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Spring ahead with gray furniture, purple flowers and other outdoor trends

Is this the season to invest in some new patio furniture? Dreaming of serving dinner under the stars? Whether your outdoor living space is large or small, make this the year to make it as comfortable and inviting as your favorite indoor space.

Here are just five trends to watch for as spring arrives (and scroll to the end for information on two local events - the Buffalo Home Show and the Plantasia garden and landscape show):

1. Gray finishes on outdoor furniture

Gray has been a popular color in interior design for some time now so it should come as no surprise that it’s moving outdoors. According to a recent trends report from the High Point, N.C.-based American Home Furnishings Alliance, “after years of brown as a dominant color, shades of gray are increasingly peeking through as a more popular finish.”

Whatever color you choose, the trend is toward mixing rather than matching. “Manufacturers are offering pieces that incorporate several different elements such as aluminum, wicker and teak, as well as groups that pair, for example, wicker seating with iron and wood tables,” the AHFA reports.

Gray aluminum wicker patio chaise lounge chairs with cushions are from the International Home Atlantic collection at Lowe's; $544.67 for set of two. (Photo courtesy Lowe's,


Sporting a stylish gray finish and transitional styling, the mixed media Bradley collection from Veranda Classics features an all-aluminum frame that looks like teak mixed with a wicker seat. The five-piece fire pit group retails for $2,999. (veranda


With a neutral gray finish, Agio’s Aurora Deep Seating Collection shows off several key trends for 2018. Porcelain table tops mix nicely with the resin wicker weave, and the deep-seated cushions invite relaxing, with or without a fire pit. Retail prices for the group in the foreground are sofa, $1,363; coffee table, $640; end table, $362; and two large chairs, $1,382; prices for the fire pit chat group in the background are three large chairs, $2,073; and the fire pit, $1,238 . (

2. Stylish fabrics

Today’s outdoor fabrics rival the look and feel of inside fabrics. Nautical prints such as anchors and sailboats are big, said Michele Dzikoski, owner of Fabric Warehouse, 6599 S. Transit Road, Lockport. So are bright colors such as magenta and teal. To keep things interesting, mix coordinating patterns on your pillows; bringing in some wide stripes is a good place to start.

If you’re not into brights, no worry. Navy, shades of brown and charcoal are stylish options for outdoors. “They are saying that charcoal is the new black,” Dzikoski said.

Blend colors and textiles outside just like you do inside. Sunbrella suggests this combination: Cushions in Junction Oyster and Kyoto Pumice from Summer Classics. Decorative pillows in Sunbrella Canvas Aruba and Canvas Birds Eye. Throw by Textillery.  (Photo courtesy Sunbrella®)


Decorative pillows in Sunbrella fabrics. (Photo courtesy of Sunbrella®)

3. Backyard structures

Everyone needs a little structure in their lives, right? A gazebo or potting shed, perhaps. Or maybe a playhouse for the kids. But there’s also lots of talk about other garden getaways – outdoor structures designed for relaxing, entertaining, even crafting.

Enter, for example, the She Shed - a trend that Country Living says is here to stay, whether it’s transforming an existing shed or building a new one.

Interested? Check out two structures designed by local Erie 1 BOCES students at the Buffalo Home Show, March 9-11 and March 16-18. One is the Relaxation Retreat, the students’ take on the She Shed. The other is called Game Day Escape.

Bring your to-do list: It's Buffalo Home Show time

The Relaxation Retreat, created by Erie 1 BOCES students for the Buffalo Home Show, was a work in progress earlier this week.


Here is the exterior of the students' Game Day Escape, which will be open for viewing during the Buffalo Home Show.

4. Dining tables big and small

For many people, dining outside is a summer tradition. These days, it can be as comfortable as dining indoors. Just take into consideration your space and entertaining preferences.

This from the AHFA: “Extra-large dining tables are popular among consumers who entertain groups for alfresco dining. Yet, manufacturers understand that not everyone has a large outdoor space, so they are offering new selections for small spaces, including dining groups suitable for apartment- and condo-size balconies. And, of course, there’s every size in between.”

Northvale dining set from the allen + roth collection includes a tabletop steel propane gas fire table, $310, and aluminum patio dining chairs with beige cushions, $244 for set of two. (Photo courtesy Lowe's,


No need to eat indoors all summer long. There are stylish outdoor dining tables for balconies and other smaller spaces. (Richmond table, $649 , and Opal counter-height chair, $304, by Jensen Leisure).

5. Plants in playful colors and patterns

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals: “With ultra violet named the Color of the Year by Pantone ... landscape professionals expect to integrate more violets, verbena, clematis, iris and other purple flowers into landscapes."

“Patterned” plants are also expected to liven up the landscape. “These unique plants are revered for their intricate details, such as striped leaves or brightly colored veins,” according to the NALP.

Purple 'Jolly Good' clematis. (


Allium 'Purple Sensation' is best planted in clusters in a perennial or mixed border. (

You can check out other trends and find ideas and inspiration at two local events:

The two-weekend only Buffalo Home Show is scheduled for March 9-11 and March 16-18, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. This is the place to check out products and trends from a long list of exhibitors, pick up tips and advice from experts speaking on the Feature Stage, visit the 1,400-square-foot Design Home and attend the ever-popular “Make It and Take It” workshops.

Plantasia, the garden and landscape show, is scheduled for March 22-25 at the Fairgrounds Event Center and Artisan Hall in Hamburg. This year’s theme is “Cityscapes into the Night.” Attractions include theme gardens; a Children’s Discovery Garden hosted by the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens; seminars; a garden market, and many vendors. Plantasia is presented by PLANT WNY – the Professional Landscape & Nursery Trades.

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