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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!

White Limozeen Nashville rooftop umbrellas

Patio umbrellas featuring bright colors, scalloped edges, and fringe are gracing some of our favorite bars, restaurants, and hotels around the South. If you love the look, read on for ways to recreate it in your own outdoor space! Image: Digital Love for White Limozeen

High Hampton Inn umbrella on the lawns

You may have seen glimpses of this view at North Carolina’s High Hampton Inn splashed all over social media. Their lawn, studded with cabana-style setups, paints a dreamy picture. You can recreate the look with this similar umbrella available at Pottery Barn. Image: T. McRae

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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.

black and white striped patio umbrella

Bold stripes are in! This particular design looks chic in black and white, but it’s also available in bright colors like green, red, and even pastels. SHOP HERE: Striped market umbrella, $625 | Image: Home Depot

neutral patio umbrella with fringe from one kings lane

If you prefer a neutral color palette, you can still incorporate the whimsy of the current umbrella trends by opting for a design with a scalloped edge or hem. SHOP HERE: Cloud Fringe Patio Umbrella in ‘Wheat,’ $645-695 | Image: One Kings Lane

Green patio umbrella

Pops of bright color can infuse a sense of fun into your outdoor space, making an otherwise neutral design scheme one that guests will remember. SHOP HERE: Octagonal market umbrella, $202.99 | Image: Wayfair

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.

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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.”

Cream colored umbrella with LED lights on outdoor patio at sunset

If you like to spend time outdoors at night, consider an umbrella lined with LED lighting. You can shop this look at any Stock & Trade Co. location or order over the phone. Image: Stock & Trade Co.

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.”

retro fringe beach umbrella

Retro-inspired beach umbrellas are a fun choice, as they can be used with a stand as a traditional patio umbrella or toted to the park or beach and anchored into the ground! SHOP HERE: Panel beach umbrella, $390 | Image: Chairish

lemon print patio umbrella

Don’t be afraid to go for prints! This lively lemon print is an instant mood booster. SHOP HERE: Lemon print beach umbrella, $199 | Image: Revolve

pink striped cabana tent

The trend of vintage stripes and fringe has extended to tents! This is a fabulous option for entertaining, lounging in the backyard, and outdoor excursions to the park or beach. SHOP HERE: Pink striped cabana, $495 | Image: Chairish

Striped statement umbrella

If you’re looking for an outdoor investment piece, this striped market umbrella with ultra-sturdy construction could be the splurge for you. It’s available in 13 different color combinations! SHOP HERE: Tuscan Sunset Umbrella, $3,037 | Image: Chairish

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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