When it comes to outdoor furnishings, what's in and what's out is not so clear anymore.
That's because the real trend is a growing category of products that's equally at home in a family room as it is on a patio. What both have in common is comfort -- both curl-up and visual. And not unlike the glue that holds interior spaces together, accessories are what make outdoor rooms livable -- and give them personality.
Livability is quite the buzzword. In fact, on retailer websites, outdoor living is the updated header that once included only a few furniture options and now encompasses pillows, poufs, rugs, lighting, lanterns, planters, curtains, dinnerware and even art.
When IKEA U.S. commissioned a report on the home, its conclusion about outdoor living is that it is "our new backyard oasis ... an extension of our living room and our kitchen, a place to relax and entertain."
On the Pottery Barn website, there's a mini primer that puts forth design ideas. "For areas big and small, everything starts with comfort; extend your hours outdoors by layering in lighting with a mix of lanterns and flameless candles; to effortlessly entertain, have a variety of occasional tables to accommodate food and drink."
"After years of separate but equal, the great outdoors and the great indoors have merged into one space," says New York designer Elaine Griffin, author of "Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator" (Gotham). Griffin is one of the competing designers on the reality show, "American Dream Builders" on Sundays on NBC. "The backyard used to be a stepchild with lawn furniture and not much more than plants or candles," Griffin says.
The blurred lines between indoors and out have gotten a boost with performance fabrics and materials as well as style. So weatherproof rugs, which most would not have given a second glance to for al fresco use, let alone in prime real estate indoors, are dazzling with color, pattern, style and even an indoor voice when it comes to texture. High-end designers like Emma Gardner now are translating sophisticated rug looks more affordably, as in her recently launched collection for Couristan. And some fanciful designs and hues have even broader appeal -- such as the new Jupiter polypropylene collection for Loloi, which also is being touted for children's rooms.
A trending go-to accessory indoors is doubling its appeal outside as well: the small-scale table, which is showing up in all sorts of materials from porcelain to resin and reclaimed steel drums.
Relatively new on the outdoor scene is the pouf, a hybrid that merges ottoman and table, but in a puffy rounded or squared shape. There's a lightheartedness about it, especially when expressed in vivid geometrics and bright solid weaves. The versatility of a piece that can double as a place to rest feet or a tray full of snacks is a big selling point.
As consumers are spending more time outdoors, they are not only decorating their homes, but their gardens as well, according to a 2014 trends report from Garden Media Group, which is based in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
The worldwide gardening and outdoor living market is expected to increase yearly by almost 3.5 percent through 2016, when it should reach nearly $220 billion, according to the report. It cites the rise of social trends like lawn games, glamping (a glamorous spin on camping) and garden parties for fueling a record growth in garden furniture and accessories, driving demand for tabletop fountains, outdoor chandeliers, garden art, decorative birdfeeders, unusual planters and candleholders.
The design is not at all random, or simply based on summery shades and storylines. For example, coastal themes will always be favored by those who live near water. But even the expected corals and anchors are more fashion-forward, say, with line drawings of sea critters in flat colors on off-white backgrounds or photo-realistic images of starfish in rich detail.
Italian designer Paola Navone's outdoor collection for Crate and Barrel features familiar summer icons, like graphically printed watermelons, but also a mashup of geometric patterns in different colors that live in perfect harmony.
Elaine Smith, whose outdoor pillows always have taken a cue from fashion runways, in one group has embraced an eastern vibe, including modern chinoiserie looks and singular images like a pagoda -- and shown them in fresh palettes like aqua and coral.
Mackenzie-Childs, a company known for its playful marriage of patterns, most notably checkerboards and florals, is a striking newcomer to outdoor, with amazing resin pieces in multicolored wovens. Along with its rich signature pattern-on-pattern weather-safe fabrics, fans will be thrilled. Even a small accent, such as a birdhouse, is high-impact.
In fabrics, you'll find plenty of colors, often in groupings: grays, for those who can't get past neutrals, and a nice companion to gray furniture frames, which are coming on strong; blues from aqua to indigo; greens, apple to citron; yellows, more mustard and saffron than pastel; oranges, reds and pinks. There's even a bit of magenta or Radiant Orchid, the Pantone color of the year, with an occasional purple.
The sky's the limit, especially with bright summery hues in solids, tweeds, stripes (awning style and thin multicolor), geometrics and, of course, florals, though the latter aren't as dominant as they once were. With a huge range of fabrics from Sunbrella, Perennials, Dwell and other designer names, there are many choices. Check out Calico Corners (www.calicocorners.com) for by-the-yard outdoor options.
Just as air and the sky open up these spaces, there's a suggestion of a little more latitude with rules, a little more freedom to have fun, particularly with accessories.
"It's wonderful now that can the outdoor room can be as well accessorized as in the house," says Griffin. "Your home can make a cohesive style statement that starts with curb appeal, through the front door, through the interiors and a continuation of that same statement once you hit the back yard. That is truly living with style."
-- Arhaus, 866-427-4287, www.arhaus.com
-- Laurie Bell, 336-362-4133, www.lauriebell.com
-- Bleunature, www.bleunature.com; the French company's products are available through www.shopstyle.com and a number of U.S. retailers including Barney's (www.barneys.com)
-- CB2, 800-606-6252, www.cb2.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- Emma Gardner for Couristan, www.emmagardnerdesign.com, 877-377-3144; www.couristan.com, 800-223-6186
-- Groovy Stuff, 800-933-0536, www.groovystuff.com
-- Mackenzie-Childs, 8888-665-1999, www.mackenzie-childs.com
-- O.W. Lee Co. Inc., 800-776-9533, www.owlee.com
-- Restoration Hardware, 800-910-9836, www.restorationhardware.com
-- Elaine Smith, 561-863-3333, www.elainesmith.com
-- Summer Classics, 888-868-4267, www.summerclassics.com; product is available through www.frontgate.com
-- David Sutherland Showrooms (also Perennials Fabrics), 212-871-9717, www.davidsutherlandshowroom.com
-- Surya, 877-275-7847, www.surya.com
-- West Elm, 888-922-4119, www.westelm.com
COLORS AND PRINTS PLAY OUTSIDE, TOO
The outdoor table is the perfect spot for pizazz -- color and pattern, even a touch of whimsy. Melamine and acrylic dinnerware and serveware offer tons of style options. From ikat to animal prints, geometric patterns, chevrons, polka dots, stripes and florals and ferns -- options run the gamut, often inspired by fashion. This year's newest designs include more complex, layered collage looks, and fun animal images. Even acrylic glasses are available in a surprising range of colors and shapes -- whether it's for wine, beer or margaritas.
Colors will pop on a bare table or on a coordinated cloth. Some fresh-cut flowers from the garden and votives or lanterns filled with candles will add a little ambience that your guests will surely appreciate.
MAKE GARDEN DESIGN PART OF YOUR MASTER PLAN
A group of mismatched, dinky little pots on the back deck isn't going to cut it anymore, especially if your outdoor space is styling. No worries.
You're no longer limited to wood and ceramic that will crack if you leave it outdoors during the winter. There are faux stones, woods and concrete as well as metal, teak and marine painted wood, fiberglass in a range of shapes, heights, textures and color. Whether your style is modern or French country, you'll find a suitable container.
The shapes help dictate the type of plant to put in: modern and tailored call from more sculptural looks like boxwood or sansevieria.
Use pots to add height to the garden, to line a path, to frame a doorway or to define a seating area.
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