In BlumeTwo-year old Blume Living aims to put the life in outdoor living

Though outdoor space comes at a premium in Hong Kong, those of us that have it try our best to make the most of it. Founder and director of Blume Living Grace Carrey resides on a boat and knows a thing or two about outdoor living, but her range of outdoor products work just as well on rooftops and terraces. Carrey talks fabric with Square Foot.

You don’t design furniture in the purest sense, but you do design. Can you explain that?
I develop materials and I have a designer that helps with that. We work together and I make whatever changes are necessary. My thing is really development: I make new materials. I see something and try to understand the manufacturing process and get the factory to do what I imagine in my head. In furniture like this fabric is often put over a frame, which is aluminium. It’s quite soft, so you can bend and cut it easily and it’s very lightweight. Very often you need minimal design with that.

How did you get into the basics of outdoor home furnishing?
My background is research and development. I used to work for Ralph Lauren; I worked for them for two years. They used to be very old school, very tailored and they wanted to move into something more rustic. I did a lot of work with distressed leather, denim, putting rubber over buttons, and making things that didn’t look manufactured … I didn’t really develop clothing.

So you’re a scientist?
[Laughing] I like to experiment. It’s more about working with the factory. Once you have a relationship they’re willing to work with you and very often they’ll teach you what you need to know. It’s not about telling them what to do; it’s about sharing and working from that knowledge.

You’ve started Blume as an online retailer and it’s clearly working. Who’s shopping?
Most of my clients simply need outdoor furniture. Interestingly enough when I first started up I came across a lot of people who needed outdoor stuff but found it incredibly expensive in Hong Kong. My prices are very competitive and reasonable, and I started working with new materials after establishing the business … I am opening a showroom in Phuket to focus more on hotels, but my showroom [for Hong Kong] is actually my boat. I don’t really customise, but you can choose the material when you order from the catalogue.

Obviously you focus on outdoor items for Hong Kong in particular…
Yes. Surfaces are very important. A lot of time materials are developed without really knowing what goes in them. PVC should never be outside. It’s cheap, but it breaks in heat and under sunlight. Then there’s is polyethylene (PE), which is more resistant to UV light, but there are low- and high-density PEs. The low density is lighter and cheaper, but it has additives to make it harder. It doesn’t work well in extreme weather — cold or hot — and a lot of my clients ship their furniture home to Europe or North America, which have different conditions.

Recycled woods are all the rage these days. Why the focus on synthetic materials?
I love wood. I love the warmth of it, but it’s a natural material that needs its bark. Remove that and it demands a lot more special care. It’s like a Jaguar: It’s expensive to start with and it’s very high maintenance. My stuff is user-friendly. I do have some teak products but I recommend letting them age naturally without treatment. Once you wax it the first time, it’s all over.