David and Ann Sutherland are pioneers in the indoor-outdoor design trend, which has only amplified in recent years. The couple has been at the helm of creating exterior spaces that integrate the comforts and style of luxe interiors for nearly three decades. Cushiony loungers; outdoor wing chairs; weather-resistant, velvety throw pillows—these were unheard of until the Sutherlands came along.
After studying for a career in oil at The University of Oklahoma, David moved to Dallas, where he happened into a job at a friend’s furniture showroom. He was hooked on the design industry, and eventually, opened his own showrooms in Houston and Dallas. As he outfitted area designers with high-end furnishings, David couldn’t understand why their well-to-do clients would be content to have backyards littered with plastic chairs and dated garden benches. To fill the void, he launched Sutherland in the mid-nineties with a mission to bring the indoors out. Joined by John Hutton—who at the time was the design director of the legacy brand Donghia—David developed a line of comfortable outdoor furniture that was durable and stylish enough to pass down through generations.
Whereas patio furniture had relied on cast iron, wicker and plastic, David went with hardy teak, marine-grade steel, and more recently, lightweight carbon fiber—and added a designer touch. Hutton’s French-inspired Louis Soleil collection, first released in 2005, is considered to be one of the first fully upholstered outdoor furniture lines. Over the years, the brand has also partnered with giants like starchitect Philippe Starck and Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen. That’s how you get pieces like Sutherland’s Gulassa C Table, a solid block of Carrara marble carved into a brawny side table. Or, the Continuous Line lounge chair, with teak shaped into a modernist, wavy form.
Innovation has always been at the heart of the brand. A few years into their furniture venture, Sutherland and Hutton grew disappointed by the lack of fabrics available to match the level of luxury furnishings they were creating. That was until Ann Sutherland (née Moore—a few years after they met, David and Ann wed), stepped into the Dallas showroom while working on an interior design project. Ann went on to spearhead a years-long search for a performance material that could stand the test of time while being soft to the touch and available in sophisticated colors. She found the answer in a 100% solution-dyed acrylic fiber that Perennials now produces in its own mills in a variety of colors, patterns and textures.
The Perennials fabric line launched in 1997, providing designers with custom, handcrafted textiles made in their Mexico, and later, India facilities. The acrylic can be woven into yarns for velvet, linen and jacquard-style fabrics that are tough enough to clean with bleach. These can be as soft as silk or as sturdy as the rope that makes up the woven arms and backrests in Van Duysen’s chairs and sectionals for Sutherland, inspired by Bauhaus textile legend Otti Berger. Color is injected when the fibers are still in their liquid state, so the vibrancy does not fade. It’s a long way from the stiff, black fabrics used for awnings and boats available when Sutherland got its start.
Now, after 25 years, both brands have built a reputation for furnishings and fabrics with first-class craftsmanship. They’re marking the milestone with the opening of a to-the-trade showroom at The Collective in Naples this summer. Inside, designers are greeted by a wall covered in 900-plus Perennials fabric swatches, plus styled displays of Sutherland furniture to spark inspiration. “Having the access to touch and feel and lounge in our products is essential,” David says.
For Ann and David, a Naples showroom is a natural next step, as their brands fall in line with the local yachting lifestyle. They themselves are avid boaters, often cruising throughout the British and U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Barts is a favorite stop), and they’ve been known to host onboard dinner parties, where everything from the menu to the entertainment is inspired by and sourced from their current port city.
Rugs were added in 2013 when the couple realized yacht designers had a dearth of durable onboard floor coverings. Perennials’ acrylic materials stand up here, too, being resistant to the mildew, mold and stains that often plague fabrics exposed to sun, rain and saltwater. More than 200 local weavers in their Gujarat, India, mill create rugs ideal for boats, backyards and bear-it-all home interiors, with a range of patterns and colors that nod to the sea. “There have been many collections inspired by life on the coast,” David says. He points to the Sutherland Mariner Collection, with seating constructed from 316 stainless steel and topped with teak—the tops can also be customized to include umbrella fittings.
Perennials and Sutherland’s emphasis on bringing luxury living outside, as well as on-board, goes hand-in-hand with the Gulf lifestyle, David says: “Naples, and the Naples community, personifies what drives us—enjoying great design, impeccable craftsmanship and the outdoors.”