Maybe Next Year: Outdoor Mini-Trends & Inspiration from the ICFA Market

Last week I visited the mammoth Merchandise Mart in Chicago for a taste of the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market. An outdoor-themed market in September may seem like odd timing but this show is actually geared to the trade industry. I went with the everyday home in mind and came away with a few tips and trends to keep in mind for next year. Of course, there are those lucky folks who live in warm climates year round but as I sit here in a sweater and socks, I'm trying to not to think about that.

Images 1 & 2: The mid-century influence is still going strong. You can definitely see a nod to mid-century styling in these two chairs. I also love the mix of wood legs and woven seats. The chair in the first image, from the Palari Collection at Century Furniture, makes great use of the mixed materials, continuing the woven material down onto the back legs. The chair in the second image is from Lloyd/Flanders.

Images 3 & 4: There seems to be a movement to make outdoor furniture mimic indoor furniture. I saw a number of pieces that would be equally at home in a living room as on a balcony. Lest you think you can pull any ol' chair out onto your front porch, these indoor-inspired pieces are specifically built for the outdoors. With waterproof fabrics, special frames and cushions that allow the water to drain out, these pieces can weather the elements while still making your outdoor space seem like an extension of your indoor living space. The white outdoor sofa is from Lloyd/Flanders and features an aluminum frame with marine grade fabric w/quick dry foam. The chair in photo number four, from Jensen Leisure, is handsome enough to be inside but constructed to be outdoors.

Images 5 & 6: The chaise lounge is a classic for outdoor furniture. After all, what better way to lounge under the sun? New shapes and materials are giving the classic chaise a sexy update. The chaise in image five, from Gloster, easily folds flat for snoozing by the pool. Image six shows a woven chaise with a fixed back from Lloyd/Flanders.

Images 7 & 8: Perhaps in response to our desire to be outdoors and yet still protected from harmful UV rays, I saw a number of pieces that provide ample covering from the sun. The Andalusia Royal Lounge Chair from Century Furniture (image seven) is aptly named — it seems like seating fit for a king or queen. For larger spaces, the cabana from Agio, gives you all the comfort of an outdoor sofa (more like a bed) with the protection of a sun shade.

Images 9 & 10: Inspiration is truly everywhere. When I first saw the table in the last photo, I actually muttered to myself, "Oh, the leg braces on it remind me of the John Hancock Building!" A few minutes later the sales rep from Jensen Leisure started giving us the details on this line of furniture – and how it was inspired by the Hancock Building. I'm sure the designer would be pleased to know that I recognized the inspiration straight away. Can you guess the inspiration for the outdoor sofa in photo number nine? Yep, park benches. It's part of the Maison Jardin collection at Century Furniture.

(Images: Jason Loper)