After celebrating its 15th anniversary last year, the owners of Dunas Lifestyle discuss their impact on the community along with the latest trends in outdoor furniture
Dunas Lifestyle has grown to become “the premier supplier of luxury outdoor furniture in the Algarve” — though the journey did not necessarily start on a direct path. When owners Simon and Judy Clayton established the Dunas brand in 2004 with their initial store in Quinta Shopping, they started out by selling lifestyle products. “We just thought we would open the first store and see how it went,” Judy recalls. “And it just took off from there.”
Since then, Dunas Lifestyle (the brand’s three-floor showroom in Almancil) has honed in on the outdoor furniture scene — a market that Judy says has “changed so much in the last 10 years”.
Technology has played a big part in the transformation of outdoor furniture, she says, especially when it comes to flexibility, quality and design. For instance, advancements in fabric have led to improvements such as protection against rain and sun damage and the added bonus of so many more options when it comes to the specifics. “In the old days, you had beige, beige and beige,” Judy says. “Now, you have an ocean of different colours to choose from.”
One of the major benefits of Dunas’ products is the ease of customisation, she explains. Whilst she notes that customers are still “quite cautious with colour” and thus tend to pick a “safer shade” for the base (with soft grey a popular selection), they can always opt for an option like changing the deco cushions to offer vibrant pops of colour. “It’s almost like interior design has gone outside,” Judy says. “Even if your neighbour has the same kind of furniture, it can wind up looking completely different.”
But looks certainly are not everything — especially living in the southernmost region of the country. Unlike other places in the world where outdoor furniture might only get used periodically, the Algarve’s consistently near-perfect climate makes this an essential addition to any home. “Being outside in the Algarve is really where you live your life,” Judy says. “You want to be able to actually use your outdoor spaces”, with one example being rooftop terraces.
Beyond just making for the property’s best viewpoint, large roof terraces can essentially create an extra room for the house, according to Judy — though the biggest flaw is often limited shading. To combat this whilst still getting the most out of the additional space, she reveals Dunas has been increasingly meeting the demand with parasol installations. The massive Tucci parasols have secure bases that mount to the terrace to provide a permanent shading solution.
Judy says other outdoor furniture trends vary depending on the area — for instance, she notes that properties located in the Algarve’s countryside call for a “totally different look”. Particularly in these locations, she has seen a resurgence in the tropical hardwood known as “teak”. Once a popular choice for the market, Judy states this material was rather “out of fashion” for some time after outdoor furniture moved further away from being made from natural resources and instead began relying on plastic (which can diminish a product’s quality and durability).
“[Teak] is an amazing wood — it lives, it breathes, and most importantly, it survives outside,” she explains. When properly maintained, teak furniture can easily last 40 years. It also helps by not adding to the production of plastic, and Judy mentioned that all of the teak furniture Dunas supplies comes from sustainable forests run by those brands. Speaking of, having more eco-friendly options is something that she believes is becoming increasingly important to buyers. “I think sustainability is a growing trend that more people will start to ask for when they are looking at outdoor furniture,” she says.
Ultimately, Judy notes that the most crucial characteristic customers are looking for in outdoor furniture is comfort: “People want to be able to feel they can sit out all evening in their chair without getting uncomfortable”, a once seemingly inevitable trait of outdoor furniture that has since come a long way. “I think with the progression of the fabrics and cushions, we are definitely getting there.”
Being at the higher end of the market, Judy says Dunas has always placed emphasis on top-quality furniture makers, such as Manutti, Tribu, Dedon and Gloster (which are exclusive to Dunas Lifestyle). Going forward, she says the Algarve icon will strive to focus on their “important brands” that have made the company stand out amongst other retailers in the region. “There’s a style to what we do,” she says. “We’ve learned now what our best-selling brands are, and we are happy to continue with them. We want to specialise and be experts.”
Upon moving from Belgium to establish the Dunas brand in Portugal, Judy and Simon grew from not knowing anyone to becoming a highly recognised name all throughout the Algarve. Whilst the pair continues to build upon this, Judy stressed the personal importance of maintaining relationships with clients whilst offering both the “best service possible” and a pleasant outing overall. “Retail has to be an experience and not just walking into a shop — you have to enjoy doing it,” she says.
Judy believes Dunas Lifestyle has influenced the community by introducing things that were not here before as well as showing people how they can totally transform a space into something that is uniquely theirs. “Every customer and every terrace is different,” she states. “And we aim to treat them as such.”