Outdoor Furniture with Distinction

Written by David Richards     11/08/2005 | 02:01 | Category: OUTDOOR

Germany's Dedon furniture strives to achieve harmony between nature and its unique products because it 'takes a satisfied man to find a comfortable chair'.

A few weeks ago I was shopping with my wife, an interior designer, in a furniture shop in Sydney's Paddington. Like a lot of guys, I plonked myself down on a chair while she browsed. After a few minutes I realised that it wasn't an indoor chair I was sitting on, but a stylish piece of outdoor furniture.

The label stated that it was manufactured by a German company called Dedon. After a conversation with a sales executive, several trips to a German website and numerous conversations with the furniture distributor, I discovered that I had tripped over a range of very smart outdoor furniture that had little, if any, exposure in Australia and was manufactured by a company that had a very unusual pedigree.

Unique: inside and out

Dedon was established by no other than Bobby Dekeyser, a former European soccer star who played for the German team Bayern-Munchen. In 1990, after a freak soccer accident, Dekeyser turned to a family company for inspiration.

The company's birthright is wrapped around a synthetic fabric called 'Hularo' that was being manufactured by Dekeyser's grandfather in 1990. The young soccer star took the fabric and applied it to furniture.

Bobby Dekeyser then built around him a team of individuals who were able to capture the look and feel of traditional furniture from countries like India, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. Dekeyser's new range was based on furniture that in the past had been manufactured with cane and rattan.

Dekeyser produced his look-alike furniture using his unique and highly durable synthetic fabric that's totally weatherproof, colour fast and environmentally friendly.

Today he employs weavers from around the world to replicate designs.

"Our goal is to develop and manufacture the most beautiful and most comfortable outdoor furniture in the world," says Bobby Dekeyser. Weatherproof and hand-woven - each piece is unique and has its place outside on the terrace, as well as in the living room."

He claims, "Our philosophy is to achieve harmony between nature and our work because it takes a satisfied man to find a comfortable chair."

The epicentre

The nerve centre of the Dedon operation is a restored farmhouse in North Germany near Hamburg. Here the Dedon team live and work as one. There is no separation of work and private life, and they claim to be successful in both.

Dedon, which started as a small enterprise, is now a company that exports worldwide, with 18 employees in Germany and 250 in the Philippines. When asked why his company is so successful, Dekeyser says, "We've got tolerance in our genes. Everybody tolerates what the others want to do, and tasks are distributed among us all."

While Dekeyser runs the company from a converted outbuilding, his wife, Ann-Kathrin, will be doing accounts, his sister Sonja, effortlessly changing from one language to another, will be talking exports with a distributor. Uncle Seppi from Austria delivers the finished products.

Dekeyser says, "It's not possible to hide away if you work together and live together." He claims that their relationships and business survives and grows because they give each other space. And there is plenty of space on the lower Saxon farm that's now the global HQ for Dedon. The farmhouse with threshing floors, a pigsty and several outbuildings were all extended and converted to be big enough to house the Dedon furniture business and its live-in employees.

One step at a time

When the company was first formed in 1990, the family focused on developing one idea. "We had to find a new way to manufacture with grandfather's synthetic material," says Bobby Dekeyser. He believed that it was possible to weave garden furniture from a material that was sturdy and light while capable of withstanding harsh weather con-ditions. Three prototypes were created from the material.

As part of the exercise, the Dekeyser family moved to the Philippines for 12 months to establish a production plant where today some 250 people are employed. The family then moved back to Hamburg to establish a global distribution and sales operation. The rest is history.

The Dedon range, with names such as Keywest, Panama and Daydreamer, is furniture you can easily fall in love with. The comfort, the colours and the sophisticated design set it apart from other products on offer. Dedon produces lounge chairs and sofas, dining tables and beach chairs, chaise lounges as well as footstools, coffee tables, dining chairs, loom chairs, recliners and cushions.

Dedon uses powder-coated aluminium frames and, unlike traditional rattan furniture, the company claims the Dedon range will not fade or rot, making it ideal for the Australian environment.

Each piece is individually hand-woven, and the passion of Bobby Dekeyser and his family team is definitely reflected in the products that I have seen in Australia.

For information on Dedon Furniture and local stockists, contact Grange Furniture at (03) 9882 8788.