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Q&A: Kenneth Cobonpue

Patio season.

With another season of alfresco dining upon us, promises of picnicking, barbecuing, and entertaining over a cocktail on a choice patio await. As such, this is the ideal time to revamp your outdoor living space and ensure all is in order for hosting throughout the summer months.

The works of Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue are predicated on the use of natural materials and an organic aesthetic, with the aim of creating outdoor furniture that is inspired by tropical-island living yet also functional for the northern climate. His designs have been lauded by the likes of Ross Lovegrove and Marcel Wanders and are collected by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. With an eye for colour and appreciation for handiwork, Cobonpue gives his design advice on creating optimum outdoor spaces.

NUVO: What are the essential design elements required to create a beautiful patio space?

Cobonpue: Any beautiful patio space needs to have nature as a part of its design. It also needs to be transparent to allow light and fresh air to pass through it. In general, it should be comfortable and relaxing—these guidelines apply to essentially all sorts of patio spaces.

More specifically, the sign of a good outdoor dining space is that it makes people want to sit and relax for a long time, enjoying the space and its character. From my experience, it’s often easy for pieces to get knocked over by the wind, especially in some tall apartments. Some people have to resort to bolting their furniture to the patio, but the best pieces for this kind of space allow for wind to pass through them and avoid this issue altogether.

Anything by a pool should be durable, especially against water, which it will be in contact with quite often. In an outdoor space like a garden, furniture has to be weatherproof and durable—it can get quite a lot of wear and tear, so this is essential. Incorporating greenery and nature into patios bridges the gap between what is an indoor sanctuary and an outdoor playground, a combination that is the essence of a patio space.

NUVO: How should someone care for and store patio items out of season? And how often should an outdoor living space be updated?

Cobonpue: The best patio items should need little care, even out of season. Just covering the pieces and removing the upholstery should generally be enough. As for updating an outdoor living area, that depends on a person’s lifestyle. Some people prefer to keep up with trends, changing their own tastes as well, while some people prefer to have a simple and timeless design. Furniture on a patio that is usually covered and protected from the weather should last a long time, about 10 years or so.

NUVO: What materials should someone look for when selecting outdoor furniture?

Cobonpue: For outdoor furniture we actually use polyethylene; however, we do so in such a way that the design and appeal of a collection, both indoor and outdoor, remains the same. Low maintenance materials are often the best. For example, we use polyethylene and steel with acrylic fabric cushions, which means the piece should not require much maintenance.

NUVO: What is your favourite patio pastime?

Cobonpue: I enjoy entertaining friends or drawing and finding inspiration in nature and my surroundings. I like to serve coconut water, lemonade, and my wife’s homemade cakes and cookies.

NUVO: What pieces from the Kenneth Cobonpue collection are particularly suited to this summer’s patio season? 

Cobonpue: My personal favorites are Calyx and Trame. The design of Calyx is an abstraction of the lines of a blossoming flower. Trame, designed by Federica Capitani, is reminiscent of the petals of a flower. Both add to the essential appearance of nature and warmth. I hope that my work transforms spaces into living and animated environments full of wonder and creativity. I try to make the distinction between the indoor and outdoor worlds gradually blur.

Read our summer 2014 issue feature on Kenneth Cobonpue.