When you’re social distancing, “going out” can literally mean going outside the back door to your lanai. So, it’s no surprise that people want these spaces to be both functional and comfortable.

For interior designer Laurie Walter, the owner of Cardamon Design, that also means “bringing the indoors out” in a seamless transition that essentially extends the home’s great room/living room.

“We use the same color palette and essential design elements indoors and out,” Ms. Walter explains. Ceiling treatments, flooring, light- ing and decorative accessories can be selected to blend together, although fabrics and finishes used outdoors, even those under cover, must be durable to the elements.

“It can be a challenge,” she says about outfitting an outdoor area to be as comfortable and as beautiful as the adjacent indoor living area. “But it certainly can be done,” she adds, with many manufacturers today recognizing the importance of outdoor living for homeowners in places like Southwest Florida.

Because the light is so much brighter, outdoor areas can stand more intense pops of color in things like pillows and other accessories. “You can kick it up a notch outdoors,” Ms. Walter says, “Just be sure to look at samples in the actual places you will be using the fabric. They look very different than they look in the showroom.”
Ms. Walter’s all-time favorite outdoor living area is one she designed for a Stock Custom Homes estate model, the Calista, in Quail West. It recently won a 2020 Sand Dollar award for the designer from the Collier Building Industry Association.

“I love that the dining area, with an 11-foot-long table, is right off the great room instead of set off to the side,” she says, adding in most homes the outdoor conversation area with fireplace and TV is the focal point. In this case, however, the oversized table with generous seating for eight makes for an inviting vignette overlooking the sparkling turquoise pool.

The model sold while Ms. Walter was doing the interior and exterior design installation. “It was so great that I got to meet the new owners and do a walkthrough of everything with them,” she says.

Among the most popular trends Ms. Walter sees in outdoor living areas these days: fireplaces, firepits (especially with covers that allow them to be turned into coffee tables) and putting greens.

Local retailers who specialize in outdoor living share Ms. Walter’s belief in the importance of bringing the indoors out.

“People are staying at home and not vacationing as they would, so they are spending their traveling and vacation budgets on home improvements,” said Anthony Galler, an owner of Galler Patio in Bonita Springs.

“If you’re spending a lot of time relaxing outdoors, you really want to make an outdoor living space that you can enjoy,” especially as the temperature and humidity drop in the months ahead. “These fall and winter months are so tremendous.”

Mr. Galler said there is an emphasis on comfortable furniture, such as deep seating and cushioned chairs with higher backs. He also sees a trend toward sling material, which requires low maintenance, and powder-coated aluminum frames, which are corrosion resistant.

Overall, he describes the look that his customers want as transitional modern with clean lines.

The most popular colors he sells are turquoise blues, grays, whites and light blues. “People coming from up north are used to earth tones and want a change of pace and a coastal look here,” he says.

The modern aesthetic continues through accent pieces such as abstract art and ionized stainless-steel pieces.

“Outdoor art, lamps, rugs and plants are elements that make the outside area feel like an extension of the inside,” Mr. Galler said. His store carries a variety of rugs, including some made from recycled plastic bottles that can be hosed off and one made from polyester weave that offers a soft, indoor rug feel but is made for outdoors. There is a range of price points, including budget-oriented sets and condo sets ideal for smaller spaces.

Like Mr. Galler, Kathryn Benavides, owner of KB Patio in Naples, has seen people “renovating like crazy” using the money they had allocated for travel.

She also said “the furniture business has exploded” due to the strong real estate market of new home sales as well as people using their lanai as a home office.

“People are staying home working, so their home office has extended into their outdoor area. They want to work in a beautiful setting. They need comfortable chairs. They have a business meeting and need a conference table.”

Ms. Benavides works with many high net worth clients who “want to be different and have something that their neighbors and friends don’t have.”

She has an exclusive agreement with Michael Monroe Ethridge, a Naples artist who paints hand-crafted glass table tops. Ms. Benavides designs custom bases for these pieces, and the artist often creates coordinating area rugs and pillows.

She also sees strong demand for custom made fire pits. Recently, she had a manufacturer fabricate a rectangular fire pit that was 26 inches high and serves as both a coffee table and a dining table that seats eight.

“You can sit there comfortably from happy hour to the midnight hour,” she said. “It makes so much sense.”

Ms. Benavides said people are looking for comfort, even in transitional contemporary, which she noted can sometimes be too low to the ground, so she doesn’t carry anything at those heights.

She looks for performance fabrics that can withstand dogs jumping on sofas or children spilling drinks.

One of the most sought-after outdoor items she sells is the popular Ledge Lounger, made to partially submerge in the swimming pool. “People are redoing their pools and everyone is doing ledges. They want what the resorts have.”

Other trends she sees are people buying extension tables for family dinners, young families wanting an outdoor day bed rather than a chaise for reclining with children and pets, hanging chairs, and outdoor rugs that are at once stylish and durable.

Sheila Cook, the owner of Boutique Interiors, says her design team incorporated all of the essentials for fabulous outdoor living in the 2020 Sand Dollar award-winning Cocoplum model by Stock Signature Homes in The Isles of Collier Preserve. “There’s a lovely place for dining and a kitchen area with counter stools and lots of space for prepping and cooking,” she says. “There’s a conversation area with maximum seating in front of the fireplace, and there’s a cozy spot for morning coffee off the master suite.

“It truly is an extension of the indoor living area,” Ms. Cook says about the Cocoplum’s lanai. “It has everything you have inside for comfort and enjoyment

From Florida Weekly