Great Design Moves Outdoors – House Proud, Toronto Sun

When I was a kid my parents had a patio set made of redwood.  It was heavy and expensive.  I remember dragging the pieces inside for the winter using my entire 10-year-old muscular prowess and running out to the yard to save the cushions from the rain. Over time, the wood faded in the sunlight and what didn’t fade tended to chip, requiring several touch-ups over the years.  My, it’s wonderful how outdoor furniture has evolved.

We Canadians are no longer content to spend our too-short summers sitting on brittle plastic or those uncomfortable woven slats that leave marks on our thighs.  Our love for warmer weather means we’re paying more attention, and spending more money, on outdoor living spaces.  We want them to be an extension of the good taste we exhibit in our homes.

Ion Nicolae is the owner of Fiber Living and Viva Designs.  Relative to the Neandethal patio set of my youth, these pieces walk fully erect and offer a sophisticated touch to the great outdoors. He recently relocated his showroom to Toronto’s 58 Berkeley Street, in the King Street East furniture district, and it positively bursts with the beauty of woven pieces that stand up to the elements and look great season after season.   Nicolae says the pieces are designed to last, from the ground up.

“The structure is made from commercial grade aluminum and it’s powder coated with a paint colour to match the weave. It won’t corrode and it’s going to last a lot longer than something made for residential use.”

The weave, made by Viro Fiber, is fade-proof, moisture-resistant, non-toxic and recyclable.  Nicolae suggests a potential buyer should do their research before committing to a purchase. You won’t be spending your spring sanding and repainting his products. 

Viva Designs is the wholesale arm of the business for commercial clients including hotels, while Fiber Living caters to the consumer.  The collections include their own designs as well as those from Quebec and imported from Italy and Australia.  The stunning indoor furniture line employs the weave of the outdoor versions and adds chic fabrics in a range of colours or leather coverings.  Choose from sexy flowing lines, masculine straight edges or something in between.  Nicolae selected the pieces for their originality and high quality.

“There are great designs from Italy or France that get knocked off by companies in China.  We didn’t want to jump into that market and compete there. We wanted to come up with a line of indoor furnishings that is totally different.  Products like hemp that have natural fibre would require a lot of maintenance outdoors. But it doesn’t for use indoors.”

Lots of product is in stock for quick turnarounds from order to delivery.  As for price, Nicolae describes his furnishings, both indoor and outdoor, as mid-range.

“We found a gap in the outdoor market.  We found really high end or really low end but nothing that offers a great product for a great price in the middle.  You’ll find a full outdoor seating area including a three-seater with two arm chairs and a table, in comparable quality somewhere else for thousands more.  And this year we have a 30 percent off discount.  Apples to apples in terms of quality and design, it is similar to the bigger guys in the industry but affordable for the up and coming generation.  I’m 34 years old, a lot of my friends and I do fairly well but we can’t justify paying 10-thousand for a patio set. ”

A condo dweller, Nicolae is anticipating the day when he has more living space so he can own more of his product.

“I have a patio set but I just don’t have the big house and enough room for the indoor pieces. Yet.”