The Outdoor Room - flow? It’s all a blur…

By Terry Herbert November 18, 2016 Great Outdoors

The line is definitely blurring – cooking and entertaining is merely moving from one indoor room to an outdoor one as we turn our gaze outward to the great outdoors, all the way to the back fence (or the ocean…). Terry Herbert reports.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

Today’s outdoor room is much more than just a paved slab or decking. It’s the flooring that adds that seamless indoor outdoor flow. An outdoor kitchen and bar will help make the space the life of the party, while low-slung chairs and furniture will make you want to stay outside for longer.

Why not add a spa or pool for the ideal al fresco area? Even when temperatures drop, a fire pit or fireplace will be able to keep you and your company toasty warm, year round.

To help tie in the area to the surrounding garden, no matter how small, fairy lights, garden torches and citronella candles will set the mood and keep the mozzies at bay.

Throw in soft furnishings such as waterproof rugs, pillows and chair cushions for personality. For something really striking, consider adding a water feature or wall garden.

What’s on the barbie? Salt & pepper tofu skewers perhaps? What about Suya goat kebabs, pork loins or a whole barbequed trout in newspaper?

What is abundantly clear to us is the fact that, as gardens get smaller, outdoor living areas take on a much more significant place in the home whether entertaining friends or just relaxing. Stylish outdoor living and adventurous cooking has arrived. The great outdoors room is our new happy place.

 

ADDING COLOUR AND VERSATILITY

To get the gen on barbies we ask Masport’s outdoor guru, Steve Hawkes, what the trends are in outdoor cooking and heating. He tells us his new Ziegler & Brown BBQs (see below) have really taken off: “I was down with a new retailer in Gisborne and I just put the twin grill on the back of the ute, fired it up and said ‘right what do you want to cook?’ They were just blown away. It’s a neat piece of kit and I’m pretty impressed with it.

“We are still selling the whole range of Masport BBQs but these Z&B’s are just so versatile and easy to cook with. You don’t have to educate consumers how to cook, they can just do it how they have always cooked. And by the way, if you want to cook with the lid down and use it as an oven, you can do that as well.

“OK, yes it’s the first thing they ask, ‘Is it like a Weber?’ And we go, well slightly better. You can use it as a smoker, you can sizzle, fry or bake so they are bloody versatile. You can cook with the lid up and the exhaust is out the back instead of out the sides – where your beer is sitting on the side tables. These guys have sold hundreds of thousands in Australia and now we can sell them here too!”

This year Masport has also introduced colours to its barbeques. Says Steve Hawkes: “It’s really injected a bit of enthusiasm in my rep force as well and the retailers get enthusiastic by bringing some colour to the showroom.

“I admit I was a bit nervous about colours but they seem to be hitting the mark. There was a little bit of science behind it. We just did a survey on our Facebook page of what the most popular colours were and we went with that. If I sound surprised, it’s because I probably am!”

 

A YEAR OF TWO SEASONS?

How has the “outdoor” season been so far? Gary Woodhouse, PlaceMakers’ GM Ops & Marketing, is a decent man who speaks plainly and without spin: “I think it would be fair to say that the weather hasn’t been kind to us or to anyone in outdoor furniture.

“So to be completely honest, sales are reasonable but we need a couple of good fine weeks for people to really get into that outdoor furniture season.”

Still, after all, he adds: “The season hasn’t really started yet. We expect to see outdoor sales pick up and run into Christmas and again after Christmas.”

Does the outdoor room consumer act any differently? “We find that a lot of customers come into the store pick up the catalogue, take it home, look at it and come back in to pick something up from it.

 

“I admit I was a bit nervous about colours but they seem to be hitting the mark”

“We have to make sure it’s a really good quality catalogue so it doesn’t just get thrown in the bin. In a store like (Auckland’s) Cook Street, with little space for display, a good catalogue is really important.”

Unlike Masport, PlaceMakers is staying away from BBQ colours this year, preferring to stick with the traditional stainless steel. “We’ve looked at quality and value for money as opposed to moving too far into any fashion,” says Gary Woodhouse.

Without sounding unadventurous, he reaffirms: “For us it’s more of the same from last year. People are still wanting to do more and more outdoors but, in terms of trends, it’s more about people becoming more adventurous with what they are cooking.”

But that also presents opportunities. He explains: “What that is demanding is more BBQs with accessories, not new colours.”

One thing PlaceMakers is seeing on the increase is landscaping. “Customers are doing more building or extending decks or paving and we are still seeing good growth in people building their own pizza ovens and fires.

“It’s the Kiwi DIY person who will see one somewhere and get the inspiration to build a pizza oven and will start to build and craft from scratch.”

 

CANE, WEBER & PIZZA

Speaking of colours, we switch from PlaceMakers blue to Mitre 10 orange and speak with Dee Lal, General Manager of two MEGAs.

He is also happy to speak from the hip about the outdoor season: “It was a slow start. The first couple of weeks in October never really kicked and then we got to Labour Weekend and sales just took off. They really picked up.”

Part of this will be thanks to Mitre 10’s Outdoor Living Collection catalogue which helps push awareness along too. Says Dee Lal: “Our customers actually come into our stores asking for them.”

Apart from Weber BBQs which are selling very well, this season’s big trend is cane – synthetic cane that’s rot proof, weather proof and wear resistant and looks “amazing”.

Adds Dee Lal: “We’re starting to sell the outdoor fires too. Big pizza ovens which double as an outdoor fire are also popular. They’re very heavy, made from stone, but once you put it up you can do a lot with it.”

 

WOMEN RULE – OK?

To ask who else is making decisions we head just off Newmarket’s Broadway to an Eden Street showroom and discover Burton Living, which unashamedly offers “the largest and most unique range of casual living products in New Zealand”.

A perfectly coiffed female assistant looking and sounding like someone from The Real Housewives of Auckland drifts amongst the outdoor furniture plumping cushions.

We speak with Burton Living Director, Malcolm Burton, who has been in the outdoor living game for 25 years and still loves it. When we ask who his customer base is, he says candidly: “Most of my customers are women who come to me with an idea of what they want for their outdoor entertaining area. Often the men never show up at all. Sometimes they have a budget in mind but often they don’t. We sell solutions and not products.”

When a daybed will set you back $9,000, you quickly grasp that providing a “total outdoor living solution” from Burton Living across seating, heating, cooking and cover will run you into five or even six figures.

“It was a slow start. The first couple of weeks in October never really kicked and then we got to Labour Weekend and sales just took off”

Burton continues: “Sure we sell very high end but some of our products retail for only a few hundred dollars (a foot stool was only $599)… What is most important is the quality and the style. When you’re entertaining your friends, especially in summer, you spend more time in your ‘outdoor room’ than anywhere else so you want them to be impressed while they’re having a good time.”

So what’s on-trend? “We have new high quality, low lounge furniture in soft whites, earth tones and neutrals that are generously proportioned, comfortable and gorgeous. They wouldn’t look out of place in the South of France. Cane, teak and powder-coated metal are popular.

“We also sell more outdoor kitchens like the Artisian that has a built-in four-burner barbeque with a sink and fridge so your wine and beer is right there. Roofing, pergolas, trellis or umbrellas for shade are also popular. Our patio enclosures are usually made from glass or mesh screens.”

Still, five or six figures? “It’s very cool being able to transform your outdoor space into an enclosed outdoor room. Cooking outdoors is more popular than ever and you control the heating, sun and weather exposure – with one remote control.”

 

FLOORED WITH DEMAND

Stepping on to exterior hard flooring, we catch up with Mike Syddall, General Manager of The Tile Depot, and enquire about the market.

He tells us: “We have seen some incredible growth over the past 12 months and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. The building industry is like a stretched rubber band at the moment. Everything is urgent, everyone is stressed and small problems become big problems pretty quickly.”

Demand is strong, to the point Tile Depot has taken on new staff to ease the biggest pressure points, including its distribution centre. “We are landing about 35% more containers than we were a year ago,” says Sydall. “Demand is so high, we have had to flick our warehouse operation over to 24 hour shift work and we have taken a second warehouse to cope with the demand.”

Whew! Apart from demand we ask what’s different with the “great outdoors” now compared to a year ago? Mike Syddall shares that many of Tile Depot’s group housing customers are now also building small scale terraced housing around Auckland beachheads like Millwater and Hobsonville.

“What’s new for us is that many smaller houses and terraces are being tiled throughout the home, extending to the outdoor living areas. That’s a very Mediterranean concept that basically creates a much larger sense of living space on a smaller site. Kiwis have moved on from the days of tiling just bathrooms and kitchens.”

Any new product trends? “I’ve just returned from Italy where the annual tile fairs are held every October. Tiles that look like timber, stone, brick or natural materials are the hot ticket. In other words, natural looking imitation products. Big indoor/outdoor tiles like the 600x600mm continue to be popular especially with patios and around pool areas.”

We ask about laminates. “This is a new product for us – as with tiles, they are photographing real timber and printing onto a hardwearing laminate face. We are selling a European range called Vitality which once installed you would swear is the real deal. And we’re selling these for a fraction of the price. It’s quite a Do It Yourself product also.”

As we all look forward to escaping work and returning to our own great outdoors happy place, what we can safely bet on is more indoor/outdoor flow, more choice (including cooking too), more colour, more quality, more entertaining and hopefully more relaxing. It’s game on in the great outdoors. Happy sales everyone!



Garden shows but not as we know them…

Spoga+gafa is blooming – In September spoga+gafa ,the world’s leading garden trade fair hosted in Cologne, grew by 6% compared to 2015. Over 2,000 exhibitors from 60 countries, 40,000 international trade visitors and over 39,000 visitors from 106 countries were there to view the latest and greatest worldwide garden scene trends. It was three days of fiery barbecues, outdoor furniture, lighting, mowing, pruning, preening, potting and the latest plant trends. The global phenomena of the great outdoors is here to stay.
www.spogagafa.com

Growing business at Glee – Meanwhile across the channel in old Blighty, Glee, the UK’s biggest garden and outdoor living tradeshow, in Birmingham, showcased the newest products on the market. This year Glee attracted several thousand British and international garden retailers, online buyers, DIY stores, landscapers and builders’ merchants. UK garden centres also attended en masse with over 98% of Garden Centre Association (GCA) members visiting the show.
www.gleebirmingham.com



Here’s the dirt on Kiwi gardeners

During Yates’ National Gardening week initiative from 23-30 September Kiwis were asked about their attitudes to gardening. Here are some key takeaways from survey respondents:

67% would rather be gardening than fishing and 60% opted for getting into the garden over watching sports.

71% of those surveyed said their garden was their happy place while nearly half (47%) turn to gardening to relieve stress and 22% said it had helped alleviate depression.

The happiest gardeners in the country are those in Northland (50%), followed by Otago (43%), Auckland and Wellington (42%) and Canterbury gardeners are the least happy (35%).

While Christchurch tends to have the largest gardens, it slips behind Auckland and Wellington when it comes to being the most passionate gardeners.

Females are more passionate about gardening (60%) than males, some of whom see it as a chore that has to be done.

The greatest motivation for gardening is to have the best garden in the street (57%) while close second is to have fresh homegrown vegetables (52%).

Finally, 61% of people said they believed a great garden added more value to a home than either a home theatre room or a swimming pool.

www.yates.co.nz



Permadeck is here to stay

Does a deck need to be made of timber? Managing Director, Craig Nees, took time to explain what Permadeck composite decking is all about.

Why composite? “There is a greater acceptance of composite material as an alternative to wood for decking because of its durability and performance.”

Where is it from? “We are one of the few companies bringing in composite material out of the US whereas the alternative products come out of China.”

Nees explains that Permadeck isn’t just for residential projects and has even got a big tick from the education sector: “Because we’re well established and trusted, we have a Government contract with schools. The new transportable classrooms are a huge build project for us. The Education Department need to know these decks will last.”

In which respect: “Nine years ago we put our product down on the Viaduct Event Centre. There’s probably 1100m2 and it still looks like new. Today, we are talking to people who have had hardwood or pine decks. They are sick and tired of the maintenance and replacing them every 7 years. Our products generally don’t have those issues.”

www.permadeck.co.nz



 Ziggy to Go

Masport’s new Ziegler & Brown Grill Series will take you to the beach, bach and beyond. These take-anywhere barbeques provide superior quality, power and flexibility so you can take your outdoor entertaining anywhere. There’s a range of sizes – Portable, Twin or Triple – and colours: Chilli Red or Gunmetal Grey finish. With a high heat output that allows you to cook with the hood open or closed, this award-winning grill offers a large cooking zone, superior heat retention, fingertip burner control and superior heat circulation. You can also take your Ziggy to the next level with accessories such as the baking dish, roast pack, pizza stones, handle mount light and smoker box.

www.masport.co.nz

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