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Sophisticated, stylish colors move outdoors

The current state and future of fabrics and finishes

Never has the casual industry been so influenced by color as it is today. Consumers' tastes for a more sophisticated color palette have strengthened, and manufacturers are trying to satisfy those tastebuds. Fabrics don't match, but instead complement the finishes and sister fabrics for a fuller color story.

Fabric colorsFurniture manufacturers and fabric suppliers shared their thoughts on the current state of color while color forecasters look ahead to 2007–08.

Color Stories

Casual furniture manufacturer Homecrest recently introduced its innovative Color Stories custom design program and launched its supporting Hello Color! campaign for industry retailers at the July International Casual Furniture & Accessories Premarket in Chicago. The program aids customers in coordinating fabrics and finishes.

Color Stories, an evolution of the Homecrest Index Design Center introduced two seasons ago, is an industry-first program created to help consumers customize orders using a system that divides frame finishes, fabrics and trims into five coordinating groupings. Consumers can confidently mix and match colors and patterns to create coordinated sets that look professionally designed, and are no longer bound by the limits of uniform-looking matched sets, said Ann Sundet, Homecrest product manager and an allied ASID interior designer.

"Homecrest developed Color Stories as a simple solution for consumers who are developing a more sophisticated taste and sense of style for their outdoor living spaces, yet are continually challenged for the time to pull it all together," Sundet said. "Research continues to tell us that color and design are primary drivers in the selection of outdoor furniture. The Homecrest design philosophy, with its unique approach of directional Color Stories, offers a competitive advantage to retailers seeking to bolster their design reputation and add sales velocity to the custom selling experience."

 Solarium by Richloom Fabrics

The Hello Color! campaign, developed to help retailers understand and leverage the Color Stories program, will include custom selling tools, consumer literature and point-of-purchase support.

Homecrest's five new Color Stories are Northern Getaway, Nantucket Retreat, Seaside Resort, Sedona Retreat and Urban Oasis. Each is themed for its regional inspirations, distinctive color palette and features a coordinated selection of frame finishes, fabrics and trims. Each story is subdivided into mini-stories to simplify the process of combining fabrics for a coordinated mix-and-match look.

O.W. Lee is working in partnership with Marcia Blake, founder and president of Outdoors Interiors, a full-service design firm specializing in creating outdoor living spaces, and former patio buyer and manager of Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar, Calif. Blake assisted O.W. Lee with fabric selection and furniture design for 2007.

"Reflections of the indoor spaces are created with new trends of pairing chocolate with other colors such as olive, black, spa, mahogany and terra cotta," Blake said. "These fabrics warm and excite, as well as brighten and reflect our personality in our outdoor room."

Current colors

Ralph Lauren Cape Ann floral linen   Ralph Lauren Cape Ann floral linen
 Ralph Lauren Shore Paisley in Red  Ralph Lauren Shore Paisley in Red

"It's going to be a fun season with more color," said Teresa Campbell with Lloyd/Flanders.

Lloyd/Flanders introduced 24 fabrics this year, focusing on colors like terra cotta shades, glacier blue — a softer shade than spa blue — and chocolate. Those were in addition to the American Home Collection by Ralph Lauren the company debuted mid-season, which has garnered an impressive response from retailers and taken off across the country, Campbell said.

"This season we really wanted to fill-in things we thought may be missing since we've made so many introductions the last couple of years," she said.

Campbell keeps logs of top-selling fabrics, and breaks it down by region and territory. According to her, blacks, browns and wheat are top sellers in the Northwest, which includes Texas and Colorado; beige and bright colors are popular in the South; the East and Canada favor color as well, with beige at the bottom of the list; and black and colors are embraced in the Midwest.

Medium brown is the No. 1 finish at Lloyd/Flanders, followed by white and antique black. "Customers tend to like the darker finishes on vinyl, and the traditional white does well because you can use light and dark colors," Campbell said. "We'll probably see more placements on white with the Ralph Lauren line."

According to Laurie Jenkins, principal of Laurie Bell Outdoor Occasions whose line of accessories was recently licensed by Brown Jordan, brown frames have become the top sellers with wicker and cast aluminum.

 Pfifertex Marquesa Cushion

 Pfifertex Marquesa Cushion

 Spinneybeck Acqua waterproof leather

 Spinneybeck Acqua waterproof leather

"That gives us fabric direction," she said. "Our challenge is coming up with new combinations."

Jenkins said colors like chili, rust and brick are popular, along with brown and a rust or burnt orange that gives a sophisticated Tuscan feel. Black and white reigns for the more contemporary, while some brighter colors, like lime green and aquamarine, still are requested.

"The market is moving up to jacquards for a more feminine look," Jenkins said. "I like to pair that with stripes which are more masculine. And we need more texture."

Waverly is hoping to strengthen its outdoor category of Sun 'N' Shade fabrics, focusing on different textures, like jacquards, and taking its indoor approach outside to offer a full coordinated story. The company also will introduce an outdoor trim.

"We're really excited about this particular category," said Pamela Maffei Toolan, vice president of design. "We're seeing that people are bringing these outdoor fabrics indoors as well."

Maffei Toolan said outdoor fabrics have gotten more sophisticated, and sees two clear color stories. The first includes rich tones that coordinate nicely with rattan and woven. This also includes a British Colonial theme with blacks, khakis and tea stain colors, as well as chocolate brown, reds and sage. The second is an Island motif, with paisley, tropical and exotic patterns to achieve a "botanical look," perhaps with rhododendron and fern designs as well. A printed solid, St. Croix, also was introduced. Like a grass cloth, St. Croix is a printed texture that makes a perfect anchor with all of the mentioned motifs.

"A small segment still asks for brighter colors and whimsical or novelty patterns like flip flops or seashells," Maffei Toolan said.

 Sundurance Venus in ebony

 Sundurance Venus in ebony

 Sundurance Venus in mocha

 Sundurance Venus in mocha

Caryn Lida has moved forward with her new outdoor fabric line, Sundurance. Distributed by Miami-based Fabric Tent, Sundurance is owned by Lida and her brother Eric. Fabrics in the Sundurance line are 100% acrylic and reversible. Original fabrics in the line all were bright, but new colors have been added in brown, black and white, beige and yellow, all in patterns, no solids. The high-end fabrics have a four-year warranty and are water-, fade- and mildew-resistant.

"The more designers we talked to, the more we realized they wanted earth tones," Lida said.

Color combinations that pair spa-influenced colors like glacier and mineral blue, yellow-cast green or a deep orange with chocolate brown will be in the forefront as well, according to Gina Wicker, director of design, and Suzie Roberts, market manager, both of Glen Raven.

"It's not the Crayon brights of the past," Wicker said. "What you're starting to see now is a lot of rich color but not the primaries."

Additionally, as the scale of outdoor furniture gets larger, so do fabric patterns. More contemporary, larger-scale patterns have emerged, like geometrics and dots, Wicker said. Reversible patterns are becoming hot for umbrellas and throw pillows.

Interior fabrics move outdoors

In addition to acrylic, polyester and the standard construction elements of outdoor fabric, several companies have offered alternatives. Glen Raven has introduced Sunbrella sheer, chenille and velvet. Sunbrella sheer has been well received, Wicker said, and is perfect for an architectural-type frame over a sofa or daybed, privacy panels or curtains in a showroom.

 Sunbrella’s LuxSoleil Collection


 Sunbrella's LuxSoleil Collection

 Sunbrella's new sheer fabrics in Parchment and Mist

Silver State fabrics, a division of Silver State Inc., debuted the first Sunbrella velvet in June and two collections of Sunbrella sheers and shade in July.

"Luxsoleil combines the luxury of velvet with the performance of Sunbrella, providing designers with unprecedented flexibility and performance," said Manoli Sargetakis, a principal of Silver State Inc. "We are very excited about the Luxsoleil line. Whether residential or hospitality, now our customers have the opportunity to add the richness and luxurious hand of velvet to our boucles, damasks, stripes and many small- and large-scale coordinates."

 Bella-Dura by Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, Sonic in Melon

 Bella-Dura by Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, Dahlia in Ocean blue

 Bella-Dura by Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, Sonic in Melon

 Bella-Dura by Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, Dahlia in Ocean blue

Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, the makers of Bella-Dura performance fabrics, added chenille to its line-up as well. Called Bella-Dura Plush, the novelty yarn has anti-microbial resistance, mildew resistance, inherent stain resistance and water repellence.

"The overwhelming response we received from the design community to Bella-Dura fabrics convinced us we needed to expand our product offering," said Irwin Gasner, president and CEO of Wearbest.

 Solarium by Richloom Fabrics — Caneel Bay in Marsh, Skylark and Shire in Caffe

 Solarium by Richloom Fabrics — Palm Floral and Palm City Stripe

 Solarium by Richloom Fabrics — Caneel Bay in Marsh, Skylark and Shire in Caffe

 Solarium by Richloom Fabrics — Palm Floral and Palm City Stripe

Richloom Fabrics' Solarium line now offers a base cloth that is as soft as indoor fabrics, but carries the essential properties for outdoor — weather- and wear-resistance. Phifer has found success with its Phifertex Marquesa fabrics that can be used for cushions and designed for sling, as well.

Ultrafabrics has expanded its collection of Ultraleather Brisa Soleil to include Polar, Swimming Hole, Sunflower and Brick Walk, reflecting hues in the white, blue, yellow and red color families, respectively.

"We've spent a great deal of time and research narrowing down the best color choices to fit the outdoor market's needs," said Louise Russell, creative consultant for Ultrafabrics. "Our latest additions complement Brisa Soleil's current color offering, which was developed to harmonize with natural environments."

The Ultraleather Brisa Soleil fabric line, distributed by HomCraft, was introduced to the casual industry in 2005 with 12 color choices, six of which are available in a distressed leather finish.

"We'll continue to address this segment and bring new ideas to the forefront, as consumer demand for outdoor living remains strong," Russell said.

During the Casual Show, Ultraleather Brisa Soleil can be seen in the following showrooms: Tropitone, Gloster, Bellini, Woodard, Laurie Bell Outdoor Occasions, Carter Grandle, Homecrest, Suncoast, Casual Creations, Anacara, Summer Classics, O.W. Lee, Laneventure, Outdoor Lifestyle and Wood Classics.

In 2002, Spinneybeck, a 40-year-old company known for developing leather for upholstery, introduced a waterproof leather called Acqua. Designed for the marine specifier, the leather became popular in different industries and now boasts 40 colors.

"When we first developed Acqua waterproof leather, the 17 colors were specific to the marine industry," said Spinneybeck President Roger Wall. "We've seen specifications for universities, spas, stadiums, bars, residential applications, corporate areas and car interiors."

 Sundurance, Venus in Bisque

 Sundurance, Eclipse in Ebony

 Sundurance, Venus in Bisque

 Sundurance, Eclipse in Ebony

 Outdura by Shuford Mills, Shipshape Collection including Neptune and Ice Blue

 Outdura by Shuford Mills, Coffee Shop blend — Tribal, Zulu and Jinga

 Outdura by Shuford Mills, Shipshape Collection including Neptune and Ice Blue

 Outdura by Shuford Mills, Coffee Shop blend — Tribal, Zulu and Jinga

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