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posted: 5/19/2012 5:58 AM

Industry Insider: Dan Mayer, Dan Mayer, Northwest Metalcraft

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  • Those building an outdoor kitchen might consider this Kamodo Joe's ceramic cooker and table.

      Those building an outdoor kitchen might consider this Kamodo Joe's ceramic cooker and table.

  • For those who like slow-cooked barbecue, this ceramic cooker from Kamodo Joe's will complement a gas grill.

      For those who like slow-cooked barbecue, this ceramic cooker from Kamodo Joe's will complement a gas grill.

  • Outdoor grills, like his one from Weber, are getting more elaborate.

      Outdoor grills, like his one from Weber, are getting more elaborate.

  • Light wicker outdoor furniture is a popular choice in sunrooms.

      Light wicker outdoor furniture is a popular choice in sunrooms.

  • People are opting for more comfortable, plush seating groups on patios and decks.

      People are opting for more comfortable, plush seating groups on patios and decks.
    Photos Courtesy of Northwest Metalcraft

 
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

Make hay while the sun shines! Or, put another way, get outside and enjoy the good weather while it lasts.

That seems to the sentiment of Chicago area homeowners as a group this spring.

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Therefore, homeowners are investing in items that help them take full advantage of the season and more thoroughly enjoy outdoor life, said Dan Mayer, owner of Northwest Metalcraft, 413 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.

"The weather got so warm in March this year that it got people thinking about their porches, decks and patios early this year. So we have really been rocking and rolling here," he said.

"People want to take the inside out and enjoy it there, so they are buying lots of deep seating sets, like pit groups where they can lounge around a fire pit or a pool and just enjoy their backyard in maximum comfort," Mayer said.

Some of the thick, plush cushions people buy for these pit groups are impervious to rain and dirt. However, some of the most comfortable ones need to be moved inside or into a cushion box when not in use, Mayer said.

Dining sets with umbrellas are also still in vogue since people increasingly want to cook and eat outside. Some umbrellas can even be equipped with lighting, radios and I-pod docks for maximum enjoyment.

Others choose to put their dining tables inside their screened porches or under pergolas or gazebos for shelter from the rain and sun. Those people do not need to invest in an umbrella, in most cases, he said.

Homeowners have many options in both lounging and dining sets when it comes to furniture styles and materials. Mayer said aluminum, wicker, iron and teak are all equally stylish and available today.

Once the furniture question has been addressed, many are spending money on outdoor kitchens and grills so they can enjoy the seared and grilled or slow-cooked barbecue flavor for more of the year.

"We are selling lots of grills and outdoor kitchens because people love to cook outside. Infrared grills are very popular with those who like to grill steaks and other meats, searing in the flavor and cutting the cooking time by a third," Mayer said.

The other new fad is the ceramic cookers like those made by Kamodo Joe's. They use real lump charcoal for that trademark taste and can be kept at a consistent low temperature for slow cooking of ribs and even pizza, Mayer said.

"Many of our customers have a gas grill right alongside their ceramic cooker because they want them for two different types of cooking," he said. "They start at $799."

Finally, many homeowners are purchasing electric and propane heaters to extend the time when they can enjoy their patios and decks.

"The best time of year to sit outside is generally September and October because the mosquitoes are gone," Mayer said. "So these heaters are great to take the chill off on those nights."

For more information about Northwest Metalcraft, a family business since 1945, call (847) 253-1905 or visit www.nwmetalcraft.com.

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