HIGH POINT — Homeowners rediscovered the joys of outdoor time during the pandemic, allowing friends and family to dine, relax and converse against a backdrop of fresh air, blue skies and every shade of green.
Fast forward a few years, and now, as interest rates rise, many homeowners are staying put in their existing homes and spending discretionary dollars on home furnishings for the great outdoors. According to Yardzen, an online landscape design company, 2023 is the year of backyard bliss, and one popular concept for outdoor spaces is the day-to-night yard, a space that allows play by day, dining by sparkling light at night and ample plantings to create a staycation paradise.
According to exclusive 2022 Furniture Today research, 68% of surveyed consumers have an outdoor entertaining space of some sort. Current top requests among Yardzen clients include long dining tables for large groups, outdoor bars, pizza ovens, outdoor lighting and heaters.
Outdoor furniture manufacturers are ready to accommodate buyers looking for distinctive outdoor furnishings in 2023. From luxe to affordable, there is an outdoor option for every consumer this year, and Furniture Today spoke with several brands ready to serve retailers.
The sweet spot definition
“Lexington will be introducing two new lifestyle collections under the Tommy Bahama Outdoor Living brand in the spring, and three additional collections in the fall,” said Phil Haney, president and CEO of Lexington Home Brands. “Each collection includes a broad assortment of dining, deep seating and occasional designs. Given the importance of the dining category, all collections feature rectangular and round dining configurations as well as bistro dining in both counter and bar height.
“Sophisticated consumers are looking for style, comfort and customization, and they’re also looking for flexible scaling options to accommodate their particular space,” he continued. “In each Tommy Bahama Outdoor Living collection, we offer rectangular dining to comfortably seat eight guests, as well as round dining that seats six. Bistro dining has become an extremely popular option, and each of our bistro designs adjusts to counter or bar height giving the client that flexibility.”
Lexington’s new outdoor collections include Stillwater Cover and Ocean Breeze Promenade. Stillwater Cove is described by company officials as a casual contemporary design crafted in sustainably sourced Indonesian teak that showcases clean architectural lines in a light taupe finish with ivory cerusing. Ocean Breeze Promenade is referenced as a casual coastal design highlighted by vertical herringbone weave in a fresh pearl white finish.
“The luxury outdoor category has experienced remarkable growth, and we fully anticipate that trajectory to continue,” Haney said. “The interesting dynamic is that many affluent consumers are placing equal or greater emphasis on their outdoor spaces relative to their interiors. Outdoor living areas have become a huge priority for the simple reason that consumers are spending more time outdoors, both living and entertaining.
He added that Lexington’s outdoor collections e luxury “defined by style, comfort and customization rather than price point.”
“While relative value is always important, styling comes first,” Haney said. “Product in our segment represents an aspirational purchase rather than a utilitarian one. Consumers are looking to create a design statement that facilitates an inviting and comfortable experience in their outdoor space.
“There are elements of fashion in our product presentation that make it distinctive: unique designs, hand-applied finishes, exceptional textiles and trims. Of equal importance is the power of the Tommy Bahama brand, which remains the most recognized and respected in the category.”
Stepping it up
At Agio–USA, Todd Wingrove, vice president of sales, said a 2023 “sweet spot” for the company is the Napili five-piece 48-inch round dining table and Alumicast swivel chairs. At an approximate retail cost of $2,499, Napili offers an upgrade from lower-priced sets, along with signature features.
“Our priority right now is pushing the product designs, making sure we are on the forefront of trends and ensuring the collections are going to be at a price point that’s attractive for consumers yet still works for our retailers,” Wingrove said. “In terms of specific collections, Sonata is sure to turn the most heads with its stylish shaping and porcelain tabletops, and Dylan is a comprehensive mixed media collection that provides an array of dining and deep seating options in a casually rustic presentation.”
Wingrove said Agios’s retail buyers are looking for dining sets with flexibility.
“Dining configurations have always been for very strong for our customer base, with us offering multiple options with every collection developed,” he noted. “These options range from small three-piece sets to oversized extension tables accommodating seating for 10.
“Forecasts are mixed right now, but many homeowners are going to want to upgrade the starter furniture that they purchased from big box stores,” Wingrove continued. “Overall, as the economy improves, we think people will get back into outdoor in a big way.”
When asked about delineating factors that can persuade a consumer purchase, Wingrove points back to quality and sustainability as well as product design.
“Agio has always been in a position of strength when it comes to quality product,” he said. “The quality-control team at the factories do an amazing job putting all of our designs through rigid in-house testing to ensure our quality and to maintain our historical low defective rates before production, as well as 100% inspection before packing. We continually see that the Agio furniture on a retailer’s floor are the first to sell through and that should continue.
“This (sustainability) continues to grow in importance, especially to younger consumers,” Wingrove said. “In 2018, Agio introduced Resysta to our outdoor furniture retailers, a product that has the look and feel of natural wood but doesn’t fade, splinter or gray like traditional wood products. Resysta is a sustainable and recyclable developed from raw material that we produce ourselves: predominately rice husks, sea salt and mineral oil.
“In July, we will be unveiling several new concepts including some unique Resysta material designs and fire pits.”
New high-end designs
Dining sets at Mamagreen retail between $12,000 and $25,000, and Mark Osborne, director/residential sales, says that form and function align in the company’s introductions and bestsellers for 2023.
“For a new spin on the traditional picnic setting, we’ve introduced Begonia,” Osborne said. “A rounded shape for intimacy and a faux leather with hand-stitched seams makes this atypical and luxe. Titan is our new classic parson style table available both with a raw-edge teak top, and Estate is our first fully teak collection, also available with a high-pressure laminate inset top and in a square formatted option, allowing for a double host setting on all sides.”
Osborne anticipates that there will be continued consumer demand for expandable and round options in dining, both with capacity to accommodate large parties. He pointed to the company’s bestselling Maxximus and Baia as examples and noted three strong selling points for outdoor retailers.
“Availability — often the outdoor purchase is saved until the beautiful weather is upon us,” said Osborne. “In-stock programs are key to maximizing sales for any brand.
“Maintenance — HPL has wide appeal to most clients in the U.S. as it is easy to clean and fade resistant. Teak will always be a standard for those who appreciate its beauty as it ages or are willing to do the work to maintain a new look.”
Lastly, Osborne espouses the importance of flexibility as a strong selling point. “Few brands are committed to customization the way Mamagreen is,” he said “Many of our clients appreciate the freedom to modify an existing collection by making a piece longer, higher, wider.”
Regardless of desired price point and preferred style, outdoor furnishings that help buyers build their day-to-night backyard are likely to be at the top of the consumer’s shopping list this year. And while created for immediate enjoyment of family members and friends, these outdoor dining spaces can also enhance property values and warm-weather lifestyles for years to come.