10 Outdoor Furniture and Accessory Trends to Watch

By Dominique de Bruin and Don Eberly

During the past year, outdoor rooms have become progressively more important for homeowners, as evidenced by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo June index of builder sentiment. According to the report, homebuilders’ confidence has reached the highest level in seven years. As a result, this has led to an elevated demand for design/build projects as well as new patios, decks and backyard entertaining areas. Moreover, these types of spaces are regarded as extensions of interior spaces, and are being designed not only for functionality, but also to provide eye-catching aesthetic appeal.

Many homeowners are turning to landscape contractors and designers to help transform their mundane backyard areas into cozy, outdoor living rooms. With this in mind, landscape professionals looking to expand their installation and maintenance services can dig in by staying on top of the ever-changing trends in the outdoor furniture and accessories industry.

“Landscape professionals attend the Casual Market each year to help gain insight regarding outdoor space design trends and familiarize with outdoor furniture and accessories that will be available in 2014,” said Jaclyn Kelly, senior director of marketing for the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market/MMPI.

With the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market being held Sept. 17-20, 2013, at the Chicago Merchandise Mart / MMPI, these 10 new and evolving outdoor furniture and accessory trends are hot off the presses.

1. Industrial-style fire pits

Although traditional outdoor furniture and accessories never go out of fashion, contemporary, industrial-style designs are also taking their place in outdoor rooms. Outdoor fire pits designed with an industrial flair, such as OW Lee’s Aero Fire Pit, create the illusion of simplicity and sophistication for modern lifestyles. The signature industrial style often incorporates strong angular shapes, metallic colors and an overall sense of working practicality. Manufactured with new and innovative technologies, outdoor fire pits that exude functionality and rusticism are in high demand among consumers.

2. Functional shade systems

Another hot new trend that will be seen at the Casual Market this year stems from shade manufacturers embracing consumers’ desire to fuse design aesthetics with sound engineering for more customized appeal. For example, some top shade companies are producing parasol stands from high-grade aluminum while offering a wide selection of hardwood finishes, such as TUUCI’s Plantation MAX Cantilever. The aluminum provides strength and durability to help withstand weather elements. Conversely, hardwood finishes are used to create a visually attractive shade system that can blend seamlessly with professionally designed landscape settings.

3. Low-maintenance dining collections

Low-maintenance dining collections are gaining momentum, and Telescope Casual Furniture is on the fast track to paving the way with its Bazza Sling Collection. The collection, constructed from Telescope’s marine-grade polymer, is cool to the touch on hot days and is mildew and mold resistant. As consumers are spending more time enjoying their outdoor spaces, the need for low-maintenance furniture is highly desirable. This enables homeowners to enjoy quality time with friends and family, rather than hassling with cleaning and maintaining outdoor furniture.

4. Amplified furniture accents

Banding and bolsters, these are just a couple of ways furniture manufacturers are augmenting their outdoor furniture offerings. Many consumers are looking for additional backyard space elements that reflect their personal tastes and preferences. This includes choosing artistically enhanced outdoor furniture collections that can be customized to complement existing color palettes and accessories. Skyline Design’s Wilshire chaise lounger features a banded cushion of Sunbrella fabric and an exclusive adjustable bolster, making it a product of “outdoor couture.” For landscape designers and contractors, this type of outdoor furniture, known for its detailing, can further increase the scope of work for a more profitable return.

5. Spacious grilling stations

Homeowners are looking for creative ways to upgrade their outdoor decks and patios with spacious cooking and grilling stations to suit their backyard entertaining needs. Many of them are turning to landscape designers for assistance. In light of this demand, several grill manufacturers are responding to this trend. One company leading the way is Big Green Egg. The Big Green Egg Cooking Island provides functional storage space for grilling accessories, while a large counter enables homeowners to comfortably prepare meals for backyard parties and gatherings.

6. Mixed furniture collections

By popular request from landscapers and designers, manufacturers are providing more options for the mix-and-match effect. A trendy method is to combine different materials to produce outdoor furniture collections that can be used in a variety of different settings, including traditional, transitional and contemporary. For example, Gloster’s Bella Armchairs and Side Table combines powder-coated aluminum frames with teak slats to create a chic look that can be used in a multitude of patio, deck, and landscape applications. The frame gives off a look of modern styling, while the teak slats yield a sense of warmth.

7. Curved for comfort

The restyling of armchair rests is becoming a more prevalent luxury among homeowners. To fit the natural curve of the human arm, manufacturers are designing armrests constructed with bowed silhouettes that create an ergonomic effect. Panama Jack’s St. Barths loveseat collection by Pelican Reef showcases the trend. Curved lines combined with wider widths and longer lengths provide extra room for resting. As a result, this can help eliminate stress from the neck, back and shoulders. The combination of these characteristics gives landscape contractors the opportunity to strategically promote their outdoor design services based on accumulating demands for comfortable, ergonomic furniture.

8. Intimate chat areas

Homeowners are looking to create intimate chat areas in their outdoor spaces, and many of them are migrating toward investing in crescent-style deep-seating collections. Pride Family Brands’ English Garden Collection is an impressive example. This type of seating arrangement allows for better visual connections among seated guests as opposed to more angular set-ups. While crescent-style seating vignettes are not a new trend, they are certainly gaining more momentum this season for the coming year. When paired with corresponding outdoor fire pits and accessories, crescent-style deep-seating collections offer a true sense of livable luxury for outdoor parties.

9. Space-saving storage containers

According to a recent outdoor living trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, 64.4 percent of the landscape architects who participated said homeowners are investing in utility storage units to save space. These types of products aid in keeping outdoor rooms organized and ready for entertaining, as well as store accessories during the winter. Highwood USA’s new deck boxes illustrate this trend with a design purposed to store outdoor patio accessories such as cushions, flower pots, or pool products. Available in two sizes, large and extra-large, the deck boxes are manufactured from high-grade synthetic wood that is designed to have the look of real wood, but without the maintenance.

10. Fashion-worthy area rugs

As outdoor rooms continue to gain popularity with upticks in real estate and renovation, homeowners are looking to recreate the style of indoor living spaces in their outdoor settings. This includes grounding furnishings with area rugs that are designed with larger prints, bolder patterns and brighter colors. No longer are consumers satisfied with humdrum solids; they want and crave chic rugs to balance decorative, deep seating furniture collections. One great example of a fashionable outdoor area rug is Couristan, Inc.’s Tivoli/Ivory-Multi, from the company’s Dolce Collection. It can unify an outdoor seating area and serve as the finishing touch to a patio or porch.

For more information about the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, visit the show’s website at www.casualmarket.com

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 via www.eberlycollardpr.com 

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