By Diana McKeon Charkalis, Lifestyle Editor, for Los Angeles Daily News

Inside out.

That’s the theme in outdoor furniture this season, as designers borrow what’s fresh and fun from interior design and put it on the patio.

And outdoor rooms aren’t just for dining and entertaining anymore. This summer, the focus is on relaxing in sumptuous comfort. Still, it’s not all about indulgence. There’s also an emphasis on sturdier, and more eco-friendly, materials.

And worshipping the sun? That’s so George Hamilton. Instead, be on the lookout for innovative awnings and umbrellas that stylishly block out the glare.

Here’s a more detailed look at what’s new under the sun:


The midcentury modern look is moving out – to the backyard. And there’s nothing subtle about this trend. “We’re seeing great, molded heavy plastic furniture that you can keep out year-round,” says Chicago-based home furnishings consumer expert Jennifer Litwin. “It’s strong and sturdy, and it comes in a lot of funky colors. It’s like planting a beautiful flower in your yard.”


The concept of the outdoor room has expanded from living to lounging. It’s bedding in the backyard, with an emphasis on comfier yet still weather-resistant materials. Among the hot items? Tandem chaise lounges.

“We sell more double lounges than single,” says Brendan Barry, owner of Barong Furniture and accessories in West Hollywood, whose outdoor furniture offerings are primarily teak and iron. What does this say about the L.A. lifestyle? “Let’s just say people like to cuddle,” he says with a laugh.


Eco-friendly style is gaining in popularity, but it’s not always easy to find. Here in the Valley it can be had at Modern Outdoor, based in Van Nuys. Their furniture has a sleek aesthetic with clean, simple lines. And one key material they use is Ipe, a sustainably harvested wood that’s three times as dense as teak. “It’s one of the best woods you can use to make outdoor furniture,” says company vice president Brett Himmel. “Our furniture is designed for heavy commercial use. A 20-mile-per-hour gust of wind won’t blow your chair into the neighbor’s yard.”


We all know it’s not safe to stay in the sun. That’s why more designers are creating furniture with awnings, privacy drapes and canopies for protection. Umbrellas are also especially big this year, showing up in a variety of bold colors. The Visor, from the Walnut Creek-based D’Firo Design, comes in white, parrot green and turquoise, and was created to block sunlight, not just when it’s directly overhead, but throughout the day. “You can protect yourself from the sun conveniently and stylishly,” notes D’Firo partner David Lenahan.


Need to replace vinyl strapping, fabric slings or other outdoor furniture parts? Check out, suggests furniture consultant Jennifer Litwin. The Dallas-based company can ship parts anywhere and offers an affordable way to fix up your old favorites for the summer season. “You can replace straps or other parts for just a few dollars,” says Litwin. “And they come in lots of colors.”


Keep your outdoor furniture looking fresh with these tips from the American Home Furnishings Alliance:

Aluminum frames: Clean with mild soap and water. For nontextured surfaces, apply an automotive wax every few months. On textured finishes, periodically apply baby or mineral oil. Occasionally spray oil lubricant on chair swivels or glides.

Tempered glass tabletops: Clean regularly with a soft cloth, a mild detergent and warm water. Buff dry with a clean, lint-free cloth. Commercial glass cleaners also may be used.

Outdoor wicker: Vacuum gently or brush with a soft bristle brush. Hose off every few weeks and clean periodically with mild detergent and water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Vinyl straps: Wash with mild detergent and warm water, using a soft sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly. To remove scuff marks, apply toothpaste or gentle abrasive and rub gently with a dry cloth. To remove mildew, use a solution of warm water, mild detergent and bleach (no more than 1/4 cup to 3 gallons of water). Apply vinyl protectant to the straps after cleaning.

Sling furniture: Wash with mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Cushions: Vacuum as needed to remove organic material. Clean by sponging with mild detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly. Air dry. If mildew occurs, use a solution of 1 cup bleach and a squirt of detergent per gallon of water. Scrub with a sponge or soft brush. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and air dry. Always test an inconspicuous spot first to make sure the color won’t fade. Bleach may not be suitable for some fabrics.

Wrought iron and steel: Clean with warm, soapy water. To maintain the gloss on nontextured surfaces, apply automotive wax. On textured finishes, periodically apply mineral or baby oil. If rust develops, clean area by sanding lightly, then wipe thoroughly and apply touch-up paint (from manufacturer).

Hardwoods: Clean with mild detergent and water. Rinse well. Some manufacturers recommend an occasional application of oil. Teak and Jarrah can stay outdoors year-round. Pine, oak and cedar should be stored for the winter. Painted woods require painting every year.

Umbrellas: Wash covers with mild soap and water, using a long-handled brush. Spray silicone on the joints of wire frames. Use wax or furniture polish on wooden umbrellas.

– American Home Furnishings Alliance

Jennifer Litwin