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Indoors out/outdoors inn

Styles transition as home boundaries blur

Saint Tropez Wing ChairSaint Tropez Wing Chair is an example of transitional indoor/outdoor style
     The outdoor living room has become an extension of the interior living space. Patios, decks, porches and backyards expand useable space and morph into alfresco family rooms and kitchens as indoor amenities move outside. The outdoors adjacent has become the new multipurpose area for family activities, entertaining, lounging, cooking, watching TV, listening to music and relaxing.
     Gardening, the nation's No. 1 hobby, has become the gateway to landscape design. The homeowner now considers harmony and design in dedicated areas such as herb or butterfly gardens along with structures including bridges, gazebos and pergolas. Lighting, water features, art - even statuary - are considerations for the home's exterior in addition to flowers, trees and shrubs or a habitat for backyard birds. Outdoor showers are yet another way homeowners attempt to embrace nature. Even the doghouse and birdhouse have style - possibly emulating the owner's house.
     Long ago, there were summer kitchens that allowed the designated cook (Mom) a little relief from the seasonal heat and humidity. At that time, there was a rickety barbecue and some plastic-webbed aluminum folding chairs or maybe a picnic table. Now, barbecuing is no longer merely burgers and dogs on the grill. The aspirational kitchen has granite-topped stainless steel cooking centers with dual-fuel grills and burners, icemakers, sinks, refrigerators, wine storage and pizza ovens. It may include a separate bar with beer on tap.
     In addition to traditional burgers and steaks, American outdoor kitchens serve sushi, 12-hour slow-cooked pulled pork, tapas, flatbreads, freerange grilled chicken, grass fed beef and local, organic grilled vegetables. The social hub of the professionally appointed, gourmet kitchen has a new setting - the great outdoors.
     Now that the kitchen has been successfully replicated on the deck and patio, it makes sense that the living room follows suit. What began with all-weather cushions and an umbrella over the table has evolved into double chaise loungers, chat groups with cocktail and accent tables and ottomans or coordinating toss pillow-strewn modular cushioned sectionals. Table and floor lamps provide supplemental lighting.
     With the addition of some structure - an awning or pergola or even a protective ceiling, which can be opened or closed when desired, as well as control of privacy and weather conditions with draperies - a chandelier becomes practical. The consumer can go with Ikea's simple hanging pendant, or at the other end, Fatboy's RockCoco LED powered acrylic Baroque style, both designed for outdoor use.
     Homeowners can define the seating area with a rug that coordinates with the furniture, flooring and accessories, both inside and out. Today's outdoor rugs go beyond scratchy sisal. Many rug manufacturers are making rugs that are soft underfoot and easily cleanable. They are available in a wide array of patterns, colors and styles - good enough to duplicate inside. Flor has begun producing "you only live twice" indoor/out carpet tiles, showcasing their versatility of use.
     Americans now love being outside so much, homeowners across the nation want to extend the outdoor season. When it gets chilly, patio and tabletop heaters, fireplaces and firepits keep outdoor areas comfortable. When it's too hot, those are replaced by patio fans and misters, overhead fans and electronic bug destroyers. As a result, consumers can have essentially year-round enjoyment of outdoor living.
     The lines have been blurred between the interior and the exterior living spaces of our homes - literally. Nana walls, flexible disappearing screens, doors and window walls make for a seamless transition along with a clear view of the decks and patios off the back of the house, also allowing for easy access. Homeowners can view into the adjacent rooms from the deck and look out to the deck from those rooms.
     Not very long ago the consumer was told that the trend was to bring the outdoors in. That's still a good idea. Stone, brick, wood, concrete, tile and brick are used interchangeably indoors and out. Now, we are bringing the indoors out as we move the kitchen and living room onto the deck or patio. A complementary style transition is needed between these two environments. The outdoor furniture and accessory choices need to support the casual, functional, relaxed, low-maintenance lifestyle Americans desire, regardless of the design direction we choose.
     Manufacturers are listening and responding. Even the most well-known mass producers are now expanding their offerings to meet the needs of the consumer. The wing chair that cozies up to the fireplace in the family room is now available in all-weather wicker with a nice pillow that is in the same or coordinating pattern and color as the one inside. The consumer who likes traditional with a twist can have the same look in her deck furniture. Contemporary choices can be had in sleek sectionals and lounges. Euro country looks in the Tuscan or Provence kitchen can be duplicated by Janus et Cie, Dedon, Moroso or Roche Bobois. Casual contemporary is well-represented by the lifestyle purveyors Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.
     Furniture manufacturers Broyhill and Lane have joined the club with their traditional, middle-of-the-road lines. As have Ethan Allen and Thomasville, available through Home Depot. Even La-Z-Boy style recliners have made the transition. Weatherproof frames, impervious engineered foam cushions and massage features are available for outdoor use. Consumers can choose to express their personal style in Americana, Updated Traditional, Eclectic, Artisanal, Asian, Euro Contemporary or Country Modern. It's all out there and in there. The established manufacturers of outdoor furniture face a far more competitive field as interior purveyors join their ranks for a piece of the growing outdoor market. Opportunity knocks.
     In metals, black wrought iron or plain aluminum are no longer the only choices. As the popularity of oiled bronze, nickel and stainless steel climbs inside the home, so does the desire to use it outside. In addition to stainless in outdoor kitchens, these other finishes are showing up in furniture frames, lighting, railings and trim. Powder-coated frames and accessories widen the choices even more with brights, pastels, custom colors and finishes. Scranton Products' HDPE in hammered, brushed and contoured textures features metallics in bronze, stainless and nickel as hardwearing, low-maintenance materials suitable for furniture and cabinetry. Other new colors in wood tones round out the mix in this alternate material. Weathered teak looks great in plastic and maintains the desired finish - always.
     With the desire for performance fabrics for both inside and out, manufacturers such as Sunbrella have developed their lines to be used in both environments with soft hands, colors and patterns suitable for use on the chaise or the sofa. Even leathers have moved into high performance for exterior application. Names that have been well-known in interior design for textiles - including Sina Pearson, Chella and Donghia - are promoting their lines as suitable for exterior use. Restoration Hardware has teamed up with Perennials to make contract fabrics available to the consumer.
     The lovely exotic wood floors that have become de rigeur for interior applications are as desirable on the deck as they are inside. By duplicating the wood as decking, a room can be expanded right into the landscape. Teak and ipe are the most popular natural woods, but manufacturers of plastic decking, such as Azek, are making these colors as well as others that mimic high-end exotic wood. There seems to be little or no resistance to the manmade material, as it looks more and more natural. Maintenance is virtually nonexistent. This material can also be used in furniture, cabinetry and accessories, further promoting the duplication of indoor style preferences that are all-weather.
     Exterior design is shaped by the same techniques that are standard for interiors - balance, design tension, colorplay, formal/informal, rhythm and harmony, scale and proportion. The same hues, tones and shades used inside are translated outside and are influenced by environmental light aspects.
     Regional preferences, both inside and out, influence design selections. Those lucky enough to live in temperate climates have been blurring the lines between indoors and out for years.
     The connection to nature, family and friends entices people to move the gathering outside, while maintaining the same casual comfort and amenities we enjoy indoors. Interior and exterior design embrace the same color and style trends used to express the consumers' personal design statement.
     Outdoor living has grown far beyond its early trend status into an essential component of the new American home.

George Gehringer has more than 30 years of experience in the design of fashion décor and building products. Karen Pearlstein brings more than 30 years of experience in a variety of creative disciplines as well as strategic positions in marketing, advertising and sales. Now working with Exton, Pa.-based METAPHOR LLC, Gehringer and Pearlstein drew from their extensive experience in color and design trend forecasting to compile this report exclusively for Casual Living.

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