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Bright colors and textures wake up the floor

How do you make stripes even hotter than they are now? If you are Michelle Martin, co-owner of the Kolo Collection in Atlanta, you miter them together to create extraordinary geometric designs.

"I'm doing a lot of mitering and my customers love it. The designers do too," Martin said. "It takes stripes up a notch and turns them into something completely different."

The Kolo Collection specializes in creating a customized look that appeals to designers and style-conscious consumers. But not every specialty dealer needs to be as attuned to fashion as Martin is to recognize the outdoor fabric available today is changing the industry. One hundred percent solution-dyed acrylic has become the norm, and the focus is now on color, texture and trim.

"The fabrics are awesome," Martin said. "They don't even feel like acrylic."

"Bright" is the frequent comment from retailers describing their showrooms these days. But, as with other trends, just how bright "bright" is varies from location to location. For Martin, it means brilliant orange, or orange and yellow stripes and combinations of lime green and soft blue — all of which are hot sellers for her. She considers red, still a big leap for many consumers, "safe."

"People are more cautious of color inside, but outside they are willing to go bolder," she said. "I tell them, why not do something you wouldn't do indoors? Everyone I'm working with is doing that and having a really good time with it."

For consumers in some other parts of the country, "bright" is using red, orange and burgundy to accent the neutrals and earth tones. The Midwest in particular continues to be more conservative when it comes to color.

"Everything is still predominantly earth tones, but there are variations now like a brown and deep red stripe," said Steve Remerowski, owner of Flower City, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Remerowski sees a greater willingness to go with bolder colors and designs on replacement cushions and accent pillows than in the base fabric for a set. His customers also might go with a neutral base color on a sofa and a bolder color on the side chair.

Kay Wilkinson, buyer for Maschino's Home Expressions in Springfield, Mo., reports a similar trend among her customers, as does Marc McDonald, owner of Leisure Living in Salt Lake City.

"With the deep seating, we stay neutral but add color with bright umbrellas and accent pillows," Wilkinson said.

"I think the industry wants to go more toward color, but I don't see my customers jumping that way," McDonald said. "The more conservative colors still seem to be most popular. The taupe rib still seems to be our home run."

Texture brings the inside look outside no matter what the colors. McDonald will show several pieces with chenille fabric for 2005 and expects them to be well received.

"I think the chenilles will be very powerful," he said. "They have a fabulous look and great durability and cleanability."

Christy Sports, headquartered in Lakewood, Colo., does well with the linen-look fabrics. But here, too, earth tones still rule.

"In Colorado, the preference is for the earth tones and the darker colors like the expressos and pewters," buyer Al Panicucci said. "I would say that the brighter fabrics will be about a quarter of my buy."

As the innovations in outdoor fabric upgrade the hand to that of indoor fabric, so too is the price moving up. For Martin's customers, price isn't an issue, "especially when the fabric looks so much better," she said.

But Remerowski's customers feel differently. "We may dabble in one or two of the expensive-grade fabrics just to have them as an option, but I don't think they will ever be big here," he said. "When our customers hear that a fabric will add another $80 to $100 per cushion, they will tend to go with a less expensive grade and add throw pillows for a different look."

Price is less of an issue at Georgia Backyard, Atlanta. For 2005, the specialty chain is stepping up its stripes while getting away from florals as a base fabric.

"We're going with a lot of reds and other bright colors," said Maureen Recchia, accessory buyer and showroom designer. "It is going to wake up the floor, especially for spring."

With the emphasis on lots of color, Recchia is also appreciative of the vendors that now group colors and coordinating accent fabrics. "It makes it so easy for the salespeople doing special orders, even those who might not be very comfortable with the fabrics," she said.

In addition to the greater range of fabric grades to choose from, other options are also helping specialty retailers engage their customers' interest. For example, at Apenberry's in Winter Park, Fla., customers are taking advantage of being able to mix and match fabrics.

"Our customers love the different customization options," owner Lisa Apen said. "For example, with Laneventure, you can do different fabrics on the back and the seat of the cushion, and then add another fabric with a throw pillow. My customers also like using a different color on the cushion piping, which is something Kingsley-Bate and others offer."

While adding various trim to cushions and accent pillows adds style and texture, Martin sees a downside. "The trim traps the dirt," she said. "A lot of people ask for it, then they come back to me and tell me to take it off, because that is where the dirt is collecting."

While other specialty dealers may think that the advantages of the trim outweigh this disadvantage, they all agree on the importance of innovation in outdoor fabrics.

"The better the fabrics get, the better off we all are," McDonald said.

P/Kaufmann Outdoor, Pacific Wave in Navy
Construction: Polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
QualFab, Ele St. Lucia in Aquamarine
Construction: 100% Polysateen.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Fabric Tent, Aquarius in Navy
Construction:100% Solution-dyed acrylic jacquard.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Duracord Textiles, Calypso in Aqua
Construction: 100% Duracord.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas, hammocks, swings.
Solarium by John Wolf, Delius in Pool
Construction: Spun polyester. Uses: Replacement cushions.
Weave Corp., U16582
Construction: 100% Enhpol
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
WHS Sales, Hibiscus in Denim from the Veranda Collection
Construction: Polyester Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Maco, Cameroon Black
Construction: Spun polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Cone Jacquards, Tropical Heatwave
Construction: 100% acrylic.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Solarium by John Wolf, Searay
Construction: 100% Acrylic.
Uses: Cushions.
Waverly, Somerset Botanical in Gold, Colonial Williamsburg Images of Nature Collection
Construction: 100% Spun polyester. Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
QualFab, Haze
Construction: Polysateen.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Covington Industries, Flamingo in Oregano
Construction: 100% Spun polyester. Uses: Cushions, pillows.
Sunbury Textile Mills, Batik Palm
Construction: 100% Sunbrella acrylic. Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Sunbrella, Pablo in Marsh
Construction: 100% Acrylic.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
QualFab, Ebony
Construction: Polysateen.
Uses: Cushions.
Sunbury Textile Mills, P391946
Construction: 100% Sunbrella acrylic. Uses: Cushions.
Fabric Tent, Lunar in Beige
Construction: 100% Solution-dyed acrylic jacquard.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Duracord Textiles, Mountain Lodge in Rustic
Construction: 100% Duracord.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas, hammocks, swings.
Maco, Beckwith Stripe in Sand
Construction: Spun polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Shuford Mills, Harbour in Seaglass
Construction: Outdura solution-dyed acrylic. Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Cone Jacquards, Abella
Construction: 57% Olefin, 43% Polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Phifer Wire Products, Boxes and Swirls
Construction: PVC and Taslan
Uses: Cushions, slings and umbrellas.
Carolina Specialty Fabrics, Mirage, Shangri-La Collection
Construction: Solution-dyed acrylic and bamboo.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
WHS Sales Corp., Morocco II in Sand, Escapes Collection
Construction: Polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Sunbrella, Villette Rococco
Construction: 100% Solution-dyed acrylic.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Twitchell Corp., Hawaii
Construction: Textilene and acrylic.
Uses: Slings, cushions, umbrellas.
QualFab, Omni Flip Flop in Lime
Construction: Spun polyester.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Fabric Tent, Pisces in Yellow
Construction: 100% Solution-dyed acrylic jacquard.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.
Duracord Textiles, Paradise Grove in Fiesta
Construction: Duracord.
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas, hammocks, swings.
Weave Corp., U16381C
Construction: 100% Enhpol
Uses: Cushions, umbrellas.

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