Made in the Shade: Shade products turn outdoor rooms into casual retreats

For years, the design trend was to bring the outdoors in—through big windows, natural light and greenery.

But as more and more people are adopting an outdoor lifestyle—anything from the classic backyard patio set and lounge chairs to exterior kitchens to full-on al fresco living rooms—it’s all about bringing the indoors out.

Of course, a prime concern outside is keeping cool and comfortable. And that involves the ability to avoid the sun. When most people think of shade and an outdoor space, oftentimes the first thing they think of is umbrellas.

“In the umbrella industry, the major trend is in color,” says Candy Chase, national sales manager for Treasure Garden. “Grays and blues are continuing to trend, and fabric usage in these colorations has soared.”

Brian Sanches, VP of sales and marketing for California Umbrella, agrees that different colors are gaining traction. “Where fabric is going, we follow,” he says.

Trivantage, maker of fabrics used in canopies and awnings, is another company that sees colors and textiles as leading design.

“We align closely with Sunbrella because its designers consistently anticipate both trends and design needs,” says Bret Kelley, VP of sales for Trivantage. “Sunbrella creates timeless colors and patterns that enable homeowners to personalize outdoor spaces with each new shade collection.”

New for 2019 for Trivantage is an expanded Sunbrella line with 10 patterns in the simplistic Pure collection, as well as two fresh patterns with Sunbrella’s decorative shade fabrics. Shade size is another trend, according to Debbie Maytidu, retail sales manager for Fiberbuilt Umbrellas. “We are noticing a number of multi-year trend(s), such as the popularity of large-scale umbrellas,” she says.

Every manufacturer seems to be offering bigger and bigger shades—both in center-pole and cantilevered design. But the issue with larger shades is that if it becomes too big, then it becomes an installation instead of a traditional umbrella that can be moved.

Another trend is the increasing collaboration between designers, manufacturers and retailers. “Designers are pushing trends with cuts and styles with embellishments like scallops, pom-poms or fringe,” Sanches says. And then that designer/retailer/manufacturer triumvirate might offer exclusives through certain channels—either online or in brick-and-mortar stores.

As an example, Sanches points out that California Umbrella’s Pagoda umbrella, that once might have sold several hundred units a year, is now selling in the tens of thousands due to the cuts and embellishment trends they’re seeing.

For Ryan Hughes, founder/creative director of Ryan Hughes Design Build in Tampa, Florida, shade is always a factor in his designs. “With entertaining in the outdoor as a primary experience of our projects, accommodation for shade or protection are always addressed within our consult phase,” he says. “Opportunities for shade may come in the form of one grand umbrella creating a focal point for the project, or a custom pergola that covers an intimate seating area, creating a personalized outdoor room.” Treasure Garden starlux

One recent Hughes project was designed around a Tuuci cantilever umbrella over a fire pit, within an infinity-edge pool looking out over Tampa Bay. The fire pit is exactly the same dimensions as the umbrella.

Speaking of cantilevers—while these umbrellas had been considered a trend in years past, they’ve become such a part of the mainstream that it’s an expected item in a company’s line, almost like fettucine alfredo in an Italian restaurant.

Following that “going big” trend, Treasure Garden has introduced a new, large cantilevered design. The Starlux AKZ Plus is 13 feet wide and has built-in LED strip lighting. “It’s everything you need to take entertaining from daytime to nighttime,” says Chase. “This new umbrella is a huge hit with the dealers.”

While umbrellas are certainly the most prevalent, highest volume item in shade, there are plenty of other options as well—albeit less portable.

If you’re in the market for something a little more permanent or to make more of a statement, companies like Kannoa and Tuuci offer ready-made cabanas in a variety of styles in addition to their signature umbrella collections.

Kannoa’s cabanas feature sleek, minimalistic designs with several shade options in sizes up to 16-and-a-half-feet square. The company’s Float line is their take on a shade sail integrated into a cabana frame.

In Tuuci’s trademark style, they offer cabanas to suit anyone’s taste—from minimal to all the bells and whistles. That includes sides, curtains and built-in seating. For example, Tucci’s Equinox series is modular, has built-in seating with available 120-volt outlets and USBs, lighting, and can be configured in several different roof and siding combinations.

Cabana made in the shadeAcross the board, the trend of outdoor living is showing no signs of slowing down. Adding outdoor space is a factor in many new home designs. For urban apartment buildings, a quick browse through Zillow or illustrates that exterior rooms are a must. In the food and beverage sector, research has shown the surest way to improve revenue and ROI is to add an al fresco dining space—which, of course, requires shade.

“The trend is for the outdoor room to become a retreat,” says Maytidu. “The décor, whether modern or traditional, is being used for both lounging and dining.”And the industry has responded.

“The shade industry will continue to evolve with technological updates, such as incorporating app-operated functions,” says Chase. “We see there always being a style evolution, taking inspiration from European designs now and into the future.”

Or, as Sanches puts it another way, “We just try to have fun with the product.”


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