In 2012, leading outdoor furniture manufacturer, Hartman, announced a promising collaboration with horticulturist and TV personality, David Domoney. The collection, featuring David’s cast aluminium range, Celtic, and his weave range, Lattice, was launched at SOLEX in July 2012, along with a diverse portfolio of products for Hartman’s 2013 collection. Furniture News’ Gemma Ralph speaks to David to find out more about his design process.
As an educated horticulturist with over a decade of experience in garden buying departments for multiple blue chip retailers, and as MD of a company which creates show gardens at some of the most prestigious gardening events, it is no surprise that Hartman saw David Domoney as the ideal candidate to spearhead the design and marketing of its new outdoor furniture collection.
David is famed for his experimental approach to gardening – once including live piranhas, and on another occasion a detailed female nude, in his RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibits. This same flair and personality is evident in David’s involvement in television presenting – having worked on Carol Voderman’s Better Homes for four years, and as This Morning’s resident gardening expert, David now co-presents the popular garden makeover series, Love Your Garden, with Alan Titchmarsh.
When asked about his creative methods, David describes the origin of his designs as a mental, sensory image: “When designing a garden, I?begin by envisaging it in my mind – I close my eyes, walk around the garden; I feel it and become a part of it,” he says.
David’s approach to designing the furniture collection for Hartman was similar in some respects – the feel and enjoyment of the furniture remaining his first and most important consideration.
“The design element was stripped away initially,” he says. “I focused purely on comfort, visiting China with Paul Facey, Hartman UK’s sales director, and trying out hundreds of different kinds of chairs – learning how the chair supported the backs of the legs, noting the positioning of the armrests, really getting a feel for the different designs out there.”
This first-hand market research was coupled with extensive reference to existing garden furniture trends – the final collection boasting a blend of functionality and design for optimum comfort.
Indeed, David’s use of aluminium for the Celtic range reflects both the material’s more reasonable pricing in recent times and its versatility in terms of design. “I was inspired to create the Celtic pattern in aluminium to offer a more intricate design on furniture that has in the past been traditionally lace or floral,” says David.
“Its fluid movement of intertwining branches and trailing leaves forms an elaborate pattern which is not only attractive but supports the back in its entirety.”
The range comprises four- and six-seat round and rectangular sets for al fresco dining, in addition to a more compact bistro set, suitable for two.?
In the same vein, David’s principal concern for the Lattice range was to consult and modify existing furniture designs for purpose. “While there are some beautiful rattan designs out there, they are commonly associated with conservatory furniture, while I?really wanted to identify the range specifically as exterior furniture,” David says.?
“After scanning holiday brochures, examining beach and boardwalk furniture, I realised the key point of comparison was the closeness of the weave. For this reason, I decided to open up the weave of the Lattice range to make it more transparent, with ceramic table-tops in neutral tones to offset it.”
David was pleased and encouraged by Hartman’s receptiveness to these final designs, commenting: “I’ve built up a close relationship with Hartman over the years, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the team have shown.”
Equally, Hartman speaks highly of David’s professionalism and ingenuity:?“He’s a serious horticulturist, with immense passion and creativity for everything to do with outdoor living,” says Hartman UK’s Paul Facey.
“He was a good match for us as we look to further build our brand with the consumer market.”
Certainly, the designs have fared very well thus far and – with both ranges being sold in over 20 stores – have a great deal of potential.
The success of this outdoor furniture range, and others of its ilk, might be attributed to the growing demand for patio furniture to maximise use of compact urban outside spaces, but is surely also reflective of a more widespread shift in the British public’s perception of outdoor living.
For David, outdoor furniture poses a signficant degree of design potential and is, he believes, “taking centre stage” as a burgeoning source of interest for designers and landscapers.
“Attitudes towards the outdoors lifestyle have undoubtedly changed, particularly in the past four or five years,” says David.
“This is principally due to the smoking ban of 2007, when pubs and clubs had a tendency to upgrade outside furniture to accommodate smokers. The ban really brought Britain into al fresco evening entertainment.”
Despite the notoriously wet British weather, sparse occasions of sunshine are taken full advantage of – “a complete migration from inside to outside” as David describes it. “The garden leisure industry is particularly buoyant now, even after a difficult year – it’s such a great time to be involved,” he adds.
In order to meet and withstand entertainment requirements, garden furniture has diversified from conventional plastic, to solid woods, rattan, and aluminium and, crucially, maintenance and aftercare has never been so minimal or simple.
Despite a relatively adverse climate, then, outdoor furniture companies such as Hartman UK appear to be faring well. Certainly its partnership with David has resulted in a collection wholly representative of his abundant and inspiring passion for outdoor living.