Interview Ed Van Engelen

Interview Ed Van Engelen


"The outdoors is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our lives"


1.    Ed, you have been working as a designer for over 30 years, mostly in outdoor applications. What major change in the outdoor world have you witnessed in that time?

In cycles of about 10 years, materials used for outdoor furniture change completely. In the 1980s, everything was solid plastic, then it changed to wooden furniture. Then came woven wire and now we are in the next phase where aluminium, rope and upholstery have become the most popular materials. Cushions used to be an addition to make you sit more comfortably. Now, they are a very important part of the design.
Where previously only the dining function was important with perhaps a deck chair as a luxury addition, we now see complete garden rooms with lounge corners, dining sets and outdoor kitchens instead of a simple BBQ. Spending has also changed. At the time of the solid plastic furniture, people spent about 250 euros on a dining set. Nowadays, it is sometimes as much as 8,000 to 10,000 euros for a serious "branded" outdoor set.

2.    It is said from the rooftops that indoor and outdoor are getting closer to each other. How do you experience this evolution in your work?

This statement is correct in the sense that it is becoming more common to do everything you can do indoors also outside. However, it is not the case that all products that are intended for indoor use can simply be placed outside. People still experience psychological barriers when they decide to buy increasingly expensive outdoor furniture. Everything must also be technically suitable for outdoor use and meet the perception that it can be placed outside in the rain or under a roof in the cold, or that it can be easily cleaned.

3.    With the outdoor furniture in the Home Stories collection, Passe Partout stepped outside their comfort zone in 2018. In the meantime, your designs have already gained a lot of notoriety. What was the biggest challenge for you to design for Passe Partout?

The fact that it is a European produced piece of furniture and that we creatively searched for materials that technically meet the highest requirements for outdoor use. I think that about 90 % of all outdoor furniture is produced with Asian materials.

4.    Which characteristics of Passe Partout as a company are reflected in their collection?

For me, the outdoor furniture had to have the same look and feel as the indoor collection. So an outdoor collection which is not only technically correct, but which also answers to the DNA of Passe Partout. For me that means modern, luxurious, comfortable and flexible.

5.    What evolution in outdoor design and outdoor living do you see in the coming years?

10 years ago, there was a trend of "Mediterraneanisation", ranging from a styling trend for the garden with terra cotta pots and olive trees to coloured walls and beautifully tiled terraces. However, we are currently at the point where, here in Northern Europe, summers are really getting warmer and longer, a real climate shift, with the result that outdoor living is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our lives. Partly due to being home a lot because of covid, people are increasingly seeing the value of a nice outdoor space, and it could well be that all the activities we want to do outside will be expanded even further. Not just cooking, eating and lounging around, but also sleeping, bathing, watching a film, listening to music, finishing up e-mails and working online could well shift to the garden. These social developments will certainly have an effect on the innovations that will be presented by various brands. How quickly they are picked up is always up to the consumer.

Ed Van Engelen