Chris Gigley -- Casual Living, 5/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
In the shifting climate Of a typical new England spring and summer, Cindy Palaro appreciates the steady performance high density polyethylene (HDPE) furniture provides. The owner of Sunline Patio & Fireside in Danvers, Mass., says she can leave it out in all sorts of weather without worrying about fading, cracking and other damage. Her customers are catching on to the relative maintenance-free appeal of HDPE, and they're not alone. HDPE furniture manufacturers across the board report sales increases over the past three to five years, when the recession stalled sales of almost everything else.
HDPE furniture is quickly evolving. In an effort to set themselves apart, manufacturers are diverging from the Adirondack style that has defined the category. New machining techniques create sleeker frames and smooth, rounded edges. Stronger plastics let them create new pieces, from sectionals to cabinets to gazebos. Meanwhile, manufacturers are learning more about working with HDPE, which has led to better color pigmentation in the plastic and improved UV and mold resistance.
The timing for this evolution couldn't be better. Emerging from the recession, more consumers are drawn to the durability of HDPE. To help with upcoming buying decisions, the following is a round-up of HDPE furniture manufacturers:
KEY WEST CASUAL FURNITURE
Key West Casual Furniture began selling Amish-made wood furniture in the Carolinas and Florida. Three years ago, it recognized a growing market for poly furniture and made the switch. Now, it makes an expanding line of high-end HDPE furniture in its Wilmington, N.C., factory. Its vertical operation allows Key West to constantly develop new items such as dining tables with alternate-color inlays and a chaise lounge with soft lines unique among other HDPE furniture lines. A deep seating line is on the horizon.
KEY WEST CASUAL FURNITURE/ keywestcasualfurniture.com
CR PLASTIC PRODUCTS
Launched in 1994, CR Plastic Products is a full-line, vertically integrated manufacturer of recycled plastic furniture. The company's proprietary process for molding chair parts instead of cutting parts from plastic sheets gives its Generation Line a factory finish with smooth, molded curves. This year, the company is adding a number of new products, including pedestal tables in three heights, cocktail and dining tables, and a pull-out foot stool for its Adirondack chair. Everything is available in 16 colors.
CR PLASTIC PRODUCTS/crproducts.com
Seaside Casual launched in 1996 in a Rhode Island lumber yard with a single mahogany Adirondack chair. Its line has since grown to more than 50 SKUs that includes deep seating chat sets, dining sets and outdoor bars. Every product in the current line is made from Envirowood, HDPE lumber the company introduced in 1999. Envirowood is made from recycled plastic bottles and containers treated with UV inhibitors that help minimize maintenance for the consumer.
SEASIDE CASUAL/ seasidecasual.com
GREAT AMERICAN WOODIES
In 2007, the company added poly resin furniture to its lines of southern cypress and western red cedar furniture. The durability of the poly resin furniture, the Lifestyle Collection, has been particularly popular with consumers who live in the Carolinas, Florida and other regions where moisture is an issue. Each piece is crafted to be comfortable with or without cushions. This year, Great American Woodies has added more table groupings and a high-back traditional rocker to the Lifestyle Collection.
GREAT AMERICAN WOODIES/ richeyind.com/gaw.htm
Telescope added HDPE furniture to its line in 2005, and the category has grown every year since. The main selling point is the design of the collections, none of which are Adirondack inspired as many other poly lines are. All the joinery is hidden to give its furniture a polished look. Telescope also uses a high-quality, marine-grade material that is 30% number-two recycled plastic. The quality of the HDPE material makes the furniture highly durable and vivid with consistent, fade-resistant color.
TELESCOPE CASUAL/ telescopecasual.com
After seven years of watching wholesale clients create outdoor furniture from its proprietary synthetic wood material, the plastics extrusion company Highwood USA launched its own furniture line in 2010. The main selling point of Highwood-brand furniture is the material, which has a more realistic wood-tone look than most HDPE furniture lines. And because of its semi-structural strength, the boards also allow Highwood USA to create gazebos and arbors for its highwood line.
Highwood USA/ highwood-usa.com
CASUAL LIVING UNLIMITED
Casual Living Unlimited has recycled post consumer plastics since 2003. In 2005 it began producing its own HDPE lumber at its plant in Lancaster, Pa., to make furniture under the Breezesta brand. Sales have grown steadily ever since, and now the line includes everything from benches to bar-height tables and chairs. Everything is available in 20 colors and comes with a lifetime warranty.
SELECT OUTDOOR KITCHENS
Polyfab Plastics & Supply, Inc. had produced extruding plastic products for more than 30 years when Mike Miller spearheaded the launch of the Select Outdoor Kitchens division in 2008. Its durable outdoor cabinetry comes in eight colors and a number of designs. All of it is crafted from Polyfab's King StarBoard ST, a HDPE material originally designed for the marine industry. Starboard is also highly scratch resistant and FDA-approved for food contact.
SELECT OUTDOOR KITCHEN/ selectoutdoorkitchens.com
MALIBU OUTDOOR LIVING
Malibu Outdoor Living was established in 2010 by Mike DiCenso, who focused solely on building outdoor furniture made from recycled HDPE. Its furniture designs combine the form and textures of traditional wood outdoor furniture with the durability and bold colors HDPE offers. Malibu adds strength to its furniture by using dadoes on certain pieces and pairing HDPE with powder-coated aluminum in all its dining tables.
MALIBU OUTDOOR LIVING/ malibu-outdoor.com
Founded in 1990 by Doug Rassi and Mark Phillabaum, Poly-Wood extrudes post-consumer bottle waste, such as milk and detergent bottles, into HDPE lumber at its 200,000-sq.-ft. facility in Indiana. The lumber includes UV-inhibited pigment systems, foaming compounds and other additives that give its furniture extra durability in rough climates. Poly-Wood now offers thousands of SKUs and ships a majority of its furniture next day.