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Bring on some new summer colors

It felt a little weird but at the same time I was reading a trend report on outdoor furniture and accessories for the upcoming summer season, the snow was flying outside my office window.

This was Wednesday afternoon. I ignored the snow.

The report arrives every year in early spring from the American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C. The AHFA represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors of residential furnishings, including nearly 100 producers of outdoor furniture.

First, I read about color trends.

"Crisp shades of blue and green are expected to be favorites this year, but for those who already have cushions in neutral earth tones, a pop of red or orange is a quick and easy way to brighten your space," wrote Jackie Hirschhaut, AHFA's vice president, in the release.

You may already have seen some of these colors in catalogs and stores -- the aqua blues, the yellow-greens. I certainly have.

According to the AHFA, blue this season is more tropical than nautical, with shades of aqua waters and azure skies more popular than marine navy. And while forest green is still around, softer shades of sage and celadon better complement this season's new neutral: gray.

So while the Plow & Hearth catalog on my desk shows outdoor throw pillows and cushions in forest green, there's also lime green, butter yellow and a new stripe fabric in shades of periwinkle and leafy green.

As for that gray, "it is the trend-forward choice in every major material for outdoor furnishings. From polished steel to hand-forged iron, weathered gray teak to driftwood shades of synthetic wicker, gray is the backdrop for all other outdoor color directions this season," Hirschhaut wrote.

"Stripes, geometric prints and florals large and small pair gray with everything from butter yellow to poppy red to those tropical blues," she added.

Other ideas and trends to watch for:

Outdoor dining chairs that bounce and swivel. Lounge chairs that rock, recline and rotate. Rockers and gliders add to all this motion.

Outdoor chairs that stack or fold are a smart solution for both summer entertaining and winter storage. You'll find them in a variety of colors, styles and price ranges.

Two things to check out if you haven't in past warm-weather seasons: the new generation of outdoor lighting, including floor and table lamps, and outdoor rugs in new styles and designs.

Finally, never underestimate what a fresh coat of paint can do -- whether it's spray-painting a wicker chair for the porch or brushing a fun color onto a decorative birdhouse or side table for the covered patio. It's an easy way to give new life to old furniture.

Azure blue, anyone?


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