Banish all memories of cheap plastic chairs and make your outdoor oasis shine with great boutique finds for the garden, pool and patio.
By March, you were probably fantasizing about pulling out the lawn chairs you packed away what seemed like eons ago. And by June, you’re probably already sick of staring at their sun-faded cushions. It’s not just time to go shopping—it’s time to upgrade.
Banish all memories of cheap plastic chairs and folding chaise longues with green plastic strapping—and imagine instead a range of pieces nice enough to look at year-round, stocked at boutiques that offer design services and cutting-edge style. Yes, there is no longer any reason to fear the term “patio furniture.” We’ve compiled a list of local retailers that promise to give your back yard, pool, deck, porch, and, yes, your patio all the appeal of your favorite room in the house—weather permitting, of course.
Since 1942, novice gardeners and professional landscapers of every variety have had a mecca in Waterloo Gardens, 136 Lancaster Ave., Devon, and 200 North Whitford Road, Exton. Its two locations are only 15 miles apart, but both remain busy year-round. The showrooms represent about 22 manufacturers with 60 sets of furniture—all overseen by buyer and warehouse guru Carol Christensen, whose ability to remember wicker chairs and wrought-iron benches from 23 years ago has earned her the nickname “Patio Queen.”
Treasure Garden’s freestanding, cantilevered umbrellas that tilt and spin at the touch of a button, chat groups (seating clustered around low tables), quick-drying acrylic cushions in every color of the rainbow, and cast-aluminum pieces that resembles bamboo or
rosewood—all come with information about how to care for each piece, written by Waterloo staff.
There’s been a big change at the Hill Company, 8615 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill—not that you’d be able to tell by peering into this charming (and deceptively vast) store. In February, the Schmidt family, the founding owners of the business for more than 56 years, sold their hardware store-turned-furnishings emporium to longtime buyer Linda Moran. Moran has given the old place some new flourishes. She’s applied fresh coats of paint, stocked nifty dragonfly tree lights, displayed pretty, sweetpea-green Lloyd/Flanders wicker sets, and even boldly combined chocolate brown wrought-iron benches with cushions in relaxing pastels. She also plans to introduce a catalog and a website this July.
For the most part, though, it’s the same as ever, stocking affordable teak, comfortable Tropitone outdoor furniture, birdfeeders and all manner of fountains. If you can’t find the right piece to replace an old favorite, the store also restraps chair frames.
The Whole Nine Yards
The selection is anything but casual at Petey and Harold Fleischut’s two Delaware home decor shops. February through September, both locations of Casual Marketplace, 400 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, and Rt. 9 West, Lewes—one in an expansive, 130-year-old Hockessin mill, the other in a 7,000-square-foot space near the beach in Lewes—are a top-to-bottom, inside-and-outside who’s who of outdoor furnishings and accessories. If you’ve heard of it, they’ve got it: traditional forged-iron side tables by Meadowcraft and Woodard, long-lasting, clean-lined teak pieces by Gloster and Kingsley-Bate—all ready for same-day delivery. This season, look for textured, pool-safe outdoor tabletops made of cultured stone, slate, marble or granite, wine coolers, icemakers and high-tech fire pit tables that furnish perfect spots for your very own tabletop campfire.
Standing out as a destination for modern-design aficionados is Old City’s OLC, 152-154 N. Third St., Philadelphia. Joe Schiavo and Janet Kalter’s store—two gallery-like floors where clean-lined pieces are displayed like fine art—has pared down its line to a mere three labels: Cassina, B&B Italia and Bucks County outdoor-minded furniture designer Richard Schultz. Schultz’s cast-aluminum 1966 outdoor collection feels as fashionable—and as functional—as ever. Long-lasting vinyl edging and stainless hardware guarantee that the streamlined contour lounge, the thin, rectangular dining table, the boxy lounge chairs will last forever—indoors or out. Although 90 percent of OLC’s Schultz sales are from the 40-year-old original collection, Joe and Janet remain fans of newer Topiary chairs, made of perforated sheet aluminum, and the elegant Petal tables.
The Tao of Yards
You just may have to rethink wicker once you’ve been to Look East, 1406 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor. The warehouse recently moved to a larger, garden-backed space in Wyndmoor to accommodate the influx of Thai and Burmese imports that owners Paul and Susan Galka source on buying trips to Southeast Asia. Browse the often bright, usually rare, sometimes elegantly worn furnishings and accents and it won’t be long before you start imagining your own backyard oasis.
The catch: The Galkas’ spot is open to the public for speculation only. Retail customers must order through stores such as Old City’s Indigo Arts Gallery or Chestnut Hill’s Diane Bryman Accents. But handcrafted indigenous pieces like one-of-a-kind teak benches made of old work carts and colorful pottery urns (that designers have been snatching up to use as bases for side tables) make the effort worthwhile. New items include canvas market umbrellas with brightly painted undersides and intricate “spirit house” shrines used in Thai gardens.