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Indoor-Outdoor Textiles: Creating the New Modern Office

By Melanie Harbert


Outdoor workspaces are the next workplace frontier, according to Huffington Post. With employee safety, health, and wellness at the forefront of back-to-work plans, the concept of working outdoors is one that melds seamlessly with the temperate climate of the San Francisco Bay Area.



The past decade has seen many modern offices adopt biophilic office designs. Of course, employees who work in these offices tend to be happier as a result of the significant improvements in wellbeing and productivity. Nonetheless, the future of workplaces will most likely be a mix of both indoor and outdoor spaces.


While many employees may prefer working behind closed doors, others might be more productive when they can take a walk in the grass, breathe fresh air, and connect with nature. In the same way, some employees might be easily distracted by noise interference from airplanes flying above, whereas others might not care about it.


More than anything, working in an exterior space has been a growing trend in our community for the last several years. This, along with the experience of working and socializing in well-ventilated areas is making us turn to outdoor furniture solutions. Outdoor office spaces, just like interior spaces, require beautiful, durable, and movable furniture. So the next logical step is to consider indoor-outdoor textiles that can upholster these furniture options.


Indoor Fabric vs Outdoor Fabric vs Indoor-Outdoor Fabric


Different spaces require different textiles. That’s why office architects and designers have a wide variety of furniture fabrics to choose from. Indoor fabrics are welcoming but not so durable since they’re typically made from cotton, wool, or polyester. Moreover, you will agree that cushions near the window tend to fade, discolor, and wear out faster than the ones farther away.



It’s true that outdoor textiles can be used for indoor upholstery, however indoor textiles are not suitable for outdoor furniture. Outdoor upholstery is subject to weathering and harsher conditions than interior upholstery. As a result, they are typically covered with outdoor fabrics made of polyester (lower UV rating) or more durable fibers like polypropylene or acrylic. However, most outdoor fabrics eventually fade especially when they are used in high-traffic areas.


Indoor-outdoor fabrics are becoming increasingly popular in that they can be upholstered on indoor and outdoor furniture. These fabrics, just like high-quality outdoor fabrics, are solution-dyed synthetic textiles that can resist fading due to their built-in pigmentation. Even so, you will agree that outdoor office furniture has to be able to withstand high temperatures from the sun’s rays and weather factors that can cause wear and tear.


Indoor-Outdoor Textiles are 100% Solution Dyed


Indoor-outdoor textiles are made of 100% solution dyed nylon or acrylic. These yarns are injected with polymers that penetrate the entire fiber, create pigment (color), and lock the color in. They do not require a top coat or finish to create high-performance upholstery that is also easy to clean.


When most designers consider outdoor upholstery textiles, Sunbrella® is the first brand that comes to mind. They have high abrasion resistance, and their color comes from spun-in solution-dyed fibers, which makes them ideal for outdoor cushions and upholstery. Sunbrella® fabrics are water repellent and resist mildew growth, have high resistance to UV radiation, and are resistant to chemical weathering over time.


They Are Not Bulletproof, but They Are Long-lasting


Although indoor-outdoor fabrics are not indestructible, they are long-lasting and can be easily cleaned. Cleanability is another key benefit to specifying solution-dyed textiles. Indoor-outdoor textiles are highly resistant to mold and mildew growth, can be cleaned with a bleach solution, and endure long exposure to weather.


Use Indoor-Outdoor Fabric, But Not Just “Any Fabric”


Sunbrella® fabrics are solution-dyed acrylics for contemporary outdoor office furniture, so sun, rain, and wind will not affect their color fastness. Sunbrella® was originally founded as an awning company in 1961, but has since evolved into the leader and pioneer in textile craftsmanship. They are constantly developing innovative technologies and re-defining textiles and fiber technology.


Mayer fabrics also offer a vast array of patterns that are woven with the solution-dyed yarns. Vollis Simpson is a collection which utilizes the Sunbrella® technology. Vollis Simpson was a folk artist who created large kinetic-like whirligigs. Mayer Fabrics was inspired by these metal sculptures and collaborated with Vollis Simpson to design six vibrant, light-fast and whimsical textile patterns.



Wonderlust is another beautiful collection that was created in collaboration with the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and again, utilized the Sunbrella® yarns. The textile designer, Kimberle Frost, was allowed access to the archives of Alexander Girard, and drew inspiration from artwork that he collected. The Wonderlust Collection displays delicate and bold designs that speak from a variety of cultures and traditions.


Knak Group - Mayer Fabric - Wonderlust Collection
Inspired by designer Alexander Girard, Mayer Fabrics unveil, Wonderlust

Moving forward, the design community has an array of beautiful, light-fast and cleanable options for indoor-outdoor textiles to specify as we move into more outdoor environments.


On January 26th at 12pm (PST), the Knak Group is proud to co-host an exploration of designing commercial spaces that will include an exploration of fabrics. This will be part of a CEU on Mindfulness: Wellness in Commercial Design, hosted by Sunbrella®, Mayer Fabrics and the Knak Group. To sign up, visit the CEU event listing here.


About the Author


Melanie Harbert is one of the Bay Area's most well-respected senior associates in premium built environments. She holds degrees in Interior and Environmental Design/BA and an MA from California State University, Long Beach. She is an IIDA Northern California Chapter Honoree 2017-2018 (https://iidanc.org/) and a member of IIDA (International Association of Interior Design) since 2000 (http://iida.org/).

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