Back to Nature: Creating an Outdoor Living Scheme With Performance Fabrics with Creative Tonic

Who said interior design is just for interiors?

Long gone are the days when harsh plastic and utilitarian fabrics were employed in the service of outdoor furniture. We’re proud to introduce our first-ever fabric collection for use in both indoor and outdoor spaces. In fact, here at Morris & Co., we like to say this indoor-outdoor performance fabric collection returns designs to the place that originally inspired them: nature and the great outdoors.

And who could be a better advocate than Texas-based designer, Courtnay Tartt Elias? Heading up the incredible Creative Tonic agency, Courtnay’s bright style and love of the outdoors means her spirit responded magically to our latest collection. Delivered with her signature energy and passionate enthusiasm, Courtnay shares her insight on creating outdoor spaces worth celebrating.


What would you say are the main differences (and challenges!) between designing a scheme for outdoors rather than interiors?

The biggest challenge is to make an outdoor space feel like it isn’t the forgotten child of interior design. When you’re inside looking outside it is so important to treat the outdoors as you would the indoors, meaning it should appear loved and curated.

Most people buy a “suite” or set of outdoor furniture, something you’d baulk at inside! If you do buy all matching seating because it does come in a set, mix up the fabrics and add some variety. Look for vintage garden stools, unusual concrete sculptures, unique wrought iron chairs, mid-century Russel Woodard fiberglass furniture or a modern fiberglass chair - and don’t be afraid to mix materials! Outdoor wicker tables and metal scalloped planters are fun to mix in.

Also, you forget the lighting at your peril! There are so many great outdoor lamps and if you find a ceramic one that is not outdoor rated you can have it rewired to sustain the elements.


You have a really lively, colourful style that we just adore. But we get a sense it’s really the pattern department you relish the most. Are we onto something here?

I do LOVE mixing patterns the most, it must be said… but you have to consider space, scale, and everything holistically. Florals mixed with a geometric like a plaid usually works, or mixing an all-over floral with a more linear vine pattern and a small-scale floral can be a beautiful combination too. If you find a colorful pattern, then try selecting one of the colors and mixing it with a tone-on-tone. My top tip here: just rejoice in the act of creation!

So, you’ve used our Outdoor-Performance collection to rework your terrace. What sort of things were you looking to change up?

I was SO excited to use traditional Morris & Co. fabrics in a bright and uplifting style. My goal was to handle the traditional in an original way. Using pleated welts on the cushions and soft ruffles on the pillows, for example. I’ve never had drapery on my terrace and so I was most excited to finally add some. The Texas sun gets really intense and those drapes have offered a welcome relief! I loved designing the scalloped valences and mixing the green and blue Acanthus fabrics – it’s so satisfyingly Morris & Co.!

When we made this collection, we said to ourselves: we want a hardy collection that doesn’t sacrifice any of the beauty you’d expect from an interior one. How’re you feeling about your terrace now, have we fulfilled the brief?

Your fabrics are AMAZING! A dear friend was crushed when she spilt red wine all over one of the sofas – but here’s the best part: the liquid truly rolled off and wiped up so easily. So yes, they’re outdoor party-proof, too! My son regularly has his friends over to hang out and watch sports on our terrace and it has all held up beautifully to the food, drinks, feet (and beer!).

How do you imagine using this space, have the designs unlocked new purposes?

YES! We are much more “loungey” out there now. I love the comfortable chairs and the soft ottoman is easy to push around and we often move it up to the rattan sofa, stretch out and fall asleep watching movies there now. The drapery has helped with the afternoon sun so much. We’re getting so much more use of our outdoor space now – we have been living outside!


Cast your mind back. What are the first few steps to tackling a new outdoor design scheme?

Always, always, always, get the furniture layout right first. Then, and only then, is it time to pick all of your fabrics!


Before you go, we find that anyone who works with our designs ends up with a firm favourite. What’s yours?

It’s a two-way tie for me: Fruit Stripe + Acanthus!

Made fit for busy homes, gardens, patios and poolsides, our outdoor fabrics are imbued with UV and water resistance, a wipeable finish, anti-microbial and colourfast properties, so you can enjoy your outdoor space with fabrics that are kind on the eye, too.

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posted on 23 Jun 2023 in Interiors

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