“We aren’t just making outdoor furniture, we’re making precious objects imbued with a sense of fun and a bit of soul,” says Charlie Napier of the deliciously mismatched, handmade parasols (from £2,150 for a 2m parasol) he and his wife Katy first launched under the name Sunbeam Jackie at Glastonbury in 2011. Since then, their joyously patterned pieces have been found decorating the terraces of The Pig and Soho House hotels, the poolsides of A-listers such as Liv Tyler and the late Carrie Fisher, and the gardens of private clients from Cornwall to Cape Cod. They have even been given the seal of approval by renowned influencer Rossana Orlandi, who just last month showed a collection of new Sunbeam Jackie designs at her eponymous Milan gallery.
All the parasols are made in Cornwall by the Napiers and their small team of local technicians and craftspeople. Rough-sawn ash planks are machined into poles and arms in their workshop, before being sanded and oiled to smooth perfection by Charlie himself. (This is a time-consuming process; there are 12 arms in a parasol canopy and each one requires three coats of oil.) The stainless-steel metalwork is laser cut and welded in Falmouth, and the fabric is sourced from a trusted network of textile collectors, one of whom sells from a beach hut in St Ives. “We shop for fabric together, but Katy is the tastemaker,” Charlie explains, “and she’s the one who puts the combinations together.”
The faultless matching and mismatching of rare and beautiful vintage fabrics is Sunbeam Jackie’s USP. The parasols are usually composed of six panels and, in most cases, each one is made from a wildly different fabric – a William Morris design may sit alongside early Ikea; Liberty print next to graphic Marimekko. The only rules are to do with quality; the fabric must be in perfect condition, of furnishing weight and free of any coating. (This last point is so that they can apply their own silicone spray to ensure the parasols are both waterproof and UV protected.)
There is a range of ready-made parasols available to click and buy from the website, but many of Sunbeam Jackie’s clients prefer to commission their own (from £400 extra for a bespoke version). “Clients might want the colour scheme to reflect the planting in their garden or complement the exterior architecture, for example, or sometimes to incorporate one of their own fabrics,” says Charlie. “Then Katy makes up a series of fabric palettes for the client to choose from. Sometimes we get it right first time, other times it takes a few months. The cost is the same either way because we want our clients to feel good about the process.”