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.
“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, 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.
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 backyard. That is truly living with style.”
Find outdoor furnishings at these online and Metro Detroit retailers:
■Arhaus, (866) 427-4287,
■Laurie Bell, (336) 362-4133,
■Bleunature, bleunature.com; the French company’s products are available through shopstyle.com and a number of U.S. retailers including Barney’s
■CB2, (800) 606-6252, cb2.com
■Crate and Barrel, (800) 967-6696, crateandbarrel.com
■Emma Gardner for Couristan, emmagardnerdesign.com, (877) 377-3144; couristan.com, (800) 223-6186
■Groovy Stuff, (800) 933-0536,
■Mackenzie-Childs, (888) 665-1999, mackenzie-childs.com
■O.W. Lee Co. Inc., (800) 776-9533, owlee.com
■Restoration Hardware, (800) 910-9836, restorationhardware.com
■Elaine Smith, (561) 863-3333,
■Summer Classics, (888) 868-4267,
summerclassics.com; product is available through frontgate.com
■David Sutherland Showrooms (also Perennials Fabrics), (212) 871-9717,
■Surya, (877) 275-7847, surya.com
■West Elm, (888) 922-4119, westelm.com