It may have caught your attention in the past few weeks that summer is well and truly on its way. It seems like a few mere minutes since the nights were dark and cold, but our immediate future holds warm evenings, sunny weekends and an opportunity to spend time outdoors and in the backyard.

All this makes now a great time to look into bringing some designer inspiration into your home, as well as outside of it. We caught up with Lillian Baker, a lead product designer at soft-furnishing experts Furtex to see how Kiwi homeowners can do just that.

A new season brings the opportunity to change the feel of your home – inside and out. However, buying new furniture every three months is hardly practical. As Lillian explains, using soft furnishings, such as pillows, throws and rugs, is an inexpensive way to add a new ambience to your living spaces.

"Soft furnishings are very versatile – they can add so much energy to a space," explains Lillian.  "All the options are so different – knitted, woven, tufted and three-dimensional – and that really allows a person to embrace their own style."

The summer months give homeowners a chance to freshen up their homes, and Lillian points out two trends for the season – muted pastels and Japanese shibori (tie-dye). The former is ideal for a simple or understated home design, while the latter gives us a way to truly embrace the deep indigo blue and crisp white of the summer season.

Of course, we love the outdoors in Aotearoa, and the backyard is the perfect place to host guests or simply relax and soak up the weekend sun. With so much time spent in the garden or on the deck, there's a great opportunity to bring the inside out and decorate your backyard in a way that's in keeping with the style of your home.

Lillian says that there have been large leaps in the outdoor-furnishings market to provide options that not only look the part

but will stand the test of time, whatever the weather. So, what should people be looking for?

"I think the two key things are texture and durability," she opines. "There's a lot of innovation these days in New Zealand in the outdoor arena, as we're Kiwis and we want to live outdoors. Having soft furnishings in this area can make it more of a living environment, while making the most of the existing space."

Texture includes the use of more than just flat fabric, but knitted, woven or natural materials that have a tactile design and a unique aesthetic. Of course, outdoor products need to be tough, too, so designer furnishings are manufactured to a very high standard. Lillian says these two factors should be prerequisites for homeowners looking for soft furnishings this summer.

Two good examples highlighted by Lillian are the Flax range by Mulberi and Limon's Cape Cod collection. Both are created for outdoor living, and meet the twin requirements of being as tough as they are eye-catching.

It's an innovative imagination that's allowing Kiwi homes to make their outdoor areas an extension of their interiors. Even just 10 years ago, the technology to produce such impressive soft furnishings wasn't where it is today.
That's mostly because the needs of Kiwi families have changed slightly. "A decade ago, outdoor cushions and rugs were perhaps not a priority, whereas now, people are more aware that they can use these soft furnishings and embrace their own style throughout the home," explained Lillian.

She also highlighted two materials that have been made for surviving summers in the Land of the Long White Cloud – polypropylene and heatset polypropylene.

1) A word on polypropylene
Polypropylene fibres resist moisture, bacteria and the bleaching effects of the sun. "It's one of the most colourfast fibres," Lillian explains, "making it one of the few materials suitable for outdoor use
"Polypropylene resists water and moves any moisture to the top of the strand (yarn) where it is quickly evaporated."

2) Added toughness with heatset polypropylene
Polypropylene can also be treated to embody it with more of the characteristics homeowners find useful in a throw, cushion or rug, and heatset polypropylene is the finished product.

"Heat setting is a thermal treatment which gives the fibre stability, smoothness, extra volume and temperature resistance," Lillian continued.
"Polypropylene also doesn't create a static charge like many other synthetic fibres do. It's affordable and very ease to clean – you can simple hose it off and let it dry."

For more design inspiration around bringing the indoors outside, check out Furtex's impressive collection on the Archipro website.