Survey: Springtime is High Time to Celebrate Outside in Style
According to new research from the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), more than 80 percent of American households plan a purchase of outdoor furniture or accessories this year, up from 62 percent a year ago.
“Porches, patios, decks and balconies are among the most cherished spaces of American homes, and we want to spend as much time enjoying them as possible,” says Jackie Hirschhaut, AHFA vice president. “Many of us have so little time off that our backyards and balconies have become our primary refuge for relaxation.”
Further, the AHFA research shows that the out-of-doors is increasingly the favored venue for celebrations with family and friends, from barbeques to birthday bashes.
From seating and dining designed for lingering to fabrics and accessories in every hue under the sun, new furnishings for the 2015 outdoor season fit the bill.
Invitation to Dine
As more and more Americans head outside to entertain, manufacturers are meeting their needs with generously-scaled dining groups in materials and styles that are nearly indistinguishable from traditional, indoor furniture. Wood grain is rendered in durable fiberglass, plank-style porcelain and lightweight aluminum. The resulting low-maintenance tabletops will weather the elements in style.
Homeowners who love the natural feel and beauty of real wood will not be disappointed either, as teak and other durable species like Roble continue in popularity and provide the opportunity for upper end manufacturers to showcase their craftsmanship.
To accommodate the increasing popularity of outdoor entertaining, many companies added scale or expansion capabilities normally only found in indoor dining groups. Long, rectangular tables to accommodate up to a dozen guests are selling well, and some even feature extensions or butterfly leaves that fold out of sight when not in use. These collections are not designed for the eat-and-run crowd … dining chairs feature deep-cushions along with swivel and rocking motion.
With more Americans resolving to unplug (at least for short periods) from their digital devices while relaxing at home, some interesting outdoor furniture configurations are beginning to emerge. Crescent-shaped sofas and loveseats designed to curve around a cocktail table are among this season’s popular designs – along with a new take on the Victorian “kissing bench” or courting chair, which allowed two people to sit close, facing one another. Creating conversation nooks with pairs of chairs is also easier than ever. A pair of Adirondack chairs attached to a center table begs for occupants taking a mid-afternoon break. Just ring Carson for tea.
Pride Family Brands
Of course, lingering longer in the night air brings up the need for staying warm, not to mention the ability to toast marshmallows. According to the DIY Network, fire pits were the fourth most popular DIY project of 2014. AHFA’s research shows no sign of a slowdown in this trend, with 40 percent of respondents reporting they’d be shopping for a fire element of some sort this year.
Manufacturers are prepared to meet the demand. Today’s fire features range from sleek, contemporary fire tables in a variety of heights – cocktail, bar, balcony and dining – to more traditional fire pits with a variety of decorative surrounds.
According to Bill Vanderminden, vice president of marketing atTelescope Casual Furniture, “Consumers are gravitating toward fire elements because they extend the outdoor season, depending on where they live, to almost year-round enjoyment.” Whether powered by gel, gas or wood, fire features are a hot trend.
More than half of the homeowners who responded to the AHFA survey said they would be looking to punch up the color in their outdoor spaces this season. In stores and online, they’ll find products awash in vibrant hues and patterns. While crisp, nautical-inspired navy blues are always right for the open air, a number of high-fashion manufacturers turned to sea-inspired hues and motifs for this season. Pillow-designer Elaine Smith punctuated the trend with pillows sporting cable-knits, rope and fisherman’s knot embellishments.
Gray is the new neutral inside as well as out, and outside it blends well with garden accents like bright orange, yellow, aqua and grassy green. Brown Jordan added a rainbow of color to its classic Kantan and Tamiami lines, while Kettler International showed off its HAPPY Stack Chair, a weatherproof chair available in sun-drenched shades of lime, turquoise and coral.
Indoor Style Outdoors
Stylistically speaking, indoor designs continue to impact the great outdoors. Sleek, mid-century modern looks are as popular outside as they are inside.
“There’s no question that indoor looks have migrated outside,” says Hirschhaut. “And thanks to advances in durable, soil- and water-repellent fabrics with UV light fastness, designers can push the envelope with patterns and handmade embellishments that our parents would never have dreamed of leaving outdoors.”
For homeowners, this is blurring the lines between where home ends and the patio or deck begins and allowing for greater and greater flexibility in creating a personalized outdoor experience. For retailers, it’s creating excitement and an explosion of color and design on store floors.
Hirschhaut concludes: “Fresh air – and fresh, new furnishings for outdoor living – are just what many of us need to shake off those winter doldrums!”
For downloadable, high resolution photography of these images, as well as additional photos, please visit www.ahfa.us.