Inside Out

By Diane Schlindwein

July 3, 2008 4 min read


More homeowners look for their own great outdoors

By Diane Schlindwein

Copley News Service

More and more homeowners are taking the indoors outside, says the American Institute of Architects.

That's according to a recent home design trends survey conducted by the institute. In 2007, 48 percent of 600 residential architecture firms that were surveyed said upscale landscaping and outdoor living spaces are on the increase, including decks, patios, porches and even small courtyards.

That makes a lot of sense, says outdoor living center sales representative Chad Kruger, who works for Marx Fireplaces and Lighting in Springfield, Ill. he says sales are good for all types of durable outdoor furniture and accessories.

Kruger believes that may be because folks all across the country are spending more time relaxing at home - as opposed to traveling - and want to make a good investment.

Landscape architect and master designer Mark McWilliams agrees.

"I designed a beautiful pool area for a family that decided to put in a pool rather than take a dream vacation to Europe," says McWilliams, co-owner of CopperTree Outdoor Lifestyles, also in Springfield. "It was a decision that the whole family made together. They thought in the long run they'd enjoy it more."

Kruger - whose expertise is selling patio furniture, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, pergolas, grills, accessories and even weatherproof paintings - says autumn is a good time to purchase outdoor furniture and accessories. "Naturally, we sell a lot of it in March, April, May and June," he says. "But people like to come in later in the year to get good buys on end-of-season items."

No matter what the season, picking out patio furniture has never been easier, unless you happen to be someone who has a hard time choosing from among a large number of designs. For example, Kruger's company has enormous display rooms to roam and hands out catalogs that feature literally hundreds of pieces of furniture available with a huge array of cushions.

While some customers buy because of appearance alone, many people like to become familiar with brands.

"Brown Jordan was the original patio furniture company, so they are well-known and people like that," says Kruger. "Sunbrella makes great outdoor fabrics." Other well-known outdoor furniture companies are Tropitone, Hanamint, Meadowcraft, Winston and Kingsley-Bate.

Kruger recommends considering what furniture will best fit your outdoor space. "When people are setting up furniture around a pool, they still like to use white glass-top tables with brightly colored chairs," Kruger says. Earth tones are always popular for more formal outdoor settings.

When purchasing higher-end outdoor dining tables, more people are custom-ordering their own mosaic tabletops. "Stone-top tables are the most popular. However, you can get stone-top look-alikes for about half the price," Kruger says. "They are resin, but look like stone.

"Any time you open a magazine that features outdoor rooms you'll see teak wood. And a lot of people like Brazilian wood because it is harder and more durable," Kruger says. "Of course, wrought iron will never go out of style and a lot of people still like wicker furniture."

Outdoor fireplaces are increasingly popular in some parts of the country, creating the same focal point outside as they do inside. Fire pits are very popular, McWilliams says, and a good outdoor stone fireplace can cost about $10,000.

Although outdoor furniture can be pricey, Kruger says buying well-made items is really cost-effective. "There is a growing trend in customers buying big-cushion chairs, lounges, sofas and love seats," he says. "When you think about it, it is really the least expensive way to add a room onto a house."

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