The Latest and Greatest Outdoor Fabric Trends

Now you can cover patio furniture with bold stripes, fancy florals, or even faux linen. See how far outdoor fabrics have come, plus get the best shopping and cleaning tips.
Sara Anderson

Not long ago, army green plastic chairs were about all that was available to furnish your patio or screened porch. Luckily, times have changed, and the fabric industry has made remarkable improvements. These days, your outdoor sofa can be covered in a material that's just as soft and stunning as the fabric on your dining room windows or your living room chairs. The choice of colors, patterns, and textures has never been better. Read for yourself what's available now, and learn fun ways to decorate with these new and improved fabrics.

Hot Colors, Cool Buys
Bright shades, stripes, and patterns, such as swirls and oversize florals, are big hits this summer says Michelle Larrabee-Martin, owner of Kolo Collection, an outdoor fabric and furniture store in Atlanta. If bold and bright is not your style, try sea greens and blues paired with cream.

Many designers prefer to mix up patterns, putting stripes on the sofa, florals on the ottoman, and checks on the cushions. Because the latest fabrics are so beyond the typical red cabana stripe, use them to make more than just pillows and cushions. Try them on towels, tablecloths, place mats, awnings, and window treatments.

Let's Go Shopping
Sunbrella is one of the most popular manufacturers, and some retail Web sites carry fabric; visit www.outdoorfabrics.com and www.denverfabrics.com. Many fabric companies have also launched outdoor lines. Try Scalamandré's Island Cloth Collection, Osborne & Little, Marimekko, Designer's Guild, Robert Allen's Portico collection, and Waverly's Sun N Shade line. Perennials Outdoor Fabrics and SeaCloth also offer good selections.

Discuss with the salesperson or designer how and where you'll be using the fabric. Prices range $15 to $90 per yard, depending on how it's made, its softness, and how unique the pattern is.

Easy Upkeep
Outdoor fabric is meant to be left outside, but it isn't maintenance-free. Try to keep cushions, umbrellas, and pillows out of direct downpours, and they'll have a longer life span. If items get soaked, lean them upright against a wall, and allow all the moisture to drain out. To spot clean, dip a rag in a solution of two parts bleach and one part water, and then wipe items clean. Mold and mildew stick to dirt, so shake out cushions often to get rid of dust, pollen, and dirt. If absolutely necessary, machine-wash cushion and pillow covers in cold water, and line dry. Never put acrylic fabric in a dryer; it will melt.

Sources:
Outdoor fabric stores: Kolo Collection, Atlanta, (404) 355-1717 or www.kolocollection.com (R); Stellar Collection, Wilmington, North Carolina, (910) 796-9680; Melanie Bowe Antiques & Interiors, Wilmington, Delaware, (910) 392-1975; Mrs. Howard, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, (904) 241-1980; outdoor fabric photos: Robert Allen, www.robertallendesign.com or 1-800-333-3777; Waverly Sun N Shade, www.waverly.com or 1-800-988-7775; Seacloth, www.seacloth.com (available to the trade through Ainsworth-Noah, 1-800-669-3512); screened porch photograph: special thanks to Charles E. and Jenny Adair of Montgomery, Alabama.


This article is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.