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Ray Allegrezza

The Indoors Move Out

As the outdoor room evolves

Ray AllegrezzaRay Allegrezza editor-in-chief
It seems like no matter which magazine you pick up, or which website you visit, the outdoor room is in and in big time.
     I recently read a number of stories about changes impacting tomorrow's home and every one mentioned one or more aspects of the outdoor room and/or outdoor living.
     One report sang the praises of outdoor living rooms and screened porches. After noting that the trend mushroomed a few years ago, it went on tell readers what you already know - that these spaces are continuing to take on more of the look, form and function of the indoor room.
     To that point, it also told consumers that as a result, more and more homeowners were spending large to furnish these areas with, "better furnishings, fire pits, curtains, and even televisions and audio systems."
     The report gave readers a fairly extensive update on the growing incidence of courtyards, and, in particular, how consumers are using them not only to achieve greater privacy, but greater energy efficiency with the help of energy-efficient windows and doors.
     It also pointed out how the rise of screened porches, particularly those with fireplaces, are not only helping to blur the lines between the indoor and outdoor room, but are also altering lifestyles by prompting consumers to use these livable spaces all year long.
     Another report focused on the growing number of consumers preparing their meals in their outdoor kitchens. The writer observed that there is a steady and growing interest in outdoor food preparation, from as simple as a grill to as elaborate as a high-end built-in cook's station.
     Another great tip, both for consumers and makers of outdoor furniture, came with the mention of the growing popularity of double- duty furniture. It was pointed out that as new homes continue to be scaled back in size - and with a growing number of baby boomers downsizing and moving into either smaller homes or condos - furniture needs to be able to perform double duty.
     Items that got specific mention - and would make perfect sense for outdoor use - were ottomans that can also be used either for seating and storage and articulating coffee tables that can double as dining tables.
     A third report identified "anything green and sustainable" as a much-sought-after element in the home, something makers of outdoor furniture should keep in mind as well.
     The report also identified handcraft ed elements as something very attractive to homeowners. Since the advent of lifestyle retailers such as Crate & Barrel, West Elm and others, furniture with the distinctive look of handcrafted artisanal pieces continue to find favor with consumers, especially those looking to achieve personalized looks.
     A fourth report on home trends noted that despite the trend toward smaller homes, consumers still have a healthy, if not growing, appetite for luxury goods and looks.
     While this has always been the case with affluent shoppers, much is being written about a new generation of as pirational shopper - a mid- to upper-middle income shopper who will take money from other household line items to buy an upscale item that resonates with her.
     This also seems to be a great opportunity for many of the suppliers of the outdoor room.
     The numbers are clearly pointing to an increasingly healthy housing market, improving employment and rising consumer confidence. The old saw about striking while the iron is hot has never been truer.

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