By: Rachel Naud
Who said backyards can’t be stylish? Our private yards are no longer just for the odd dining set or picnic table. Today, they have evolved into sophisticated living spaces — an extension of our home indoors — with the addition of comfortable, high-quality, durable furniture. “I think everyone lives a much more hurried and busy life today and we value our recreational and free time that much more,” says Stuart Brown, owner of General Products Outdoor Furniture. “As Canadians, we crave the outdoors and warm weather. We clamour for it.” Our propensity to soak up vitamin D in comfort has challenged the patio-furniture industry to create outdoor opportunities that are just as beautiful as they are relaxing and long-lasting. “Our backyards have really become living spaces,” says Brown. “If you go to someone’s house, sometimes they just tell you to go straight to the backyard, but it’s not just a backyard anymore. It’s an outdoor room.”
Richmond Hill, Ont.-based General Products has been helping customers unwind in their outdoor spaces since 1979 — that’s when Brown’s father opened the doors to the company, which at one time specialized in upholstery and frames. One day, Brown decided to take one of the company’s chairs and power-coat the frame, which then turned it into an outdoor chair. That was the beginning of a venture that has remained strong for 44 years.
When it comes to the company’s offerings, there are several hot and stylish options for homeowners. While wicker furniture has been a mainstay in the patio-furniture world for decades, Brown says more customers are opting for aluminum pieces for a more modern feel. “Aluminum designs have come forward because they’re contemporary-looking, they’re especially comfortable and they have the same angles as wicker furniture,” he says. “There’s a lot happening right now with aluminum designs.” The use of recycled plastics is also on trend, especially north of the city in cottage country, in areas like Muskoka and Haliburton. “Recycled products are heavy, environmentally friendly and strong, so they won’t be damaged by weather. Plus, when it comes to colour, you don’t have to worry about the material fading.” Finally, powder-coating is popular because it can transform pieces to look like wood grains and all. “It gives it a whole different look, feel and texture,” he says.
When it comes to seating, deep-seated sectionals still rank number-one in terms of what Canadians are looking for in their outdoor living spaces. Brown says firepits are a close second. “Firepits are a huge category. They not only add a fire element that adds to your outdoor living experience, but they also warm you up on cool nights and can extend your patio season even longer, sometimes into October or November.”
When autumn arrives (or the snow starts to fall) and it’s time to take the party inside, Brown always recommends covering and protecting your furniture with a breathable cover bag, even if your set is water-repellent. “You always want to protect your investment,” he says. “And if you think you need chemicals to keep your furniture looking fresh, you don’t. Warm water and a mild detergent are the best things you can ever use so outdoor sets retain their look season after season.”