When it comes to design, outdoor spaces are becoming just as important as the inside of a home. In fact, when we reached out to outdoor furnishings manufacturers to ask about trends in this category, three people used the phrase, “no longer an afterthought” when describing the rising popularity of outdoor living. Manufacturers are capitalizing on this, analyzing trends and developing products that integrate the outdoors into the whole-home experience.
“Outdoor spaces are now being built into the budget at the forefront of the new construction process — they play a major role in the overall design aesthetic of the home,” says Megan Pierson, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Polywood. “We’re seeing seamless transitions from inside to out, including large doors and open air spaces.”
Because of this shift to outdoor spaces that mimic the indoor feel, manufacturers are developing products that cross boundaries.
“[Customers are] really looking for the same type of embellishments and texture and color story and options outdoors that they get with an indoor product,” says Jeni Canaan, Vice President of Merchandising and Product Development for Surya. “It’s similar to how we do a lot of our design and assortments. We’re really focusing on our core color palettes and things that we’ve identified from a trend perspective, developing those same things in outdoor as we do in our program line — key colors, adding texture, adding modern elements where we’re seeing that trending.”
Colors are also crossing these boundaries. Just as greens and blues are permeating the indoors, satisfying a desire to bring nature inside, these natural elements are also heading to the outdoors.
“Deep blues and soft spa fabrics are popular choices,” says Jess Flanders, Vice President of Marketing for Lloyd Flanders. “They’re calming and are a great alternative to basic neutrals while still being versatile enough to look timeless.”
This applies to finishes for Lloyd Flanders too, as Flanders noted a tenfold rise in popularity of the brand’s Denim Blue finish and growth in the Sea Glass finish as well.
Polywood’s Pierson says gray, black, white and brown are all traditional staples for outdoor furniture, but the blues and greens on the rise reflect our need to get back to our roots.
“I think this trend toward more natural colors is rooted in our desire to slow down, unplug and surround ourselves with the tranquility of nature,” Pierson says. “When creating an outdoor oasis, the most cohesive, serene look is to pull from colors that either already exist or coordinate with those in your outdoor space.”
Monitoring the Trends
Many manufacturers rely on trend research to inform their color choices throughout the year.
Every two seasons, Jensen Leisure Furniture releases a new cushion fabric book highlighting popular fabric colors and patterns, as well as upcoming trends based on research done the prior year.
“Textile manufacturers set up appointments and present us with their new fabric releases from their designers,” says Janet Wansor, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Jensen Leisure. “From these we choose which new fabrics we will add, giving one of the most striking the cover of our book. The book is organized in sets of coordinating colors, textures and patterns to make it easy to mix and match cushions with accent pillows.”
The Surya team gathers twice a year to develop their seasonal trends, getting the whole team involved in forecasting.
“We do a really cool kickoff at the beginning of the season when we’re building out new trends where every person on the team does their picks, like 10 or 15 of their favorite inspirational images for the season of things that we’ve seen,” Canaan says. “That can be anything. It can be from apparel, a color story, or a really specific product. We bring all that together kind of in a think tank and go, ‘Where do we see themes? What works for us and what is our customer looking for?’”
From there, the trends are built into lifestyles that cover Surya’s customer base, which is key for this company, which has products that span a range of styles from traditional to modern to Bohemian. When the lifestyles are selected, trends are identified for each, along with a color palette and inspiration board that guide the next round of product development. This process happens twice a year, with quarterly seasonal check-ins to make sure they are on the right track with trends. Outdoor is one such seasonal category.
Ultimately, Canaan says the technology available to outdoor manufacturers has only improved as the category continues to build momentum, which is a win-win-win for manufacturers, designers and clients.
“I feel like we’re really able to offer customers a better quality and a better product that doesn’t necessarily have to take that premium price that’s associated with a brand name,” she says. “Those are great too because they have a great value proposition and you know what the quality is. But I think overall the quality has improved drastically at all levels, which I think people are going to be really pleased with.”