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Hot Trends for the Cool Outdoors

We take a look at the latest styles of backyard furnishings coming to showrooms this season.

By Rebecca L. Rhoades

As the rest of the country prepares to hunker down inside for the winter, Arizonans are busy prepping their patios, pool decks and verandas for alfresco activities. For many, that means updating unfashionable furnishings or adding pieces for increased comfort and functionality.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year on behalf of the American Home Furnishing Alliance and its outdoor division, the International Casual Furnishings Association, 83% of U.S. households have an exterior living space, half of which can seat between four and eight people.

Developed by interior designer Allison Paladino for Century Furniture, the Sail collection, which debuted at the 2019 Casual Market, bridges the gap between modern and traditional. White powder-coated deep-seating frames hold plush cushions; dining and side tables with white back-painted glass tops are also available. “I wanted to create clean lines that would be very simple, soft and easy to use in all kinds of settings,” Paladino says.

The research also reveals that 47% of Americans plan to purchase at least one new product for use outside by the end of this year. According to Henry Vanderminden, president of Telescope Casual Furniture, the average consumer spends about $5,000 on furnishings when designing an exterior setting.

Curated looks that match our interiors are in fashion. “No two outdoor living areas are alike, as we have more freedom to creatively decorate and personalize them,” says Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the AHFA and executive director of the ICFA, in a press release regarding the survey results. “Today’s trends allow us to design spaces we love.”

At the recent fall Casual Market in Chicago, the world’s largest exhibition of outdoor furnishings and accessories, presented by the ICFA, designers noted that clients today consider exterior spaces extensions of their indoor rooms. The good news is that manufacturers are listening. With a wide range of new products hitting showrooms, creating a curated look is easier than ever.

HERE ARE FIVE TRENDS THAT DOMINATED THIS YEAR’S MARKET:


1. MIDCENTURY MODERN STYLE

Designers are finding inspiration in the sleek, minimalist forms of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. “People are drawn to straight, clean lines. They’re not looking for a lot of embellishments and flourishes, says Lisa McCollister, vice president of marketing for O.W. Lee. Adds Patrick Troy, senior vice president of Tuuci, “Trends start in boutique accommodations and trickle into residential designs.” Household brands, such as Tommy Bahama, Telescope Casual, Century Furniture and Jenson Leisure Furniture, all debuted sleek, retro-inspired collections that would be as at home in a living room as they are on a backyard patio.

Jensen Leisure Furniture’s aviation-inspired Jett collection channels the sleek lines of Adrian Pearsall’s iconic midcentury platform sofa. Powder-coated aluminum frames are topped with ipe wood. Streamlined cushions and upholstered backs add luxuriant comfort.

Brown Jordan’s Oscar line, designed by Ann Marie Vering, was a star of the recent Casual Market. The eye-catching aluminum-and-rope creations won three ICFA Design Excellence Awards, which honor the year’s best new product releases based on innovation, construction and imaginative use
of materials.

Rebirth of a Classic

While living in Hawaii in the 1940s, renowned designer Walter Lamb created patio furniture from brass and copper piping and bronze he salvaged from sunken navy ships at Pearl Harbor. In 1947, he joined forces with Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan, founders of Brown Jordan, to create the Walter Lamb Bronze collection. Featuring side chairs, loungers, ottomans and a sinuous rocking chair, the line remained popular through the 1960s and was reintroduced in 2008 with a brass frame and UV-resistant nylon cording. To this day, original renditions are highly sought-after by collectors and design enthusiasts.

To commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary, Brown Jordan is reissuing the iconic lineup. Renamed Walter Lamb Aluminum, the stylish pieces are crafted of aluminum and acrylic rope. “They really showcase our craftsmanship and timeless design,” says Stephen Elton, chief brand curator.

The collection will officially launch in 2020.

2. COLOR

Consumers are moving away from traditional browns and grays in favor of fresh whites and bold hues in frames and fabrics. Crisp bleached textiles, snowy powder-coated aluminum frames and white-washed woods offered a fresh respite from the traditional dark wickers that have long dominated the outdoor market. “White frames are particularly popular,” says interior designer Allison Paladino, whose debut collection for Century Furniture was influenced by her love of sailing and the sharp lines of sails set against endless azure skies. 

Rich blue tones, which are rising in popularity this year, and plush seating distinguish O.W. Lee’s Pacifica Collection.

Shades of greens and blues—from seafoam and forest to indigo, aqua and sapphire—are seeing their day in the sun, as well. “We saw a 1,000% increase in the demand for blue pieces over last year and a 50% increase for sage green,” says Jess Flanders, vice president of marketing for Lloyd Flanders, noting that the two colorways comprise four of the company’s Top 10 fabric selections. McCollister adds, “Blue has become a staple in the last three years.”

Also popping up for 2020 are variants of pink, including bronzy terra cotta, raspberry, peach and blush, a barely there tint found on Brown Jordan’s new Oscar line. The feminine hue mixes well with gray and taupe, adds a fresh accent to navy and lends a fun, flirty feel to white frames.

Elaine Smith’s whimsical Birds & Cages pillow showcases shades of fashionable blue. “We’re seeing lots of patterns and colors for 2020,” remarks the designer.

ABOVE Tommy Bahama breaks away from its carefree, island-inflected style with the introduction of the South Beach collection. Dark graphite-finished aluminum combines with Indonesian teak for a look that’s chic and contemporary. RIGHT Focus is on color at Lloyd Flanders, which introduced four new shades of its Lloyd Loom all-weather wicker: Basil (olive green), Matte White, Fawn (brown) and Terra Cotta (seen above). “There’s been a huge increase in the demand for colored frames,” says Jess Flanders, vice president of marketing. Denim blue, sea glass (a soft teal) and woodland green are three of the company’s top-selling finishes this year.

3. FAUX WOOD

Aluminum, porcelain and polymers are quickly replacing natural materials, with manufacturers offering their own brands of simulated wood products that can withstand weather extremes, are UV-resident and are impervious to pests. “We’re seeing a move away from wicker,” notes Teresa Buelin, sales and merchandising manager for Klaussner Home Furnishings, which offers RealisTeak, an engineered polymer that has the look and feel of natural teak.

Additional standouts in the faux category include Agio’s Resysta, a 100% recyclable material made from rice husks, and Tuuci’s Aluma-Teak, a powder-coated finish that combines the strength of aluminum with the warm look of wood.

LEFT Sun, heat and rain can take their toll on wood furnishings, but technologically advanced faux finishes allow manufacturers to offer products that give the appearance of wood but are durable, easy-to-care-for and long-lasting. Tuuci’s Aluma-Teak, seen here on the Equinox Cabana, is a powder-coated aluminum that will fool even the most discerning homeowner. RIGHT Klaussner Home Furnishing’s Delray chair is crafted of RealisTeak, a synthetic wood alternative that withstands the elements to maintain its original look and color.

4. DEEP SEATING

Cushioned seating arrangements are making their way from inside to out in the form of plush armchairs and sumptuous sectionals. “People are spending more time outside and want to be comfortable,” says Flanders. At the request of its customers, Lloyd Flanders added a wedge corner to its popular Hamptons Collection sectional. Castelle and O.W. Lee also offered crescent-shaped arrangements designed to mold effortlessly around circular fire pits and facilitate conversation. And Tropitone debuted a new fully upholstered modular collection that can be configured for any size or shape of outdoor space by adjusting the position of its three lounge seating pieces.

Sectional sofas are popular for their versatility. Lloyd Flanders’ Hamptons Collection now includes a wedge corner. “This allows for greater functionality of the piece,” says Jess Flanders. The all-weather wicker is available in 20 Lloyd Loom colors.

5. EXPANDED DINING

“Long dining tables are doing good,” says Janet Wansor, vice president of sales and marketing for Jensen. She notes that demand for extension tables that seat between eight and 12 has surpassed that of two- and four-person bistro and patio sets. Frank Verna, senior vice president of Tropitone, adds that 96-inch-long tables with side chairs instead of armchairs, allowing for more seating, are the company’s most sought-after options. Porcelain, concrete and wood-look alternatives replace glass as the go-to tabletop material, lending a sense of solidity and refinement to the dining setting.

“Today’s outdoor spaces are all about entertaining,” says Mike Gaylor, senior vice president of Agio. “They’re an extension of our home’s interiors.”

The Matrix table collection by Tropitone combines two leading trends: minimalist design and copious seating for guests. “Consumers want larger dining tables,” says the company’s senior vice president Frank Verna. The tabletop is made of glass fiber-reinforced polymer that resists fading and cracking.

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