More than just tools to ride out the rain, umbrellas can lend color, texture, and dimension to your outdoor space. This season, we’re swooning over retro and vintage-inspired styles with unique silhouettes, fringe, and vibrant colors and prints. We asked Southern design experts for things to consider as you shop for the right umbrella to complement your space — plus, throughout the article, we’ve included some fun and functional options available for purchase so that you can hop on this trend at home!
With people spending so much time at home over the past two years, it’s no wonder that outdoor spaces have shifted to the forefront of our attention — so much so that retailers have responded by bulking up their outdoor decor offerings and keeping a close eye on trends. “The entire furniture industry has noticed a change,” says Christopher Rankin, Chief Creative Officer of Stock & Trade Design Co. “People are doing a lot more outdoor living.”
Since Stock & Trade expanded its outdoor department, Christopher has noticed trends toward certain umbrella styles that reflect the Southern aesthetic. “Our most popular colors for umbrellas are neutrals — including black, gray, and white — and trending statement colors such as turquoise, green, and black and white stripes,” Christopher says.
Once you’ve established a vision for your aesthetic (or simply settled on a color), the first element of choosing the best umbrella for your outdoor space is to consider placement and size. If you’re unsure about size, bigger is always better, says Kristen Pawlak, owner of KP Designs/Decorating Den Interiors in Louisville, KY. “It’s also worth the investment required to get a good, functioning umbrella with strong mechanics,” she adds.
Leslie Lewis-Sheets, founder and owner of Louisville-area interior design company LL&A Interior Design, echoes this, emphasizing that umbrellas made with Sunbrella or awning material are great choices, as they will withstand rain and heavier weather conditions. “It’s important to evaluate where your source of weather may come in,” she explains. “You may have more wind in one direction than another. Thinking that through on the front end is always helpful, so you don’t invest [in an umbrella], and it’s blowing over all the time. Stabilization is important.”
Umbrellas can offer other functions as well, such as lighting for nighttime al fresco dining. “People used to string lights around them, but now they’re crafted with built-in lights,” Christopher says. “The LED lighting is built directly into the umbrella frame.”
Of course, outdoor umbrellas are great for providing shade on a sunny day (or extra lighting at night), but they don’t necessarily have to be utilitarian — umbrellas can be especially useful for adding height and dimension to a flat landscape or for infusing your space with playfulness and personality. “If you want to feel like you’re on a fancy resort vacation and love the look of something you saw on a trip, go for it,” Kristen says. “If you grew up with fringe and florals, and that’s nostalgic for you, go for it.”
As parting advice, Kristen adds that while umbrellas are a fun way to make a statement, it’s wise to take your time shopping before investing in a new piece. “Consider your [other] outdoor pieces and the palette and aesthetic you’re going for. Try to incorporate everything so that it looks like it’s purposefully designed and the umbrella wasn’t tossed in as an afterthought.”
Here’s to sunny days spent outdoors!
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