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DECOR SCORE- The Livin' Is Easy as all Outdoors PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rose Bennett Gilbert   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 05:50


Q: We need a bigger house — our daughter and her husband are coming back to live with us. Instead of moving, we are thinking about adding a deck out back to gain more family living space. Our climate is relatively mild all year 'round, so we can use the outdoors for nearly eight months out of the year. Is this a crazy idea?

A: If so, there are a lot of other families who are just as crazy about finding more living space outdoors.

A recent survey by IFDA (International Furnishing and Design Assn.) showed that more than one third of their members (35 percent) believe that the trend to outdoor living will only continue to grow between now and 2020. But it has to be low-maintenance living, they say — nobody much wants to deal with traditional amenities like swimming pools or hot tubs — both earned thumbs-down from 44.9 percent of IFDA's members.

By contrast, nearly half these design industry professionals turned green thumbs up on gardening and landscaping, low-maintenance landscaping and vegetable gardening, that is. And here's a number that will especially interest you: more than a quarter of the designers surveyed see Americans doing more and more of their entertaining in the Great Outdoors.

So you are right in step, planning to develop more al fresco living space. You can make it low-maintenance, too, by using some of the remarkable hightech materials that are now available on the outdoor market.

For example, the comfortably furnished pergola we show here is constructed of PVC wrapped over a core of structural aluminum. The PVC itself is made — are you ready? - from recycled materials like plastic bags, the kind you get with your groceries and home-delivered newspapers.

The manufacturer, Trex ( ), claims to be the world's largest recycler of plastic bags. They are also the world's largest manufacturer of what they call "high-performance, wood-alternative" decking and railings warranteed not to crack, peel, chip, scratch or blister, at least, for the next 20 years.

More good news: The pergolas come in DIY kits and a choice of nine new colors, so you can be as trend-forward as you are environmentally sound. Depending on size, the kits run between $4,300 and $13,500, not a bad bottom line for eight months' extra living space.

Q: What else old now comes in new colors?

A: Formica, the plastic laminate that's been around so long it's become the generic name for the entire category of imitation materials.

Celebrating its 100th year on the world's countertops and elsewhere, Formica has introduced a new palette of bright colors — including oranges, reds and blues — in four subtle patterns by Abbott Miller of the design studio Pentagram. After aping naturals like wood grain and stone for the past century or so, the new collection is not imitation anything, it's real Formica (

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the coauthor of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 05:55