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Thomas Russell

Indoor furniture makers find room to grow outdoors

Outdoor furniture could be a new growth area for some indoor furniture companies delving into the category for the first time. For example, Padma's Plantation experimented in the category last year and plans to launch another 20 SKUs at the April 14–20 furniture market in High Point, N.C. Some of those will be marketed as part of the World Vineyards Collection by Dick Idol.

French Heritage offered teak and tile-top tables in its accessory line in the past, but now makes a more aggressive push into the category with acrylic chairs, benches and tile-top tables marketed under its Maison du Soleil collection.

"By using the acrylic material and the tile-top tables, it sort of parlayed itself into that," said French Heritage spokeswoman Morgen Arnold of Maison du Soleil. "It is celebrating the colors of the sun and Provence — an outdoor theme in a sense, so it plays into that."

Environ Trading introduced its first fully outdoor collection of resin wicker in 2004 and plans to debut at least four more outdoor lines this year. The Henderson, Nev.-based company is considering showing at the Chicago Casual Market.

Padma's use of materials such as abaca and woven rattan are making for an easy transition into outdoor. The company also does 60% to 70% of its business in warmer climates, where outdoor living is more common year-round than in Northern states.

"When they think of rattan, they think of the sunroom or outdoor," Padma's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Sypolt said. "We do it to bring that whole tropical feel into the room."

These are not the only indoor vendors offering outdoor. Bauer International also has an extensive outdoor line. Like Padma's, it uses materials and designs that convey the romance of tropical or colonial settings.

Century Furniture began offering outdoor furniture in October 2002 with a 20-piece group licensed under the Oscar de la Renta name. It included chairs and tables with cast-aluminum frames covered in Hularo, a woven extruded polyethylene resin fiber. Settees and sofas in the group have Sunbrella, a performance fabric resistant to fading and stains. In April 2004, Century expanded with Chatsworth, an English country-inspired collection which includes garden benches carved from Honduran mahogany and covered with an epoxy primer.

Other Century groups include designs by Richard Frinier, such as Andalusia and Archipelago, 12-piece collections launched at the 2003 Casual Market. Frinier's Gulf Stream Collection,which debuted last fall, includes chairs crafted in stainless steel frames reminiscent of yacht railings and classic nautical furniture. Century's study of buyer behavior showed many of its customers are focusing on their back yards as much as indoors, Vice President of Marketing Ed Tashjian said.

Padma's Plantation transitioned to the outdoors with the introduction of a counter-height table set.

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