Words by Juliet Austin
Man has never doubted his dependence on the sun for survival. In fact, almost every early civilisation deified and worshipped the sun in some manner, recognising how vital it was to create and sustain life. At the same time that humanity knows it would perish should the sun fail to rise, man has always instinctively sought to protect himself from its direct glare. Carvings, sculptures and bas reliefs from Egypt, Greece, Rome and the far east, dating back to antiquity, depict people using parasols to shield them from the sun’s rays. Most often used when travelling, sun umbrellas were for a time the preserve of high-ranking members of society, and in Roman times became fashion accessories for ladies.
The basic design of the umbrella, be it a hand held or a larger deck shade, has remained unchanged for centuries: a circular canopy made of fabric is stretched out and held in place by metal ribs, with a central pole to support it. Similar in both form and function to a tree, the basic components of pole, ribs and covering act in the same way as a trunk, branches and foliage do to protect whatever is beneath it from the scorching rays.
Only a decade or two ago a beach or poolside umbrella was most likely a flimsy contraption one would have to dig deep into the sand, or place in a heavy holder to ensure it stayed upright – the slightest gust of wind blowing the canopy inside out, a moderate breeze likely to send it cart-wheeling down the beach or lawn. Usually emblazoned with a beverage manufacturer’s logo or some otherwise lurid pattern stamped into the fabric they were not likely to last more than a few weeks as the sun, salt and wind wreaked havoc on the inexpensive materials they were made from.
Now, inspired by advances in technology, designers are altering or abandoning the basic design of the parasol and experimenting with new methods to create shaded outdoor spaces. Innovative designs, weather resistant materials and flexibility are the hallmarks of these 21st century sun shades. Gone are the cumbersome, often unsightly shades of the past: today’s parasols serve a dual function of providing protection from the sun while enhancing the appearance of any garden, pool deck or patio, by adding bright splashes of colour and attractive contours.
Leading the way in cutting edge parasol designs, European manufacturer Umbrosa (distributed in North America and the Caribbean by ShadeScapes Americas) introduces three unique and radically different shade possibilities. Taking their inspiration from nature, the Rimbou collection takes a single leaf as its muse to create elegant and artful shades that are designed to cast a cool shadow over a single sunbed. Secured in place by a steel ‘foot’, a simple pedal makes repositioning the angle and height of the shade easy, ensuring endless possibilities for adjustment, so that as the sun moves across the sky, the angle of the shade can be constantly fine-tuned. Available in over twenty bold and beautiful colours, these sleek and simple shades celebrate hot summer days.
Appearing to float overhead, the Ingenua line of shade sails suspend stylish canopies, free of metal frames or ribs, in almost any context. The sails, available in various shapes and sizes, can be attached to wall tracks or poles that individually slide allowing each sail’s angle and height to be quickly adjusted to create shade wherever it is needed.
Eliminating the need for a central pole, the wall mounted Paraflex is ideal for confined spaces. A hinged arm allows for seemingly endless tilting, rotating and angling to create the perfect al fresco ambience. For those who prefer a more traditional design, a pole mounted option which can hold one to five umbrellas is also available, and can be set into the ground, a deck or set on a freestanding base. Such flexibility in design cleverly diminishes the need to move the actual stand. Made from marine grade anodised aluminium and UV and fade resistant canopies, the Umbrosa shade designs not only are durable and resistant to the elements, they are sure to add panache to any outdoor space.
Similarly drawing inspiration from nature, the award winning Nenúfar Collection by Samoa Design has a very contemporary design based on the water lily. These unique sun shades have eliminated the convex shape of traditional umbrellas, so that the canopy is a circular disc with a narrow slit from the outer edge to the centre. Entirely comprised of recycled materials, the translucent Batyline fabric is stretched tightly over the frame, allowing light to penetrate while filtering out harmful rays and affording protection to the recipient below of its shadow. Supported by a single lacquered aluminium pole affixed to a circular base, the shade can be set at varying heights and its angle adjusted with minimal fuss. Boasting the cleanest lines, the simplicity of the design exudes a cool, sophisticated feel, while the range of colours from black through shades of grey to white, complement their elegance. An additional line of Nenúfar umbrellas have squared off the lily pad design and in contrast to their circular counterparts, are available in vivid oranges, greens and purples. Whether circular or hard-edged these earth-friendly shades embrace the outdoors, fusing flair with function.
Celebrating the heritage of southern Spain, land of hot, arid summers, Gandia Blasco have designed a parasol that imitates a flam enco fan. The individual formica slats of the Ensombra parasol are fixed together in the centre and open up like a handheld fan. The pole and stand are made from powder-coated iron ensuring the entire piece can withstand the searing sun, stiff breezes and briny ocean air. Available in ink black, crisp white or an eye-catching turquoise blue, the flamboyant fan shades turn up the dial on style while lowering the heat of sultry summer afternoons.
Contemporary designers are increasingly borrowing from nature’s own designs, refining the lines and simplifying the shapes to create clean, uncluttered shade solutions that adapt seamlessly to existing spaces. Having been released from the constraints of the traditional canopy design, and embracing modern manufacturing and materials to ensure that new umbrellas will be strong and durable, easy to open, close or reposition, designers are relishing the freedom to create shade in unique and unprecedented new ways, adding character and individuality to outdoor spaces.
For further details please see below:
GANDIA BLASCO USA
or call 212.421.6701.
or call (+34) 961.442.477.
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