Home & Garden

Outdoor furniture fits people downsizing homes

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The makers of outdoor furniture are very much in tune with the uncertain economic times.

Their collections for spring and summer focus on "dazzling color to brighten our moods, plush comfort to ease our tension and increased value to minimize the impact on our wallets," said Jackie Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance in High Point, N.C.

Cheerful reds and yellows are key colors for 2010, along with calming shades of leaf green and watery blue.

"And the season's most vivid fabrics provide a dramatic contrast to new bright-white frames that are adding a contemporary twist to traditional styling," Hirschhaut said.

Comfort features include deep cushioning with outdoor foams that resist damp and mildew, along with rocking and reclining options. New synthetics that look like natural materials add durability to many products.

Lightweight, non-rusting aluminum frames are teamed with materials that look like wood or wicker, but are much tougher.

And several new sofa, bench and swing designs offer "individualized" seats, where each seat can be independently operated to rock, recline or remain upright and stationary.

There also is a trend away from large, traditional pieces, said Greg Donelson, sales and operations manager for Robb & Stucky's patio division.

As more homeowners move into smaller houses and condos, designers of outdoor furniture are responding to the downsizing movement.

"Sectionals are not so overbearing. Styling is more contemporary, with a smaller scale and cleaner lines," Donelson said.

For homeowners wanting to splurge on a single item, he predicts daybeds with canopies will be popular for their "wow factor." Some include a variety of reclining options and even a built-in massage function -- along with solar panels to recharge the battery that operates the mechanisms.