On a recent cool, foggy evening, I stopped by my uncle’s house in San Francisco for a socially distanced, outdoor visit. I didn’t bother with more than a light jacket: All one has to do to stay warm in his backyard is plug in his kidney-bean-shaped chair. That’s because the smooth stone seat is actually a piece of heated outdoor furniture designed by the Bay Area–based studio Galanter & Jones.
When my uncle first told me about the purchase, I was skeptical. But he swore by it. In fact, he had bought two lounges after trying one out at a neighborhood plant shop and set them up six feet apart in his backyard. He told me that my 13-year-old cousin and her best friend began regularly enjoying outdoor movies on cold nights from the comfort of the chairs (while wearing shorts!). But, as a person who tends to get cold the second it drops below 60 degrees, I remained unconvinced.
The piece of heated furniture that started it all, in a shade of bright orange (it’s also available in four other colorways).
My uncle wasn’t the first to discover these cast-stone and stainless-steel pieces. In fact, they’ve had something of a cult following for years. They were featured in Elvis Presley’s home turned Future Perfect showroom in 2018, used to keep moviegoers warm at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, and sit in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Santa Monica Goop headquarters. Because of their contemporary design and high price point — the Helios Lounge, Galanter & Jones’ first and, to this day, best-selling product, comes in at just under $8,000 — customers have long been primarily designers, luxury hotels, and some homeowners, many of whom are in California and have had a chance to actually sit on the furniture themselves.
But over the last several months, as outdoor socializing has become a necessity, Miranda Jones, who co-founded Galanter & Jones with her brother, Aaron, says that they’ve seen a surge in residential customers everywhere from France to Minnesota (where one Duluth-based customer claims that he sits in the seats “wearing nothing but a towel” during the winter). “In the first half of the year, we saw almost double the growth that we usually see in a year,” she says.
And once I sat in the Helios on that 50-degree night in my uncle’s backyard, I immediately understood the hype. It’s easy to turn on: You simply plug it in, press a button, and turn up the dial to its full 120-degree temperature. And soon the lounge’s entire seat and backrest warmed up and sitting outside in the (relative) cold became downright pleasant. It felt like sitting in front of a campfire or being wrapped in a sleeping bag — I knew I was outside, but felt I could have sat there for hours. My uncle, who sat in the other chair wearing just a T-shirt and jeans to demonstrate how well the thing worked, informed me he was also comfortable.
Unlike other devices designed to keep you warm, like cumbersome outdoor space heaters, the furniture also happens to be beautiful. Most of the pieces come with customizable colorway options and mimic the silhouettes of smooth rocks or handsome leather sling chairs. Recently, my roommates and I — who are lucky enough to have a backyard — were brainstorming ways to maximize our outdoor space this winter. Lots of clunky patio heaters and expensive outdoor fireplaces were discussed, but I couldn’t get over the idea of sitting on a frozen piece of wood or metal outdoor furniture. After sitting on the Helios, it now seems downright uncomfortable to sit outside when your furniture itself is freezing cold. Apparently my neighbors feel the same way: Jones confirmed that a few have already been shipped out to Park Slope addresses.
Like the brand’s original Helios lounge, but for two people instead of four, and in a shade of charcoal black.
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