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Cinde W. Ingram

Tips for creating outdoor rooms

Consumers looking for ideas to design outdoor rooms that suit their personal styles have more places to turn now that 2008 has arrived. Retailers awaiting innovative new grills, grill islands and accessories can expect to see them in action later this month at the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Expo in Atlanta.

If inspiration is lacking, retailers and consumers alike can refer to Leeda Marting's new book “Creating Outdoor Rooms.” Many of you know Leeda as the visionary retailer whose popular direct mail catalog and Web site have taken the concept of outdoor design far beyond Charleston Gardens, the Charleston, S.C. retail store she founded in 1994. Her book begins with a historical overview of outdoor rooms, a look at Charleston's piazzas and garden rooms, then moves quickly to explore the current popularity of outdoor living areas. She gives practical advice for homeowners and illustrates her words with more than 150 beautiful photos.

Dan Shimek, president and CEO of Fire Stone Home Products, continues to translate photographic dreamscapes through coordinated packages of pergolas, outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, grills and furniture to help both dealers and consumers create outdoor rooms. He's finding increased attention from homebuilders and home improvement centers.

Housewarmings Outdoors also is seeing strong growth by responding to homeowners' demands for customization. The Lexington, Ky.-based manufacturer encourages dealers to offer designer assistance, following the lead of its retail origin, a store described as the “luxury idea stop.” Although focused on regional growth now, the company's wholesale division has a long-term goal to go national.

Also inside this issue, you'll find a report on Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics, which has grown from the retail experience of the Leader's Casual Furniture chain in Florida. The recent expansion of the wholesale division's warehouse and its commitment to larger showroom spaces at major tradeshows demonstrate ways it is expanding to serve more retailers across the country.

Robb & Stucky is among the retailers responding to growth of the outdoor living category by creating more channels to interact with customers, with a new e-commerce portal on its Web site and its third catalog.

Bringing innovation and customer service together should result in outdoor living areas as diverse as the individuals who create them.

feedback? Send your comments to:

Cinde W. Ingram, Casual Living Editor in chief 7025 Albert Pick Rd., Suite 200, Greensboro, N.C. 27409 (phone)336-605-1122 (fax)336-605-1158 cwingram@reedbusiness.com

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