Staff Staff -- Casual Living, April 16, 2011
The 1889 bistro design from FermobUSA, available in 24 colors, adds color to urban outdoors. Photo by Carolina Briel for Fermob
As the enjoyment of residential and commercial outdoor spaces grows each year, innovations and product introductions continue to surge..
The market today for outdoor living encompasses not only suburbia, but urban dwellers alike. with the added trends in downsizing and centralizing, the potential for urban style or smaller-scale outdoor living products is tremendous.
"A large portion of condominium and townhouse owners have downsized from singlefamily homes," said john rushing, owner of Blue star group, palatine, ill. "yet, they want to keep the outdoor leisure living they've previously enjoyed."
Historically, urban outdoor spaces and decorating for balconies, terraces or small patios has taken a backseat to the market being served with bigger and deeper products. however, this may be changing.
"Where I live in downtown toronto, i'm surrounded by people who are always trying to make the most of every square inch." said james casey, designer and co-founder of casual furniture company steve&james. "urbanites yearn for a little backyard oasis just as much as those in the suburbs, but in the city you either have a small backyard, a condo balcony or a little rooftop space."
Architecture and a minimalist tendency have been the inspirations for urban casual furnishings from Zuo modern, san leandro, calif. "not everyone has a big backyard, but everyone needs a good-looking outdoor area," said luis ruesga, ceo, Zuo modern.
Urban areas are seen by Zuo modern as its core market, and its designs reflect the style, purpose and people of those areas. "our market is young, modern families looking for affordable, cool furniture with the need of great design for a reasonable price," ruesga said. "our outdoor collection has more than 250 pieces and the majority of them are designed for small to medium spaces."
Zuo modern's cabo dining set is one such design created to play off urban architecture and fit not only with size, but with the ability to take in the view from urban patios or decks.
"The cabo offers a comfortable seating experience and a 360- degree swivel mechanism that could be used as a club chair or in a dining set," ruesga said.
"Urban design is all about combining minimal or vintage with contemporary and hightech elements," said marcia Blake, outdoor designer and president of outdoor interiors.
"The features in the outdoor furniture mimic the architecture of the urban dwelling.
"It is essential to have furniture with a narrower dimension and higher seating to permit groupings and allow views to be the focal point of a balcony," Blake said. "counter- and barheight tables and chairs enable the urban dweller to enjoy all aspects of the scenery." Blake also views modular deep seating as desirable due to its multiple arrangement options.
The ability to group and coordinate pieces, colors, tones and textures is found throughout outdoor decor, but is essential when space is limited.
"Depending on the individual needs of the (steve&james) customer, we wanted to provide the opportunity to pick items from a variety of our collections and create a space that works well together," casey said, explaining his company's considerations when designing such models as its Amanda Bistro chairs and table. "everything in our product line was designed to work together."
Blue Star Group
"Neutrals are very popular in these limited spaces, with the finishing touches of colorful accessories that add that pop of color," Blake said. the outdoor designer sees the use of umbrellas, accent pillows, uniquely shaped vases in matching hues and other accessories to introduce color into urban decor.
Kathy peterson, outdoor designer, television personality and creator of the Inspirations by Kathy Peterson casual furniture line, sees the potential for color no matter the size of the outdoor space.
"I'm seeing outdoor furniture in lots of unexpected bright colors," Peterson said. "Consider portable and sturdy folding wood chairs that can be stored away if space is limited." Wall art or fabrics are seen by Peterson as ways to soften, or add texture or depth to limited areas. Peterson's line of folding wooden chairs can be used as a group or to add color and temporary extra seating that easily folds away when not in use.
If anyone knows about adding color to urban outdoors, it is FermobUSA. Slender bistro chairs and tables, based on the company's 1889 design, are available in 24 colors and can be found throughout urban settings as well as in demanding contract applications. "Generally, all of our products are smaller in scale due to European influences, but we are leaders in the color palette area," said Tom Tucker, sales manager for FermobUSA.
Made from recycled materials, FermobUSA's products are primarily sold through designers, retails outlets and architects. They appear in numerous parks in New York City, sports stadiums and universities. "Our products appeal to restaurants and higher-end establishments and sales have stayed strong throughout the recession due to brand recognition and prominence in public," Tucker said.
RESPONDING TO SMALL REQUESTS
Off-the-Wall Brella and Terrace- Mates, manufactured by Rushing's Blue Star Group, are also popular for use by restaurants with limited sidewalk spaces. It was a request from a favorite aunt that led to the compact products' creation.
"The condo association prohibited awnings or other shade products from being attached to her building, and a traditional umbrella just didn't fit," Rushing said. "We found a way to add form to function."
Rushing designed the half umbrellas and smaller dining sets to add shade and seating to his aunt's balcony, and thus began an urban success story. "Since the initial introduction of our Off-the-Wall Brella and Terrace-Mates, we have seen our efforts toward providing convenient and stylish products for the urban outdoor market flourish."
Creating a unique space-saving design was also the inspiration for Skyline Design's Lana bistro set, based on rattan and wicker style honeymoon bistro collections.
"The chairs nesting underneath the table make this grouping perfect for any balcony or small outside dining area," said Judith Calzadilla, vice president, Skyline Design. "Our target is residential consumers who have balconies that do not offer large areas of space."
Skyline Design's contract division offers the Lana to hotels, restaurants and bars worldwide in response to requests for simple and hassle-free bistro options to fit small spaces.
Calzadilla's company also has found strength in sales throughout metropolitan areas in the United States and Europe.
The Cabo from Zuo Modern provides contemporary comfort where space is limited.
Thinking small has created big success in the casual furnishings field, with additional introductions planned for many manufacturers.
"We have broadened the line with good-looking and affordable dining sets and accessories to fit that market's needs," Blue Star Group's National Sales Manager Bruce Bassett-Powell said. "Every day, the market tells us we're on the right track."
Blue Star Group is looking to increase sales with the addition of all-weather wicker and cast aluminum options.
Staying true to its European and Spanish designs is a key for expansion of Skyline Design's collections. Traditional bistro sets suitable for smaller urban spaces are in development.
Steve&James also plans to build upon the potential held in smaller-scale products. "We have another two or three bistro collections as well as some space-smart lounge and dining sets coming out for 2012," Casey said. "We're looking at clever ways product can be grouped together, set up or stowed away at a moment's notice, as well as bringing more punch with colors and patterns to build a line that's perfect for condo balconies, cozy backyards and skyline rooftops."
In a climate of seeking every avenue to grow sales, opportunities are available for casual retailers and designers to take advantage of decorating urban outdoor spaces. Capitalizing on urban outdoor products offers a sales potential that is anything but small.
An open and airy space-saving design, Lana from Skyline Designs has been successful in urban markets.