Cindy Cragg -- Casual Living, September 1, 2008
Like many people this summer, I took a “staycation.” As predicted, spending more time at home invariably led to a strong desire to redecorate.
My space needed attention, it needed character, it needed the comfort and warmth of my interior decor. It needed accessories! Volumes have been written about using accessorizes to transform an interior room, but detailing an outdoor room can be just as fun (and necessary) for a homeowner and just as lucrative for a retailer.
The idea of an outdoor room or “garden room,” as it was called in the 18th Century, has come in and out of fashion over the years. In colonial times, having a pleasure garden in addition to a kitchen garden was a sign of wealth. Unlike the utilitarian kitchen garden, the pleasure garden might have been used for afternoon tea or private reflection and was often separated by rows of boxwood hedges and trees. Both gardens were an integral part of the home, but it was the pleasure garden that was created to be a private sanctuary. This concept of being enveloped in a secluded garden oasis has enticed people for centuries.
Today, we still incorporate elements from nature, like trees and shrubs, to create “walls” in our outdoor spaces. But we also use a variety of accessories as rustic as a trellis or as sophisticated as outdoor curtains to create just the right environment. If greenery is scarce, large planters and urns filled with groups of plants and small trees work well to anchor an outdoor expanse and visually divide the space.
Once the outdoor space has some parameters, an outdoor rug can further define the room and establish a relationship between furniture pieces. Items like wall hangings and light fixtures add substance and character to the space — making it truly an extension of the home. Encourage customers to maintain the look and feel of their interior decor. An entirely new look to suit the alter-ego is best saved for a mountain retreat or a beach house, not in a room intended to be an extension of the home.
Now comes the fun part. Filling in with smaller accessories will give the space a finished look and add whimsy. Outdoor rooms are wonderful for entertaining, so decorations should reflect an element of fun. Wind chimes, armillaries, lanterns, birdbaths, candles, trivets and small yard critters help to weave in a bit of personal flair. Remember, when buying and selling these items, they should be heavy enough to withstand a strong wind.
For a retailer, savvy accessorizing is a win-win situation. Accessories give your store a visually interesting look and make great impulse-buy items. Don’t underestimate the benefit of these smaller sales. A $20 customer one day could become a $2,000 customer in the future and, statistically, it is much less expensive to keep a current customer than to spend the advertising dollars to generate a new one.
Detailing a space with accessories is a great way to make changes without the pressure of having to make a big, expensive decision. Encourage your customers to be creative and experiment with current trends in choosing their accessories. Use these items to increase your sales while helping your customers create a room that is an extension of their house and personality.