A chaise longue says everything that needs to be said relaxing out of doors. Now stop talking, and lie down.

Focus On Furniture

April 14, 2002|By Elaine Markoutsas | By Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

Along with the hammock, there may be no better icon of idyllic summer relaxation than the chaise. The outdoor recliner goes where its indoor cousin doesn't -- all the way down, fashioning a bed designed for sun, shade and gentle breezes.

This staple of casual living got its adjustability only when it moved outdoors. The history of the chaise longue as a piece of furniture originates in living areas inside the home. Some credit the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, along with Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret and French designer Charlotte Perriand, with its invention in 1928.

Their sleek look was constructed of a tubular steel frame with leather seating and epitomized modern furniture design. An older relative of the chaise is the elegant steamer chair, long popular and still a fixture on cruise ship decks.

Indoors, the chaise was found in salons as far back as the 18th century, virtually indistinguishable from the recamier, an asymmetric, one-armed sofa.

Most of the moving and shaking in design, however, has focused on the outdoor chaise longue (pronounced shez long or, more recently, shaze lounge). There's one for nearly every casual furniture collection. As the trend moves toward integrating indoor and outdoor looks, style options match the mood and palette that flow through a house and into the yard.

The chaise moved outside as the casual furniture industry developed after World War II. As people began to spend more leisure time outdoors, they began dragging indoor furniture into their yards and, later, around their pools.

Chaise choices include wood (usually teak, and in order to respect the world's rain forests, look for plantation-grown teak), metal (wrought iron, aluminum, even stainless steel), resin and plastic, wicker and rattan (some treated for exposure to the elements and suitable for outdoor use). There's a wide selection of styles, from traditional to modern.

As the casual furniture industry has grown, the styles have grown up, offering sophistication in form as well as a more extensive color palette in outdoor fabrics. There's a new breed of luxury leisure furniture that blends fashion, grand proportion and indoor comfort.

"The chaise longue epitomizes luxury leisure time at home," says Richard Frinier, president of Design Resources and creative director and chief designer for Brown Jordan, a high-end casual furniture manufacturer.

Luxury isn't a word that comes to mind when one thinks of the popular inexpensive chaises with webbing over aluminum. Design has come a long way since such pieces were introduced as "lawn furniture." Now manufacturers are designing for the outdoor room, whether it's a patio, terrace, deck or pool area, and the space is likely to be furnished with a grouping that includes tables and chairs, ottomans and, of course, chaises.

A craving for stainless steel in the kitchen, which moved outdoors to grills and accessories, is reflected in furniture as well. Brown Jordan and McGuire both have introduced sleek designs in weather-resistant steel.

Another intriguing direction mixes materials, sometimes in unexpected pairings. Teaming teak and aluminum, for example, has the same effect as wood cabinetry warming steel appliances.

Brown Jordan introduced chaises and companion pieces in a series of metallic neutrals that include anthracite, bronze and copper. Its manufacturing technique allows light to pass through the color tint to the metal frame and back to the eye.

Crate & Barrel's spring catalog features a handsome hand-forged and welded steel chaise. An antique pewter finish gives it the look of fine furniture, enhanced by a box-edged cushion.

With the beefier chaises as well as those more delicate, a new form has evolved: the double chaise. This either takes shape as a wide lounge, like a chair and a half, or two chairs in one, each with its own reclining mechanism.

Patterns and colors in outdoor fabrics are no longer limited to primary colors or florals. Tropical patterns like those of Tommy Bahama shirts and even French-inspired toiles also might be found in the outdoor room containing a chaise.

Beyond the frames, finishes and cushion fabrics, manufacturers are offering such amenities as pullout or clip-on trays for cold drinks, snacks, books or sunscreen.

With such creature comforts added to the cozy chaise, lounge lizards have it made in the shade -- or sun, or even under the stars.


Barlow Tyrie USA 800-451-7467,

Brown Jordan 800-743-4252,

Crate and Barrel 800-996-9960,

Ethan Allen Inc. 800-228-9229,

McGuire Furniture Co. 800-662-4847,

Smith & Hawken 800-776-3336,

Sutherland Teak Collection 800-717-8325,

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