How many furniture designs could you identify from their shadow alone? A peculiar exercise perhaps, but one that goes some way in pinpointing the singular appeal of the ‘Palissade’ collection, created by French designer brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Danish brand Hay in 2015.
Set out in the sun, the slim, curved slats cast brilliantly graphic lines; in wind and rain they allow air and water to pass through without wearing their surface.
There are 14 pieces in total, from a stackable chair to a bar stool and bench, plus a new sun lounger added this year, all formed from frames of tubular steel bent and welded to each strip before being powder-coated. Early discussions had hinged on aluminium, but the idea was soon shelved in favour of the weightier steel, which would put up a fight whatever the weather. As Ronan succinctly puts it, outdoor furniture ‘has to stick to the floor and stay there’.
It’s precisely the spare, symmetrical geometry of ‘Palissade’ that grants it such reassuring robustness. Proportions vary subtly between each piece – a wider slat here, a slimmer gap there – but the underlying spirit is one of uniformity and balance: ‘strong without being bulky; elegant without being fragile,’ say the Bouroullecs.
Their design has kinship with the old metal chairs found in Parisian parks, but crucial to the concept was that it would be an equally welcome presence outside cafés and on patios and terraces of all persuasions – you might spot a single chair on a city balcony or 20 in the courtyard of an art museum. And while the range’s precision and pragmatism speak to industrial principles, there’s an irresistible informality to the profile of its low-slung chairs and benches.
Even hardier is the hot galvanised edition that followed in 2019. Envisaged for outdoor restaurants and public spaces, the steel frame is dipped in molten zinc, forming a resilient, high-shine coating that resists corrosion.
It made a striking addition to a collection already nearing cult status – not bad for a design that Ronan thought would work well ‘by the wall near a pub’. hay.dk