Luxury buyers and the architects and interior designers who cater to them, they are not interested in trends,” explains designer Richard Frinier. “There is an ultra luxe market that is little known except for those experiencing it and catering to it.” 

For more than 35 years, Frinier has designed furniture, textiles, lighting and accessories for interiors and exteriors that ultimately shape trends for other markets ranging from grab-and-go Target lines to high-end casual furniture.

Some of his most recognizable outdoor lines include 
Andalusia for Century Furniture, Orbit for DEDON and his Sunbrella textile collection, Caravan. It doesn’t take a wizard to find connections between Frinier’s original designs and collections on all levels of outdoor furniture and decor.

Stephen Block, an exterior designer and owner of LA’s Inner Gardens, serves the same trend-eschewing crowd Frinier refers to: “Our stuff is custom, very organic and natural. We work with a client base that cares more about quality and tradition than what’s ‘hot’ now.”

When Block and his team come to a site to create an outdoor living space, they experiment and play with ideas during the installation rather than working off a static drawing.

“We lay out the plants by hand. We decide while we’re on-site. It’s a dynamic process that leads to a better outcome. Our clients like that they’re getting something so original to them, a design and furniture and decor layout that comes to life in the moment,” says Block. “We play a significant role in specifying the various elements that will be incorporated into an outdoor living space. Even though our client’s selections are expensive — with very good deep seating, beautiful vintage pieces as accents to give it soul and antique fountains that we find in the farthest corners of the world — it isn’t about the price. It’s about comfort. Comfort doesn’t have a price.”

“There is pretty amazing design at all levels of the marketplace, at every price point,” explains Frinier. “In reality, living luxuriously is a state of mind. ... It is something you must experience inside before you can set the stage for how you wish to live and experience your life.”

For those seeking to curate their outdoor spaces in a way that reflects their vision for living, “international design and furniture trade shows still serve as clear windows of what we will be seeing for the immediate future,” he says.

Frinier’s observations of recent trade shows follows:

Materials

Materials mixing new technology, vintage, a feeling of handcrafting, earth-friendly production and usage are all trending.

Color

In colors, we are seeing everything from quieted and soft pastels and more sun-washed colors all the way to less saturated primary and secondary colors. Metallics and anything with reflectivity or soft sheen are finding a way back into finishes and textile as well.

Styling

Architectural styling for furnishings is wide open — all styles. However, modern and soft modern are becoming much more prevalent than ever before. It used to be said that modern occupied only 10 percent of consumers’ interest, where today it is much stronger, reportedly hovering around 30 percent or more.

Frinier himself has no interest in trends, as he’s noticed that “once something is identified as trending, it is already on its way out.”

He finds his inspiration across a diverse range of influences that include travel and technology.

“I have traveled to over 40 countries across five continents and I’m moved and inspired by materials and experiences I have during those travels,” says Frinier. “Also, as a designer, there is no finer compliment than to know that someone somewhere in the world, possibly someone I have never even met before, has or will be making an emotional connection with a design I have created.”

Frinier is also inspired by working with materials that have been changed or improved as a result of technology, a nod to his early days as a sculptor. He finds that when he’s working with a new technology or material, or even working with an existing material in a new way, he does some of his best work. His tendency to embrace technology does come with a caveat, though:

“I live for change, but not all of the change is necessarily good in terms of lifestyle,” he says. “People are so engaged with their screens, they are definitely losing site of their true vision outside of what is on social media. I continue to believe that people need to unplug, unwind and undo, so they may relax, refresh and renew. This is the new luxury everyone should be seeking. Time is all we have. It is the ultimate luxury. I ask, ‘How will you spend yours?’ ”

Sarah Ristorcelli is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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