The New Look of Casual

By Dominique de Bruin and Don Eberly

Recent changes in residential building are leading to more opportunities for landscape contractors and designers. Not only are consumers spending more time at home, they are beginning again to invest in outdoor rooms to increase the values of their properties.

Additionally, as homes grow smaller, so do backyard spaces. According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders, the size of the average home will have decreased by 10 percent in the next few years. Thus, while trending toward being smaller, outdoor spaces are just as important as indoor spaces when it comes to resale value.

Outdoor rooms contain several key components landscapers can use to educate homeowners on design/build installations, including many outdoor furniture and accessory options. These essential elements for any outdoor space enable landscapers to sell complete outdoor havens to their clients with the premise of return of investment.

The following includes a selection of evolving outdoor room trends that were seen at the September International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Jaclyn Kelly, senior director of marketing for the show / MMPI, said, “The Casual Market offers landscapers and contractors new ideas and trends information they can use to market outdoor design projects on a wider scale.”

Versatile deep seating

Consumers are investing in comfortable deep seating furniture with transitional styling to enhance their outdoor spaces. It is neither traditional, nor contemporary. This allows them to change the setting from one design concept to another — for example, moving from traditional to contemporary. As a result, homeowners who are still recovering from dips in the economy can benefit from the longevity of the product’s design style, without having to worry about what goes in and out of fashion. With transitional furniture, landscape professionals who work in the outdoor room business have the option to simply change out deep seating cushion fabrics, altering style preferences and up-selling to clients each year.

Meanwhile, the frame’s clean lines remain popular and in style. The Lakeshore Wicker Collection from Telescope Casual Furniture (see photo above) balances traditional and modern design, making it versatile in a variety of patio applications. This type of transitional seating collection enables outdoor room installers to create comfortable outdoor chat areas that won’t lose their sense of style.

Retractable shade

Solair Shade Solutions – PS2000As consumers are increasingly spending more time in backyard spaces, the need for shade devises and umbrellas has risen. This has led shade manufacturers to conceptualize inventive ways to address multiplying requests for technologically advanced, multifaceted shade systems. Solair Shade Solutions’ PS2000 is a great example of shade versatility. The PS2000 is a retractable awning that drew a lot of attention at the Casual Market for its ability to provide a fresh and modern way to add comfortable shade to the outdoor room, while offering 98-percent protection from harmful UV rays.

Versatile, retractable shade devices allow landscapers to turn lawns and decks with no trees in close proximity into seating and dining areas protected from the sun. This can be a valuable asset when marketing outdoor room designs and installation services to clients in new residential developments with trees that are not yet mature.

Dual functionality

 O.W. Lee – Vulsini Fire PitTables with built-in fire features are popular additions for outdoor spaces; and over the years, coffee- and dining-height fire tables have continued to be a maturing trend. Whether a homeowner’s outdoor space is large or small, many view the dining table as a must-have item. In addition, the added functionality of the table’s fire feature enables consumers to entertain and enjoy backyard spaces during cool fall and winter nights. With this in mind, landscapers and outdoor room contractors have a unique opportunity to persuade homeowners to invest in dining- and coffee-height fire tables such as O.W. Lee’s Vulsini Fire Pit given its dual-purpose characteristics.

A fire table can yield an up-sell to a client since it offers both form and function. When clients are concerned with the costs associated with two separate items, a table and a fire feature, the combination of the two in one item can lower the overall cost, but still come with a nice margin for the installer.

Outdoor rooms with indoor flair

Pride Family Brands – French Quarter CollectionLuxury outdoor spaces with deep seating collections, side tables, area rugs, and accessories that have the feel of indoor living rooms are becoming increasingly popular. This trend encourages homeowners to invest in durable, high-quality outdoor furniture products that mimic indoor furniture and accessories. As a result, this offers landscape contractors the ability to not only market traditional services, but also outdoor room design installations.

As more consumers are demanding this type of setting, manufacturers are rising to meet their needs. Sophisticated outdoor lines such as Pride Family Brands’ French Quarter Collection evoke luxury and elegance, as well as comfortability and functionality — all of which are key factors when designing both indoor and outdoor rooms. Showing clients photos of outdoor sets with full seating, end tables, ottomans, and rugs reminds them of their interior living rooms and dens. With this knowledge, they can create the same type of livable luxury on the porch or patio, which can lead to the ability of selling the entire outdoor room package to them.

Outdoor kitchens

Saber Grills – R50CC0312 500 LPNot a new fact, outdoor kitchens are popular among homeowners. These installations can include a wide range of built-in grills, refrigerators, ample space for preparation, and stove tops. This allows whole meals to be prepared outdoors, giving home-chefs the ability to cook outside and not miss out on the fun of their social gatherings.

But, now, the majority of outdoor kitchens feature beautiful grilling stations, many of which are manufactured with the latest technology for fuel efficiency. It is the high-level technology itself that is trending in today’s new grills, such as Saber Grills’ R50CC0312 500 LP. This type of grill enables homeowners to easily convert from propane to natural gas, and back again, thus reducing the amount of BTUs (British Thermal Units), as well as gas consumption. This technology can help reduce energy bills and promote a clean environment.

By presenting the high-tech functionality and long-term value of outdoor kitchens to clients, landscape contractors can take advantage of promoting efficient grills and appliances as stand-alone items or with customized built-ins.

Green outdoor living

C.R. Plastic Products, Inc. – Coastal Curve ChairMore and more consumers are investing in sustainable products, including outdoor furniture and accessories. The notion of sustainability and protecting the environment has been around for several years. However, more recently, sustainably manufactured products have caught the attention of homeowners, enabling landscape designers and installers to promote “green living” lifestyles to consumers for optimal living and home resale value.

Sustainability is a continuously evolving trend in manufacturing. Naturally, the landscape and outdoor room industry is also embracing the desire for sustainable products such as C.R. Plastic Products, Inc.’s Coastal Curve Chair. In harmony with nature, this eco-friendly urban curve chair offers amazing comfort with a modern flare. Made from recycled plastic lumber, the Coastal Curve Chair requires little maintenance and eliminates the need for harmful paints and stains.

To learn more trends, and see innovative products for outdoor spaces, log on to the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market’s website at

Dominique de Bruin and Don Eberly are with Eberly & Collard Public Relations, a national PR firm that specializes in the Home, Garden and Design Industries. They can be reached through

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