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Article posted: 8/11/2012 5:09 AM

New materials, styles play on the patio

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Practicality, durability and recycle-ability seem to be the watchwords in the patio furniture industry this summer, said Steve Olson, manager of Viking Patio in Barrington.

Furniture made from recycled plastic milk jugs, available for the last decade, fits all of those categories, he said. Obviously, they help the environment because they find a second use for the milk jugs we all buy every week.

But even those who aren't terribly concerned about the environment are choosing to purchase the plastic furniture made by Seaside Casual and Berlin Gardens, Olson said, because they are incredibly sturdy and resist fading in the sun.

"Other materials like wood tend to fade and lose their strength after several years exposed to the sun and to rain and other weather," Olson said. "These pieces do not succumb to the elements."

These two manufacturers make everything from Adirondack-style chairs to dining tables, benches, swings and even couches and offer them in up to 15 different colors ranging from white to lime green.

"But beware of less expensive knock-offs which save money by using thinner plastic, which weighs much less. They do not hold up as well," Olson said.

Also enjoying increased popularity are counter or gathering-height tables and chairs that are taller than a conventional dining set, but not as high as a bar set. Many manufacturers are now producing these types of sets and making them out of everything form aluminum with sling seating to wrought iron, wood and plastic.

"People like these sets, particularly if they have a balcony or have a deck with railings, so that they can see over the railing while they are eating," Olson said.

The trend toward relaxing outside, enjoying conversation or just gazing into the flames of a fire pit, has sparked the popularity of vinyl and loom wicker furniture with plush cushions made of sunbrella-style material, which is 100 percent weather-resistant and is totally dry within two to three hours after a rainstorm. Viking Patio carries a line of these plush couches, lounge chairs and dining sets made by Lloyd Flanders.

"Today, homeowners don't just want to eat outside. They also want to relax and enjoy the day or evening with family and friends on comfortable furniture," Olson said. "The popularity of fire pits has encouraged people to linger longer outside."

While this furniture is highly durable, Olson cautions that it should be covered or moved inside during the winter and the cushions should definitely be stored indoors when the snow flies.

Viking Patio has been in business at its Barrington location, 131 W. Northwest Hwy., for five years. For more information, visit www.chicagopatiofurniturestore.com or call (847) 381-1188.

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