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Lush colors, designs bring indoor settings to great outdoors

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

efore you decide to run to the store and buy new patio furniture, check your budget - and your design style.

Manufacturers are strutting out bold pieces that can do double duty indoor or out. Sectional sofas are taking center stage in collections. Overstuffed cushions, custom fabrics, tassels and trims are now becoming the norm alongside chairs that look like they belong in the family room and tables carved from glamorous granite slabs and manufactured synthetic stones.

The new "outdoor room" has taken on a new meaning with homeowners - it's an extension of their home.

"People take a lot of pride in the patio. That's the room that everyone in the neighborhood can see. It's becoming a design statement," says Marci Buckiso, co-owner and design consultant of The Fireplace and Patioplace.

One of the big outdoor trends this season is accessories. Everything from tables to lamps to privacy screens tailored to match cushions is all the rage. But before you start with the small stuff, you need great furniture to end up with a great look.

Manufacturer Brown Jordan, in business since 1945 and whose original "luxury leisure collections" marked the birth of outdoor furniture, sets the standard for the industry. The company creates pieces in cast, wrought and extruded aluminum; stainless steel, resin weave and teak wood.

Seamless welds, alternative tabletops of granite or synthetic stone and stunning architectural lines in every design style are the hallmarks of the dozens of collections that look and feel good from every angle.

One look at the Asian-inspired Fusion collection and you'll be tempted to make it your new living room suite. Lovers of the modern and minimalist look will gravitate to the Nxt collection constructed of stainless-steel square frames with see-through sling-style seat backs and bottoms in primary colors that appear to float in the frame.

Next in line is Lloyd and Flanders. Its new "Rendezvous" collection features outdoor sectional seating made of dark, hand-woven all-weather vinyl on aluminum frames with sleek, deep lines that can be rearranged to meet virtually any entertaining need. Customers can choose cushions designed from 160 all-weather acrylic fabrics.

Winston, a mid-priced line, offers various designer collections with a sling design seat that can be replaced with various woven blend fabrics in a multitude of solid, stripe and textured designs to meet homeowners' needs for years to come.

If you love cast-iron and aluminum furniture with intricate scrollwork, you'll want to check out Hanamint, whose finishes in various colors weather well and look elegant and stately in any setting.

Target now carries Smith and Hawken's trademark hefty teak and outdoor hardwood collections that are guaranteed not to blow off the patio. Alongside, you'll find other collections in basic wicker and sling styles.

Kmart is still having success with Martha Stewart's Everyday Garden Collection, which features pieces in all-weather wicker and rust-free aluminum. Sam's Club and Costco, meanwhile, offer their own brands in woven resins, cast products and wood.

Over at Ikea, easy and breezy are the buzzwords. The Swedish retailer is showing cushions in fun bright colors like blue and orange that sit on basic white, outdoor teak or aluminum frames - family-friendly and easy on the budget.

Buckiso says there are other clever ways to make a statement.

"When upgrading indoor countertops to granite, customers are ordering an extra slab for an outdoor table."

This enhances the indoor/outdoor transition, especially if the patio is off the kitchen. She also has a healthy business from customers ordering new cushions as a way to update an older but still useful patio set.

"Fabrics can be pulled to coordinate existing or new indoor decor. Custom cushions cost about half the price of new furniture, making it another smart choice."

All of these choices come with a cost, but Buckiso finds that customers are no longer surprised by the price tag these days. A properly done space will easily run into a few thousand dollars. She advises customers to develop a long-term design plan, consider the cost of the investment and deal with a company that offers service for the future.

"A well-selected and designed patio should be totally useful, enjoyable and calling your family outside for years to come," she says.

Finding Furniture

Garden Ridge

1887 Willowtrail Parkway,

Norcross, 770-921-1833

www.gardenridge.com

This home and garden superstore stocks patio furniture, as well as cushions and other accessories for outdoor rooms.

Georgia Backyard

1955 Mall of Georgia Blvd., Buford, 770-831-6441

www.georgiabackyard.com

At this store, customers can find a large selection of outdoor furniture, as well as grills, fire pits, hammocks and spa tubs.

Parrs Indoor and Outdoor Furniture

3086 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, 770-923-3153

www.parrsfurniture.com

This store offers outdoor furniture made from wicker, rattan, wood, aluminum and wrought iron.