by The Design of Things


I think it would change the world if we reintroduced “good” to our vocabulary. As in, my good coat, my good purse. A good sweater. Good in this sense implies well made, worth taking care of, exceptionally designed, will last a long time.

We could stand to make a few more purchases that will last – both materially and stylistically, the intersection where excellent design resides. (But not last to eternity, like a Fisher Price plastic castle in a landfill or water bottles in the ocean.) I realized that I found this combination in our patio furniture, made by the French company Fermob. I bought a small cafe set after we redid this porch and painted our house – it was featured in a shop in town but cost more than I’d planned to spend.

It was so pretty I started rationalizing right away. The set was more expensive than what I could find somewhere like Target – not so expensive as to be “luxury” but not so cheap that it would fall apart in a few years. It was made in France, not China, which means a lower carbon footprint because it’s shipped a shorter distance and is made in a country that is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. And best of all, that gorgeous color was guaranteed to hold through every season, for years.


I put in the order. A few weeks later, I happened to go to New York and saw hundreds of chairs and tables like mine out in Bryant Park. Sure enough, Fermob. Putting furniture outside for public use in New York
is like asking an elephant to step on a Timex. (Imagine what would happen if I put my West Elm foyer sofas in a hotel lobby for a week.)

I thought about what makes them such good design. They’re made of steel, but don’t use a lot of it. The graceful swoop of the chairs makes them pretty and also surprisingly comfortable though they are quite light and foldable. They come in dozens of other colors and chic, retro-inspired but fresh styles, including those with cushions and arms.

Fermob’s website features a section on production and “eco-design.” They point out that steel is nearly universally recycled, their colors are UV-protected so they won’t fade, and they use solvent-free paints and upholstery. As we all become more budget-conscious, climate-conscious, and overwhelmed by clutter, good design should incorporate all these considerations. I think our sensibilities may be swinging back that way – I hope more companies will find it important to make products that meet us there.

My Fermob set is now my “good” cafe set. I love it every time I look out the window, or pass by with my groceries, or sit down for lunch or a glass of wine. I’ll love it for years, probably decades, to come.