week we look at the latest in outdoor living. We start with
the history of outdoor furniture. We then take a look at
cooking centers, outdoor rooms, outdoor fireplaces and the
latest in outdoor furniture and talk about designing with
these new concepts and look at the latest in fabrics and
Outdoor furniture got its start at the
turn of the 20th century. Resorts, hotels and the wealthy
were typically the only groups that had this furniture.
Adirondack chairs, which are still around today, and the
more formal, wicker, also similar today, were the primary
options. After World War II metal chairs, tubular aluminum,
as well as directors chairs came into vogue. From the 60's
through the 80's plastic furniture was introduced, it all
was similar, didn't have a lot of style and didn't change
much during this time. Starting in the 90's we began to
see outdoor furniture become more stylish, more deep seated,
more comfortable. The emphasis was less on dining and more
on lounging and entertaining. This has led to the outdoor
room era, it is more a designed space. It's gone beyond
the furniture and now involves lamps, draperies, rugs, everything
that would be incorporated into an indoor space is available
Jim Gordon is our expert today and shares
his knowledge with us. Jim's store has 4 separate backyard
home facades allowing one to visualize furniture in one's
own backyard. There is a Country French, a Natchez Trace,
a Mediterranean porch and a traditional Georgian home.
One way to create intimacy, a sense of
enclosure is to put walls around everything, a kind of closet
effect. Another way to create this effect is to put a ceiling
or roof overhead. A cantilever umbrella creates this effect.
This umbrella is an 11 1/2 foot umbrella. It doesn't have
a pole, thus the center is opened up, creating much more
livable space. It has a 200 pound base off to the side so
it won't blow over easily. The umbrella can be raised or
lowered with one hand. By adding a mosquito net and some
outdoor lighting it becomes very intimate and a wonderful
space for dining at dusk when Mosquitoes become a problem.
As well, it allows one to be outdoors more of the year.
A gazebo is another way to create an outdoor
room. Most are familiar with the wooden style, we look at
one that is galvanized steel. The steel can be left natural
or painted. When it rusts it develops a rich patina, but
will never rust all the way through because it is galvanized
steel. It also serves as a primer coat and can be painted
any imaginable color. It is almost 15 feet across and has
a squared pattern. It assembles in about 2-3 hours.
In this gazebo is a table and 4 chairs.
They are 6 inches shorter than traditional dining groups.
By doing this it becomes a conversation group, it allows
one to sit around have dinner and drinks. Talking is easier
because one doesn't have to look through dishes, glasses,
etc. It creates a more comfortable, laid back environment.
In our yards where we have brick, stone
or pebbles, even mulched areas weeds are constantly growing,
creating a nuisance. A weed killer is often used but the
results are temporary. This season there are some new products
available, these products kill weeds for one whole season.
It is a combination of very fast killing ingredients and
some that last for a long time. It keeps your patio areas
weed free for a year.
One of the mottos we hear today is "instead
of going out, simply go outside." A nice outdoor environment
makes staying at home more enjoyable. We look at an outdoor
cooking center. It is not only a great place for men but
women like it as well. The grill is very solid, double wall
stainless steel, three gas burners, plus two infrared burners.
The system is similar to that used at Ruth Chris Steak House.
The burners will reach 1,000 degrees in less than six minutes.
As well it has storage drawers and a sound system. It is
modular, thus goes together easily, in three hours one can
be cooking. It has a galvanized steel frame and all the
components are stainless steel. The facade is either stamped
concrete and porcelain tile, which is frost proof, brick
which is available in red brick or washed brick or a taupe
or gray stone. The options allow one to match the architecture
of their home.
A hot topic for garden areas today is
having a source of heat, there is something special about
having a crackling, popping fire in the background. This
fireplace is modular, it has three pieces. It has a porcelain
tile hearth and has 18 inches of airspace, hollow construction,
allowing one to place this fireplace right on a deck. It
is available in four colors of stamped concrete. A fireplace
is nice when it's cool, but also welcome when it's a little
warmer with higher humidity. Outdoor fireplaces are ideal
dehumidifiers, they pull moisture out of the air.
Arbor, trellis and pergola are confusing
terms to many. A trellis is a two dimensional object, it
might be placed on a wall for climbing vines, etc. An arbor
can be two or three dimensional but is usually used as an
archway, an entrance to a garden, is an example. A pergola
is a free standing object that really defines an outdoor
space. A pergola kit is available, this one is 12 by 12.
Typically they can be found in two materials vinyl or wood.
Vinyl can't be painted, wood attracts termites and mold.
The latest version is epoxy resin and marble dust. It can
be set up in three hours, no need to tear up the backyard.
It's paintable and bugs aren't a worry. It's warrantied
for 20-25 years and seems to wear like iron.
One of the most important activities in
any garden is watering the plants Some have automated systems
but many of us like to have more control and use a hose.
Hoses leak as they get old, the part that attaches to the
faucet and the part that connects to the nozzle frequently
get run over, then break. There a new hoses on the market
that have softer couplings that minimize this problem Another
difficulty is controlling the water flow away from the faucet.
There is a new device called a hydrodial that allows one
to control the water flow away from the faucet. It clamps
down on the hose allowing one to completely turn the water
off or to allow the water to flow like a drip irrigation
system. It's a great way to control water flow at the source
as opposed to running all the way back to the faucet.
In today's market there are many new materials
for outdoor furniture. These materials allow greater flexibility
and beauty. Many of the materials such a Teak, Cypress and
Wicker have been around for some time. There have been improvements
made, for example, today there is not only natural wicker
but synthetic wicker. We have extruded aluminums, hand worked
metals, etc. The materials are what make patio furniture
so exciting today.
When we think of patio furniture we often
think of the old PVC chairs. Today they put in pigments,
add striations on the surface and it looks and feels like
Bamboo. This furniture is full weather, meaning it can stay
out year round. The strapping is vinyl making it impervious
to the weather as well. It has a finished, beautiful look.
The cushions are "drain through." It has a drain
built into the cushion bottom and an acrylic fabric, this
particular cushion has painted acrylic fabric and will keep
its color even when outside for a long time. The cushion
is poly fill, Decron from Dupont. It is plush, substantial
and solid. The cushions don't need to be brought inside,
they also can be left outside year round. From completely
soaked to being able to sit on the cushions takes about
half an hour.
Another furniture material is extruded
aluminum. It looks similar to tortoise shell, like something
on sunglasses. The finish is applied in two stages and done
by hand. The swirls are created with human thumbs. There
are gold medallions on the back of the chairs and gold inlay
on the feathering. It is very ornamental. If the paint were
to be knocked off, if it were to get knicked, it could be
touched up; but since it's aluminum it won't rust, it will
last. It's strong and well made.
Another material is cast aluminum. It
has a lot of detail resulting from the sand casting process,
it is poured into molds. It is very heavy making it ideal
for someone living on the coast where there might be very
strong winds, perfect for a third or fourth floor balcony,
it shouldn't blow off during high winds. It's beautiful,
won't rust because it's aluminum and as close to zero maintenance
as you'll find.
When one thinks of the Northeast, one
thinks of Teak furniture. Teak is a natural hard wood, it
has a closed pore, making it the type of wood that lasts
for years. It is amazingly smooth, almost a creamy smooth.
Over time it turns a silvery gray color. Teak combined with
other natural materials is gaining in popularity. An end
table is an example, it has a Teak top and natural wicker
The word wicker means woven. Thus Rattan
can be called natural wicker. One couch is split reed rattan
on a natural hardwood frame. The natural rattan on a hardwood
frame must remain under cover, it can be outside, but undercover,
on a porch, in a sun room, etc. The hardwood frame is the
determining factor, if left in exposed elements over time
it will deteriorate. There are several types of wicker.
There are synthetic wickers, vinyl wrapped aluminum wicker,
resin wrapped aluminum wicker both of these types of wicker
are full weather wicker, they can be placed on the deck,
completely exposed to the elements. There is a natural wicker
with a stainless steel wire woven into it, it has an aluminum
frame and it too is full weather. These new and improved
wickers will last a long time.
Carpets or rugs are now available for
outdoors. One is made of spun plastic, basically it is derived
from recycled soda containers. This rug is available in
a wide range of colors. It can be ordered to match seat
Thank you Jim. You have opened our eyes
to a new area of outdoor living. No longer is outdoor furniture
dull and drab. It's as attractive as the nicest indoor furniture
and it's durable. Jim uses the term "heirloom quality
World of Outdoor Living
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