It wasn’t long ago that homeowners and interior designers were focused on bringing the outdoors inside, with large windows and furnishings designed to incorporate nature into the home.
Now, the hot trend is to bring the inside out.
Weatherproof mattresses in hardy teak, metal or woven resin frames are landing this season at retailers across the land, ready for snoozing al fresco. Called sun beds, daybeds or lounges, they are a new category of outdoor furniture, sporting amenities such as mildew-resistant cushion covers and mosquito-netting canopies.
People are spending so much money building outdoor living areas, with open air kitchens and large screen TVs in the wall, that it’s only natural furniture makers have followed suit, says Travis Gilinsky, of Toys for the Home in Medford.
“It seems like the whole house is emptying into the back yard,” agrees Stephanie Yonkers, a spokeswoman for Crate and Barrel.
Besides the bedroom, all-weather furnishings for the formal dining room, kitchen, home theater, wet bar and even the shower are now on the market.
There has been a sharp rise in the popularity of outdoor living space, according to a survey done last year by the American Institute of Architects, with two-thirds of architects reporting an increase in demand for outdoor kitchens, patios and decks. “We are coming off of probably the biggest home improvement surge in our history,” says Kermit Baker, the institute’s chief economist.
The outdoor living room started setting up on our patios, decks and courtyards a decade ago. For Smith & Hawken, the furnishing of the back yard began with the humble garden bench, says Jennifer Sypeck, Smith & Hawken’s director of trend and product development. As the years progressed, customers wanted much, much more. “They wanted not just to sit, but to lounge.”
Soon, suburbanites were drinking martinis around glowing fire pits and impressing neighbors with their macho monster stainless grills. Consumers accessorized with every conceivable indoor gadget and embellishment that was made weather-impervious: umbrellas, chandeliers, rugs, lamps, wall art. Now, the outdoor bedroom.
“People are watching shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” where every time they redo a backyard, they put in a huge grill and a swimming pool and lots of seating,” Yonkers says. “Everyone wants to be as comfortable outside as they are inside.”
Gilinsky, of Toys for the Home, says it’s not uncommon for people in the Rogue Valley to spend $20,000 or $25,000 “without batting an eye” outfitting their patio with dishwashers, icemakers, custom sinks, bars with Italian tile tops, even thatched palapas that rise up out of the furniture to provide a tropical touch.
Cinde W. Ingram, managing editor of industry publication Casual Living, estimates that $6.2 billion is being spent annually on outdoor furniture, accessories and grills. “People want to get back outside, away from office lighting and office settings,” she says.
Flip through one of the summer home catalogs and see the lineup of beds that don’t have to be made, just hosed down. From Restoration Hardware, the Del Mar Daybed is a towering four-poster in espresso hand-woven resin with a queen-size mattress that’s available in a dozen Sunbrella fabric options.
Smith & Hawken has introduced the tasteful teak Royal Hall Sunbed with a thick olive-colored mattress piled high with oversize bolsters and pillows.
Sears is offering its first outdoor bed, a resin wicker Sahara Garden Oasis Daybed with a fade- and mildew-resistant mattress and built-in storage drawers, all swathed in mosquito netting.
Lowe’s even has an old-fashioned glider that morphs into a twin bed.
Upscale manufacturer Tuuci, whose work is often found in high-end hotels, is selling resort living at home. Its exotic Bali bed has marine-grade construction, a luxurious seven-inch-thick mattress and an optional sunroof, although its size might overpower all but the most palatial properties.
HomeLife writer David Smigelski contributed to this story.