Topping the list of backyard must-haves is the outdoor kitchen, and Viking has left little out of the equation. Taylor Calhoun, Viking’s senior product manager for outdoor products, says the company hopes to offer as much for the outdoor kitchen as it does for the indoor. Options range from built-in grills to a wine cellar. Newer developments include the TruSear infrared burner that allows for searing steaks and tuna just like at your favorite restaurant, and the Outdoor Gravity Feed Smoker, which Calhoun expects to gain in popularity. The energy-efficient smoker cooks over long periods at a low heat using no gas or electricity.
Cabinetry for such appliances makes it possible to maintain a cohesive, high-end look while completely customizing the space. Interestingly, one of the more popular cabinets happens to be the trash pull-out. “It’s one of those things you don’t always think of,” says Fred Albano, owner of Albano Appliance and Service in Pound Ridge, “but when you build this big, gorgeous kitchen, you don’t want an ugly garbage pail in the middle of it.” Currently Albano estimates that 70 to 80 percent of his grill business is generated by the built-in variety.
For outdoor lighting, “it’s all about the LEDs,” says Gary Novasel, co-owner of Patdo Light Studio in Port Chester. “With low energy consumption, long life, and both warm and cool sources available, these lamps are a natural choice for landscape lighting.” Novasel expects the “higher overall awareness of the environment” to further boost such products. “The typical homeowner might never have to change a lamp again,” he says.
The variety of decorative accessories for the outdoors has gained in style and function, as well. Port Washington-based Safavieh is about to build on its already extensive line of outdoor rugs with a collection by designer Thom Filicia. Its existing line is made with polypropelene (recycled plastic soda bottles). And Wittus-Fire by Design is among those offering fire pits that not only provide a natural source of light and warmth, but are conversation pieces in themselves.
“Our products are very sculptural,” says Alyce Wittus, vice president for the Pound Ridge-based company. “You can just have a nice fire and relax. There doesn’t even need to be a barbecue,” she says.
“Even if it’s a cool evening, people are more apt now to throw on a fleece and sit around the fire all night,” says Garret Negri, manager of garden décor for Mariani Gardens, adding that the outdoor furniture that lends itself to the creation and flexibility of such “conversation spaces” is desirable now.
Companies like Brown Jordan and RockWood Casual Furniture are filling that demand with pieces that have the more upscale appeal that a permanent room demands, but can still be rearranged easily to accommodate changing group gatherings. Brown Jordan feeds more contemporary desires, with sleek lines like the reintroduced William Lamb Collection. RockWood works with natural teak sourced from established plantations in Indonesia to create sophisticated designs for everything from rolling bars to more delicate café chairs.
Even bug repellent has gone upscale. “We have eucalyptus and mint scented options now that are beautiful and add such lovely atmosphere,” Negri says. “No more tin buckets.”
Emmanuel Plat, president of The Conran Shop’s Manhattan store, says the nature of city living finds many of his customers looking for pieces that will function both indoors and out, noting his company has seen the green angle play most heavily in accessories such as wooden picnic ware. He also notes a desire to mimic nature via products like the Shady Lace Parasol, a stencil-cut umbrella designed to give the impression of sitting beneath a tree.
But The Conran Shop also takes another green approach, asking its buyers overseas to search for “vintage” furniture that Plat says ties into the outdoor area as well and provides the ultimate in customization. “We just received benches that were used in a French railway station,” he says. “They’re the type of thing that will only be on our floor for a week because they’re so unique.”
The move to create outdoor spaces with more dramatic atmosphere has even upped the ante for plant life. One species in particular that’s not exactly native to the Northeast: palm trees. “People are potting up palms all around their pools and patios,” Negri says, adding that Mariani stores the delicate palm trees for their customers in the winter. “There’s something about palm trees. You just feel like you’re transported.”
Resource List Albano Appliance & Service Pound Ridge (914) 764-4051; albanoappliance.com Brown Jordan A&D Building, 150 E. 58 St., Suite 400, New York (212) 593-1390; brownjordan.com The Conran Shop Bridgemarket, 407 E. 59 St., New York (866) 755-9079; conranusa.com Mariani Gardens Armonk (914) 273-3083; marianigardens.com Patdo Light Studio Port Chester (914) 937-6707; patdolight.com Riley’s Furniture & Flooring Millerton Square Shopping Plaza, Millerton(800) 789-4641; rileysfurnitureflooring.com RockWood Casual Furniture Oakville, Ontario, Canada (905) 842-6437; rockwoodfurniture.com Safavieh Port Washington (516) 945-1900; safavieh.com Viking Range Corp. Greenwood, MS (662) 455-1200; vikingrange.com Wittus-Fire by Design Pound Ridge (914) 764-5679; wittus.com