Thankfully, conventional wisdom regarding what is appropriate post-Labor Day has sensibly morphed over the past decade. Old rules about retiring white shoes past the unofficial end of summer now seem antiquated.
And though the squeals of children at neighborhood swimming pools have largely dimmed, much of the country is still basking in the kind of weather defined by blue sky days, (mostly) green tree canopies and outdoor grilling. Prime time for mosquito-free, exterior lounging and entertaining is upon us, accompanied by a host of exemplary outdoor furniture and accessories perfectly timed to tempt you to delay cleaning up your leaf-strewn yard and engage in watching those that still hang on to their branches turn color instead.
We have become a culture obsessed with living comfortably outside, and furniture retailers have taken note. Smart advancements in outdoor textiles, furniture frames and accessories (exponentially more durable and luxurious than what you probably grew up with) have propelled fresh offerings with a decidedly more contemporary, graphic and functional perspective designed to prolong the usefulness of your outdoor rooms well into sweater weather. With that in mind, here are some of the most worthy players of this fall’s outdoor offerings:
● The leather look: Variations on the neutral linen look have dominated exterior upholstery for several seasons now. It is a clean-lined, classic look that is understandably popular but also one that has veered toward predictable. To add an undercurrent of edge to your outdoor seating, new, white leather-look options (UV treated polyester in composition) make selecting this normally dirt-sensitive color both practical and interesting by being less porous and easier to wipe clean.
Against conventional social norms, white has become one of fall’s de facto colors. There is an unexpected presence that smooth white “leather” brings to outdoor lounge furniture, especially when tastefully paired with the heavy texture of woven, earth-toned resin wicker frames. The visual contrast between the two lends surprising sharpness to seating groups that is both cleaner and more joyful than textured linen, giving your exterior upholstery a subtle rock-and-roll lift.
● The outdoor bed: With fall comes perfect outdoor napping weather begging the question: Why sleep sideways on a shallow sofa when you can stretch out on an outdoor bed? With many substantial enough to accommodate the whole family (Fido included), outdoor beds offer a great way to hang out together (technology free) even while grabbing some shut-eye.
Most outdoor bed options come with canopies that provide privacy and shade during those bright, clear autumn days. And by sporting a noticeable structure, the outdoor canopy bed becomes a substantial visual anchor that is both easier to build and often less expensive than other yard anchor options such as custom fireplaces, fountains or pavilions.
● Throws and decorative pillows: Decorative pillows are nothing new to the outdoor home furnishings scene, but the latest options are devoted to upping your exterior luxury quotient. Supplanting cabana stripes and solids, new offerings sport graphic animal print and geometric patterns replete with upscale details such as looped fringe, embroidery and dimensional patterning more typically found on luxury indoor counterparts.
And to help ward off the evening chill, a wide variety of outdoor throws (great in easy-to-adapt diamond and herringbone patterns) have been introduced that drape beautifully while resisting mildew and fading.
● Rugs and drapery: An indoor room can seldom be called complete without a rug and drapery to add texture and visual warmth. The same can be said for outdoor rooms now that both are offered in materials durable enough to more successfully endure Mother Nature’s seasonal assaults. Rugs help anchor a space and are a prime opportunity to add both pattern and color, especially considering that many exterior spaces lack defining walls that usually do a lot of the interior heavy visual lifting.
Drapery, important for framing the inside of windows and lifting the eye up, helps refine exterior structures while implementing a soft, regulating architecture. What’s new about recent introductions is the prevalence of graphic geometric patterns and heavy visual textures that substantially raise the luxe quotient, further erasing the delineation between outside and in.
● Metal and wicker: Woven resin wicker furniture frames, introduced more than a decade ago, still seem fresh and timeless. They are a consumer favorite with the rare trifecta of being highly functional, great looking and easy to maintain. With color options broadened over the years and frame styles updated, this material continues to deliver on the performance and visual front through reinvention.
New this season is the addition of sleek metal detailing that delivers a more modern dimension. Metal frames and legs ranging from warm, satin nickel to super-polished chrome reawaken earth-toned resin wicker, making the old standby seem new. And the contrast between the smooth metal and the textured woven wicker makes each material more beautiful through the juxtaposition.
Summer may be diminishing into a barely perceptible speck in your rear-view mirror but that does not mean that it is time to pull out the outdoor furniture covers just yet. With so many luxurious exterior furniture and decor introductions to consider, make it your mission this autumn to discern which outdoor pieces offer ideal nap spots and which ones are more suited to reading the paper or chatting up the in-laws.
You may very well discover that a subtle rock-and-roll edge to your exterior sofa puts an unexpected smile on your face, and that having an outdoor rug underfoot is the ideal place-holder until that thick summer grass returns.
Vern Yip is an interior designer and star of “Bang for Your Buck” and “Live in Vern’s House” on HGTV. Originally from McLean, Va., Yip is based in Atlanta and New York. Follow him on Facebook (Vern Yip/Artist) Twitter and Instagram (both @VernYipDesigns). He writes occasionally for The Washington Post.