After a wacky and sometimes wet spring that went from cold to hot to cold again, summer is finally here, along with thoughts of living outdoors. For those who waited to shop for new furnishings, lights or accessories the news is good. There is plenty out there and some of it is on sale.
Today's outdoor furniture ranges from PVC plastic to wicker to teak and everything in between. Unbreakable dishware is no longer obvious and often has to be picked up to be detected while lighting ranges in all sizes and shapes from the elegant to the whimsical.
Here is a very brief tour of the possibilities whether the living space to be filled is a porch, a patio, a balcony or expansive lawns.
DRAGONFLIES SEEM TO HAVE CAPTURED the fancy of Pier 1 which uses the graceful symbol of summer in many forms There is a small black bistro table with dragonfly cutouts, perfect for a tete a tete. The table is $79, two matching chairs $69. To shed light there is a lantern candle holder with a dragonfly motif for $25. The lantern uses a votive light. Taller garden lamps with the same design are also available for $50.
To relax in the garden there is a wooden and wrought iron bench with ivy design. The bench for $159 folds. The store also carries a lot of traditional and not so traditional wicker and its Soliel collection of wood and canvas furniture includes an outdoor rocking chair.
For flamingo lovers, there is a very different flamingo sculpted in iron without a sign of pink for $125. Strings of garden lights and paper lanterns abound.
Pier 1 stores are located in Springfield at 6751-A Frontier Drive, 703-924-5044; Vienna at 8365A Leesburg Pike, 703-821-2305; Alexandria at 4349 Duke St., 703-823-9377 and 117 South Washington St., 703-548-7478; Fairfax at 11216 James Swart Circle, 703-352-5766; Falls Church at 5857-A Leesburg Pike, 703-379-6813 or check online at www.pier1.com.
ONE OF THE MORE INTRIGUING ITEMS at Restoration Hardware is a collection of plates resembling famous French and English porcelain in Sevres and Royal Worcester patterns. But these plates, made of tin are meant for outdoor dining whether at home or on a picnic. And at $7 a plate they are being snapped up, according to Jill Weaver, assistant manager of the Old Town Alexandria store. "They are hugely popular," she said, "particularly with European tourists.
As for outdoor furniture, "We have three collections," she said, "Veranda, Montauk and Maple St."
The Maple Street collection was originally made when armament manufacturers after World War I retooled their factories for peacetime purposes. From those with metal-stamping capabilities came metal furniture with intricate stamped out designs. The present day collection features chairs, a side table, and a small glider, at home on a lawn but small enough to grace a balcony. They are painted in celery green and cream or butter yellow and cream and are surprisingly comfortable even without a cushion. The chairs are $59, the side table $39 and the glider $149.
Crafted from Nyatoh wood plantation grown in Indonesia, The Montauk collection is traditionally styled. The bench is $450, a side table $95 and the chaise lounge $395. The Veranda collection is elegantly crafted of wrought iron mesh that is rust resistant and has an electro-cathode primer and polyester powder coat, a process used for automobiles. A dining set of four chairs and a 48-inch in diameter table is $895. The chaise lounge is $395.
There are two stores in Northern Virginia, one in McLean at 7926 Tysons Corner Center, 703-821-9655; and one in Alexandria at 614 King St., 703-299-6220. They can be reached on the web at www.restorationhardware.com.
VIRGINIANS WHO HAVE SUMMERED in Cape May or Rehoboth Beach may be familiar with Wooden Village Teak, which just opened its first Northern Virginia store three weeks ago at 1218 King St. in Alexandria. This is the 11th store in a small chain that manufactures as well as sells fine teak furniture, mostly for outdoors, although they do make some indoor pieces.
"Boaters use this wood on their decks because of its high oil content. It stays smooth as silk and doesn't splinter," said Robb Wolf, manager and part owner as he described the virtues of plantation-grown teak.
The store offers extension tables, folding tables and gateleg tables, benches, chairs, lounges, coffee tables — everything to set up comfortable living outdoors.
The pieces can be Shaker simple or ornately carved like a Dutch-carved bench for $1,135. A folding side table is $278 on sale for $195 while the ingeniously crafted dining tables range in price on sale from $495 to $2,050.
"Our main focus is outdoor furniture," said Wolf who noted that the company did custom orders as well as provide what is in the store.
Wolf, who was manager of the Rehoboth store, said he had visited Alexandria often and decided it would be a good place to sell their plantation-grown teak.
WHILE CRATE AND BARREL offers a wide variety of outdoor furnishings, they also offer the portable kind. An outdoor concert-goer, for example, might be interested in the table in a bag, a low coffee-table made of hardwood that rolls up into a bag, available for $39.95. Also portable for a trip to the beach or a favorite park is a fold-up table of steel-enforced aluminum with a slatted roll-up top and canvas chairs that also fold up into carrying bags that come with the furniture. The large table is $69.95, the smaller table is $39.95 and the chair is $11.95.
For eating outdoors at home, there is the Trellis line which is made of interlaced steel with tubular legs. The extension table is $699, the chair is $149 and cushions are $22.95 each. There is also a matching chaise for $299 and a plant screen for $189.
To add to the outdoor ambiance there are birdbaths, planters, a wrought-iron chandelier that holds candles for $89.95, colorful paper goods and acrylic glassware, brilliantly colored that looks like the real thing.
Crate and Barrel is located at 1800 International Drive in Tysons Corner, 703-891-0090; and at 100 South Hayes St. in Pentagon City-Fashion Center, 703-418-1010. An outlet store is located at 1700 prince St. in Alexandria, 703-739-8800. Find them on the web at www.crateandbarrel.com.