Casual Market is the world’s largest exhibition of outdoor furnishings and accessories, presented by the International Casual Furnishings Association and the Mart. This year’s market, held Sept. 10-13, 2019 in Chicago, filled more than 350,000 square feet of exhibit space on four floors of the Mart.
Across the board, manufacturers and designers spoke about the growing importance of outdoor spaces. No longer an afterthought for clients, outdoors is being considered an extension of their indoor spaces, and they seem to be willing to make the investment in furnishings that offer the same beauty and comfort they expect inside.
Below are some of the new products, trends and highlights we saw at this year's Casual Market.
Designer Allison Paladino showed us Sail, her new outdoor collection at Century Furniture. Paladino set out to create a simple-yet-luxurious outdoor collection that she was unable to find anywhere else.
For their 75th anniversary, Brown Jordan displayed a piece from the brand’s original Walter Lamb line, which made use of reclaimed materials long before today’s sustainability movement. The 1948 chair and ottoman on display were made from piping salvaged from sunken Pearl Harbor ships. Brown Jordan also had an updated version of the classic line on display.
Lexington Home Brands' Tommy Bahama Home debuted five new outdoor lines (South Beach, Key Largo, St. Tropez, Los Altos Valley View and Harbor Isle) in their new Chicago showroom, representing a range of lifestyles.
Lillian August also launched a new outdoor collection at Casual Market, with more than 70 pieces made from a range of materials and inspired by the company’s popular indoor lines.
Mixed materials — whether on the same piece or mixing matching pieces in a set — were prevalent at the market, as were outdoor seating options with high, curved arms, offering added comfort. Sectionals are gaining traction in outdoor as well, as many companies are adding sectional versions of existing outdoor sofas for greater customization and to accommodate larger outdoor spaces.
ICFA’s gala awards celebration was held the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 11, recognizing manufacturing and retailing excellence, spotlight top product designs and pay tribute to the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.
Thursday Sept. 12 was Designer Day at the Casual Market, with programming designed for interior designers.
At the “Interior Design for Exterior Environments” panel in the Lane Venture showroom, designers James Dolenc, Donna Mondi and Kim Scodro joined designer and ASID Illinois President John Cialone for a discussion about working on outdoor spaces for interior clients. All panelists agreed that outdoor living is becoming a priority for clients, and they all said that if a client has an outdoor space, it will always be considered as part of the design project. Panelists also discussed the importance of customer service when working with outdoor furnishings vendors, and why it’s vital to educate clients on the advantages of opting for high-quality outdoor furniture over sets from big box stores.
Later in the afternoon, Steve Nobel owner of Nobelinks and business consultant to interior designers, presented, “Design Outdoor: New Places for Profit” and gave designers tips for making outdoor spaces part of ongoing client conversations. He encouraged attendees to ask the right questions to create new business opportunities and remain profitable. He advised designers to be transparent with clients about where their money is going, and to not rely on product markups to make a profit.