Patio & Hearth Blog

from Patio and Hearth Products Report

Leave a comment

When it Comes to Selling Environmentally Friendly Furniture, “Caring Comes with Understanding”

HENRICO, VA – As the furniture industry heads into 2016, consumers are appreciating the high level of environmental awareness exemplified by companies such as Virginia-based Jensen Leisure Furniture.

Jensen’s commitment to credible forest certification for their outdoor furniture comes courtesy of The Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC), considered the “gold standard” in forest certification by the world’s leading environmental organizations. Janet Wansor, vice president, Sales & Marketing, Jensen Leisure Furniture, believes the company’s commitment to forest sustainability can attract consumers. The key, she says, is proper education from retailers.

furniture_photoP&HPR caught up with Wansor for a brief conversation about doing the right thing, while also boosting sales.

Patio & Hearth Products Report: As we head into 2016, how much do consumers (end users) care about the strict forest conservation guidelines adhered to by Jensen Leisure Furniture?
Janet Wansor, vice president, Sales & Marketing, Jensen Leisure Furniture: Caring comes with understanding. The benefits of FSC are still being taught. With the Design, Architecture and Contract Market, they are more informed, and therefore place value on FSC certification. End users will gain knowledge as our specialty outdoor stores inform their customers.

P&HPR: How can dealers use Jensen’s environmental dedication to their advantage to increase sales?  
Wansor: Word of mouth is important. We train our sales team to talk about FSC and sustainability in their product knowledge trainings. We provide point of service materials explaining the nature of our timbers and the fact that we are 100% FSC. As retail staff share this unique message in full, we believe consumers will learn, and want to participate, by purchasing this quality outdoor furniture in support of a greater story.

P&HPR: Why did you get involved with FSC?
Wansor: Jensen Leisure Furniture, as owned by the Roda Family of Santa Cruz Bolivia, adopts the FSC standard as handed down by the Roda family business practices. The FSC certification ensures from forest, to mill, to factory, to JLF, to end user, that the standards are followed.

P&HPR: Among specialty retailers, what is the biggest misconception about furniture made under strict environmental/conservation standards?  
Wansor: There is an assumption that FSC certification only relates to forest. Our certification respects the land use, the value of the forest, preserves the wildlife, and provides medical care, education, food, and homes for the employee and his/her family.

Leave a comment

Island Lifestyle Influences Joe Ruggiero’s Sunbrella® Fabrics Collection

Meredith Joie

Meredith Joie

Warm sunshine paired with a cool, island breeze and tranquil waters. Pure white sand and lush, colorful landscapes. This tropical ambience inspired home décor authority Joe Ruggiero in the creation of his new Sunbrella® fabrics collection–“Island Style”–set for introduction through The MT Company (formerly Miles Talbott Furniture) during the International Furniture Market in High Point.

“I was in Maui for my son’s wedding and the colors throughout the island really caught my attention,” Ruggiero said. “Hot pink and berry tones in flora and women’s textiles, the pairing of pure white in the sand and ocean blues for a classic look–these color combinations work together to bring a sense of the tropics to the home.”

A color pop expressive of island flora, pink is a striking color for interiors as well. Delhi II Berry features large-scale, floating paisleys with a hand-embroidered look in a tropical color. This fabric in The MT Company showroom complements existing fabric Espadrille Raspberry, a simple, ticking stripe.

The combination of white and blue is a true island classic. The geometric design of Savvy Indigo draws its roots from the Polynesian Kapa, a cloth primarily used for clothing. Reminiscent of rain drops – a regular sight on the island – Agra Indigo was inspired by a Malaysian ikat dyeing technique in which fabric is tie-dyed and then woven into the design. Tailored Indigo features a subtle play of blue and white that brings to mind the seas surrounding the islands. Its hand reflects the feel of handwoven textures that are popular in island textiles. Tying the color story together with a fresh approach is classic ticking stripe Espadrille II Mariner.

Meredith Philippe

Meredith Philippe

Ruggiero adds sophistication to his island collection with the pairing of black and white. The combination of the classic colors with the warm tropical hues is ideal for urban homes such as sophisticated loft spaces that still require the soft hand and durability provided by Sunbrella fabrics.

The Malaysian ikat-inspired Agra Classic elevates this pattern from an island classic to an elegant, natural look. Paired with Savvy Black, the fabrics feature a neutral palette that is anything but boring. Tribal Black brings native-inspired symbols up to date for a more contemporary setting.

In addition to new fabrics and colorways, Ruggiero has a full collection of decorative tapes, cording and brush fringe available through The MT Company.

“My signature has always been comfortable, easy living interiors,” Ruggiero said. “The soft hand and stain- and fade-resistant qualities of Sunbrella play right into the island theme. The fabrics in my newest Sunbrella collection allow true island dwellers and those who are landlocked to enjoy the experience of tropical locales.”

Maxfield Bergen Kelton

Maxfield Bergen Kelton

New this market for Miles Talbott/Joe Ruggiero upholstery compliments the “Island Style” theme:
The Kelton
Merging form and function into a beautifully scaled chair, Ruggiero has designed a swivel chair that offers supreme comfort. “ You sit into this chair not just on-it. The design was inspired by the modernist designs of the French Designer Jean-Michel Frank; clean lines with a contemporary twist. We have had requests for chairs that swivel. With many televisions mounted to the wall, consumers want a chair that can turn to conversation or to watch television.”

The New Joie Modular
Due to the great reception of the Joie Sofa last market, we introduce this new Joie modular group with all the pieces of true modular seating. This design is scaled properly for smaller spaces but has a distinctive look with graceful arms and loose pillow seats and backs. With a slightly higher back, this upholstery group creates a new look for Ruggiero’s modular groups already in the line. “I have always used modular pieces in the rooms I design; I like the flexibility of moving pieces around the room as needed or moving them together for the gathering of family and friends.”

The Leslie Chair
A Chair that is “at home” in many interior designs. An elegant wing chair with exquisite tufting that can be dressed for a formal room or be just as appropriate in a more casual setting. “I wanted a more formal chair that could move into many different settings whether casual or formal. I do not have many tufted designs in my line but this was created to be distinctive but like all of my pieces, extremely comfortable.”

Ruggiero will showcase “Island Style” during High Point Market October 17-22 in The MT Company showroom located on the second floor of 311 N. Hamilton Street in High Point.

Leave a comment


Tonyby Tony Ramos

Those who have played high-school sports will tell you that there was at least one moment when a coach said or did something that had a positive impact that has stayed with them for their entire lives. My moment came during my junior year of high school.

As the third-string varsity quarterback, I spent more time on the bench than did the large jug of water (GatoradeTM was not around when I was in high school). To give you some idea of how bad I was, the only reason that I wasn’t the fourth-string quarterback is that only three of us had tried out for the position. One Friday night, our team was defeating its opponent easily. By halftime, the game was essentially over.

Our second-string quarterback, a sophomore, played the game’s entire second half. In California, high-school football’s rules state that a participant who plays at least two quarters of a varsity game is ineligible to play in the junior varsity (JV) game the next day. Therefore, I was assured of starting the JV game on Saturday.

During the fourth quarter of the JV game, with our team on the 20-yard line, I dropped back to pass—and suddenly saw an opening in front of me through which you could have driven a Mack® truck. Tucking the ball into my left side, I took off for the end zone. As I crossed the 5-yard line, ready to score and put my team ahead, I was tackled on the 1-inch line (neither the 1-yard line nor the 1-foot line, but the 1-inch line) by the right cornerback. On the next play, our running back took the ball into the end zone, and we eventually won the game.

Richard Warren Olson

Richard Warren Olson

Walking through the locker room after the game, I passed the coaching office, where all of the varsity coaches were assembled. One of the coaches called me into the office. “Hey, Ramos: I hear you almost scored,” Coach Richard Warren (Rich) Olson, our offensive coordinator, yelled. “Yeah,” I replied, and I shared with the coaches how I had been stopped on the 1-inch line. In a matter-of-fact way, Olson said, “Ramos, if you had really wanted it, you would have scored.” If looks could kill, Olson would immediately have turned into a pile of dust.

I spent the rest of that season, the next (senior) season, and many years thereafter secretly hating the words that had been spoken by Olson. At the same time, I also discovered that whether in the classroom, at the gym, on the running trail, or in the workplace, I started to put forth greater effort.

I spent more time studying, pushed through extra repetitions at the gym, ran through (not to) the invisible finish line of a run, and worked harder and longer at my job than I previously had. I also developed a more competitive spirit in all aspects of my life. Whether I would admit it to myself or not, in the back of my mind, ever present, were the words spoken by Olson.

Once I got to the point in life when I could handle the truth, I suddenly realized that Olson did not speak those words to belittle me, to put me down, or to demean me. Instead, Olson took the time for a teaching moment with a third-string player, planting the seed that would help propel a backup quarterback always to put forth his best effort, to leave nothing on the field, and to strive for excellence—win or lose.

As business owners, it’s important to be open and honest with your employees and always to seek their suggestions on what you and the company can do to improve, according to Joanne Sujansky, PhD, a management consultant (writing in Specialty Retail Report) who helps business growth and profitability by creating and sustaining what she calls a productive and profitable workplace.

The Retail Advocacy Group teaches retailers “to tell the truth—both good and bad.” Even if you need to deliver bad news or enforce standards, you will always get better results if you are candid, respectful, and truthful. John Morrish, writing for Management Today, reports that being honest is the starting point for running an honest organization. He quotes motivational speaker Larry Johnson: “The worst truth always beats the best lie.”

Olson (a former quarterback at Washington State University), after spending five years coaching high-school football, went on to coach at the college and professional levels. His college coaching career included California State University–Fresno, the University of Southern California, the University of Arkansas, Southern Methodist University, the University of Miami, and Arizona State University. In the NFL, Olson coached for the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Redskins, the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Minnesota Vikings.

As for me, I decided that I was probably better suited for a career in journalism and publishing than for one as a quarterback. Not only was I better at journalism than at playing football, but there are a lot fewer injuries in journalism and publishing than there are in football. Along the way, any small amount of success that I have achieved in my personal and business life has been due, in part, to Olson and to his speaking the truth to me. Thanks, Coach!

Tony Ramos is the publisher/founder of Patio & Hearth Products Report.

Tony can be reached via e-mail:

Leave a comment

Product Launches at Homecrest

September 2015 marks yet another dynamic product launch at Homecrest. The company’s deep seating complement is expanded with the introduction of Liberty, a timeless collection featuring mission styling and luxurious DreamCoreTM cushion comfort.

In Sling and Woven Dining, the new Elements is a transitional collection that brings together clean lines and elegant contours. The popular Grace collection is expanded to include a full range of modular pieces, while the Lana spring collection includes exciting new seating surfaces, and Havenhill Cushion has grown to include the ever-popular specialty pieces. 

A number of dynamic introductions to dining and fire table collections turns up the heat for inspired outdoor spaces. 

Grace_ModularNew Introductions For 2016 
Grace Modular
New for 2016, Homecrest is pleased to introduce the Grace Modular collection. With a wide selection of modular units in different orientations and sizes, Grace can be scaled to your space, and pieces can be freely moved to suit the needs of the moment. Perfect for entertaining and yet beautifully suited to quiet relaxation, the luxurious comfort of Grace Modular combines with elegant styling and exceptional utility to create a welcoming atmosphere of gracious outdoor living.

HavenhillHavenhill Deep Seating with DreamCoreTM Cushions
Echoing the gentle flares and subtle curves of the fashion-forward Havenhill dining collection, Homecrest is pleased to introduce Havenhill Deep Seating collection. Generously proportioned and exceptionally comfortable with its new DreamCore™ cushion, Havenhill allows for luxurious relaxation even in smaller spaces.

Liberty_DeepSeatingLiberty Deep Seating by Homecrest
Drawing inspiration from the beautiful craftsmanship of an earlier era in our country’s history, Liberty’s timeless design and unparalleled comfort will enhance outdoor spaces for generations to come. Create an environment of relaxation and serenity with a full complement of deep seating pieces, and carry design themes through to your dining area with Liberty Barrel Chairs.

Liberty_Barrel_ChairThe Liberty Barrel Chair
This iconic introduction hearkens back to early days in Homecrest’s history. This richly updated piece features the wraparound comfort of our traditional barrel chair and the unsurpassed comfort of Homecrest’s industry-leading coil spring swivel rocker, while incorporating timeless design elements of our Liberty Deep Seating collection. As a front porch vignette for two, or elegant dining for a crowd, the Liberty Barrel Chair will create an engaging ambiance that celebrates the past and the future.

Elements_SlingElements Sling Seating Collection
Uniquely transitional and highly functional, Homecrest is pleased to introduce the Elements Sling collection. Subtle curves and simple angles combine to create a collection that can be artfully classic or freshly modern, depending on your design sensibilities and your outdoor space. Available in low back, high back and balcony seating, Elements has the added versatility of complementing a wide range of deep seating styles with ease and grace.

LanaMetalSlatNew for 2016 Lana Metal Slat & Mesh
The contemporary lines of our Lana collection have a fun-loving appeal that suits the décor of any backyard or patio. This collection is enhanced by its durability and ease of maintenance, yet maintains unexpected comfort. Check out the entire Lana collection at

Aurora_Fire_TablesNew Aurora Fire Tables | Check out the new Timber Series
Aurora Natural Series is available in Homecrest’s Stonegate and the new Timber Table Series for 2016. Available in 19” coffee and 24.5” chat table heights with a powerful 65,000 BTU burner, the amazing heat will extend your outdoor season while Aurora’s beauty creates an atmosphere of relaxation and conversation.

Valero_FirepitsValero Fire Pits| Natural Series & Woven | New Heights for 2016
Homecrest’s Valero fire table is now available in the intimate 19” coffee height for 2016, along with 24.5”chat, dining and balcony heights. Valero fire tables are available with all Homecrest Natural Series table tops; and softly curved side panels are available in aluminum, which may be powder-coated to match or contrast with your frame, as well as in 5000-hour resin wicker in Coco or Hampton, according to your design preferences.

Timber_TablesYou Love the new Timber Tables by Homecrest
Cast from beautiful reclaimed wood tables, the Timber collection is at once on-trend and timeless. Using the same technology we use in all Natural Series tables, we are able to achieve a look that is marvelously realistic while retaining the outstanding outdoor performance characteristics you expect from Homecrest. Available in Sequoia and Drift colors, choose from a wide range of sizes in dining, occasional and balcony heights, or warm up fireside with the new Aurora Timber 42” square fire tables.

Mode_TablesMode Tables –Contemporary Dining at a Variety of Heights
With clean lines and contemporary inspiration, Mode sets a new standard in casual chic. Aluminum panels in Onyx float over a base frame in the color of your choice, creating a space that is elegant in its simplicity and fresh in its styling. Select from a wide variety of heights and sizes to complement the fashionable seating of your choice.

DreamCoreTM Cushions by Homecrest
Whether traditional, transitional or contemporary in design, Homecrest’s deep seating collections are at once beautiful and incredibly comfortable. We use innovative techniques and top-quality materials to ensure that beauty and comfort last for decades.

The DreamCore™ cushion core begins with High Resilient furniture grade foam for the interior of the cushion. High Resilient foam provides exceptional durability and longevity, while offering an outstanding level of comfort. Unlike Viscoelastic foam (memory foam), the cell structure of High Resilient foam is less uniform and more random than conventional foams, which creates stronger structure, excellent elasticity and increased supporting force, thereby providing support, resilience, and ultimately, unparalleled comfort.

Leave a comment

The Boys of Summer are Heading into the Home Stretch

by Martin Roberts, Martin Roberts Design

Imagine all that would have to change if baseball became a year-round sport across the country. For one thing, peanuts, hotdogs and Cracker Jacks wouldn’t sound particularly appealing in December in any stadium located beyond the South. For another, players would probably have plenty to say about lost down-time, and increased risk of injury caused by continual play. Clearly, for such a game-plan to work, plenty about America’s pastime would need to be rethought.

Impulse buy glassware.

Impulse buy glassware.

It’s the kind of conundrum currently faced by our industry’s own boys of summer: Patio stores. Once a purely seasonal business, with retailers either closed half the year or morphing into purveyors of holiday trees and decorations, the outdoor market has been radically changing into a year-round undertaking. Not because of anything the players have done, but because of the fans.

Stressed-out, over-worked consumers today seek the lifestyles they experience on vacation (on the off-chance they can actually take one), or the relaxed environments they see in the movies or on TV, or even while surfing their iPads and magazines while awaiting a doctor’s appointment. They long to escape from sitting behind a screen all day, to literally stop and smell the roses. They want to experience the mouthwatering aromas they remember from childhood cook-outs, to squeeze toasted marshmallows between chocolate and graham crackers, to remember the sweet-tart zing of ice-cold tea and lemonade on a hot day.

Striking Out

Food stuffs in Garden Patio Store.

Food stuffs in Garden Patio Store.

Frankly, we’re failing them. When it comes to the outdoor category, retailers have not been keeping pace with consumers’ needs and desires. “She” loves the idea of gathering family and friends together in a manageable and healthy way, whether by the pool, in the sunroom, or around the outdoor kitchen on the patio. “He” enjoys assuming the role of bartender and barbeque chef, but seeks more recognition and creative ways to perform with his peers. But, nowhere can they find all they need to make their ideal outdoor space a reality.

Certainly, garden centers offer some products, but are typically populated by diminishing numbers of older consumers and are closing at alarming rates. Big box operations mainly focus on cheap imports, and the local furniture retailer doesn’t understand how to offer something different from the mass merchants. Meanwhile, the appliance store can only fulfill part of the need. No one yet knows how to compete with the Internet, and astoundingly, many patio stores are still closed for half the year. So what’s a shopper to do?

Events Calendar for winter traffic in Patio Store.

Events Calendar for winter traffic in Patio Store.

This opportunity to rethink and reshape an entire category of consumer products is similar to the challenge my team faced in the early ‘90s, when book stores were not providing consumers with the experiences they desired. We changed the game at Barnes & Noble back then by adding seating areas and cafés, essentially creating “a third place,” that wasn’t home or work, but a relaxing escape. It’s a form of retail that has worked well for more than 25 years.

As I see it, we’re standing at much the same place in the indoor/outdoor category now. The solution is to create a branded web and retail store that provides a seamless shopping, browsing and entertaining environment that provides consumers with products, services, a fulfilling visit in a year-round “greenhouse.”

Cafe in Garden and Patio Store.

Cafe in Garden and Patio Store.

Knocking it out of the Park
Visualize, if you will, a building retrofit from a distressed retail space or converted industrial space. Even a ground-up steel pre-fab building would work with minimal finishes and concrete floors, and roller shutters for transition space. Picture a stimulating environment with salvaged architectural pieces, repurposed woods and metal objects with innovatively displayed products. Add an indoor/outdoor café or coffee house to encourage morning and lunch traffic, and longer “dwell time” in-store, with offerings that speak to the specific season (all of them!).

Inside, merchandise ranges from indoor/outdoor furniture to appliances and outdoor kitchens with built-in wall ovens for year round use along with products for sale from key luxury brands. Gift items could include spa products, planters and pots with terrariums and appropriate tools. And oh, the services! Shoppers may choose from interior and exterior design, garden planning, outdoor kitchen design and consulting, project management and certified suppliers, and a host of classes and exciting events aimed at all age groups and demographics. All are continually touted via the online blog and social media. Can you already see the post focused on teaching kids how to build terrariums? How about the class on setting outdoor pavers or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey outside, or the garden tea supporting a local charity?

It’s a vision for a new kind of outdoor store, an innovative place offering everything under one roof, year-round. In many ways it will require changing the way we look at the outdoor category and it will take committed management to implement. It’s also an idea whose time is come that could change the way the game is played entirely. All I can say is, “Swing, batter, batter, swing!”

Leave a comment

The HammockSource Offers Comfort With a Commitment to the Environment

Fiberfill is recycled plastic soda bottles.

Fiberfill is recycled plastic soda bottles.

GREENVILLE, NC – Long known for its gorgeous hammocks, The HammockSource has also quietly kept a sustainable business model that seeks to get the most out of its materials. John D. Powell, marketing manager at Greenville, NC-based The HammockSource, says the environmentally-friendly efforts started when company founder Walter R. Perkins, Jr, simply could not afford to waste resources.

Light in the company warehouse production facilities comes courtesy of ultra-energy efficient bulbs.

Light in the company warehouse production facilities comes courtesy of ultra-energy efficient bulbs.

Walter Perkins III, his son, says he loves the outdoors and wants it to be around to fish and enjoy nature with his sons so the tradition is carried on,” says Powell. “This mindset has infused itself into the corporate culture. Part of it is economics, stemming from the earliest days of the company, and part of it is to try and make sure the world’s resources are around to enjoy.”
Minimizing waste, conserving energy, and recycling are now built into every facet of the company’s operations, and it’s something that dealers and consumers are proud to support. “While we have been doing this for many decades, it is rewarding that in this day of increased ecological awareness, our efforts are being received favorably by consumers,” says Powell. “It [environmental awareness] is a constant corporate directive. The daily business model is to continually search for opportunities to repurpose and minimize waste.”
Shavings from HDPE lumber are recycled.

Shavings from HDPE lumber are recycled.

The company’s original Pawleys Island Furniture is an example of this philosophy—constructed of HDPE lumber and the line is growing. According to Powell, five new pieces have been introduced for the 2016 season, and “the word from our R&D department is to expect a project to be ready for the Chicago Casual Market later in September.”

Leave a comment

Fire & Hearth Accessories: The Importance Of In-store Visibility

Hearth_Photo_1VANCOUVER, WA – A fire and hearth is the centerpiece of any home or garden. However, garden fire pits, in home wood burning stoves and cooking stoves aren’t just stand alone lifestyle elements. Whether it’s replacement glass, aesthetically complimentary hearth mats, replacement gas fittings, or even just a few new gas logs, stove and fire pit buyers consistently demonstrate that they prefer to purchase indoor and outdoor fire and hearth units from dealers who also stock the kind of accessories which they are likely to need.

Accidents happen. Stove glass sometimes gets broken. Likewise, routine gas safety checks occasionally identify valves and fittings which are in need of replacement. The problem? Your local fire and hearth dealer doesn’t actually stock the parts you require. Instead, you either have to find a a better equipped dealer who does, or attempt to get in touch with your fire pit or stove’s original manufacturer.

HearthPhoto_2Hearth parts and accessories therefore play integral, but often under appreciated parts in the ultimate success of any kind of stove dealership and/or fire and hearth retail outlet. Investors in such iconic lifestyle elements in their homes, don’t want to have to run around town just in order to maintain their particular fire or hearth unit. Moreover, contentious consumers are more likely to purchase a fire or hearth in the first place, from dealers who stock a visible range of accessories and aftercare products.

HearthPhoto_4At Hearth Distribution, we therefore pride ourselves on being able to better equip fire, hearth, and fire pit dealers, with not just a a full range of iconic fire and hearth units, but a full range of parts and accessories also. Even better, Hearth Distribution offer revolutionary low prices, and because we buy from the U.S., we can guarantee faster delivery than any of our stove and stove parts distribution competitors.
In fact, Hearth Distribution offers: • same day shipping on all orders; • no minimum purchases; • factory direct pricing; and • year round early buyer discounts.

Moreover, at Hearth Distribution, we not only stock all our own inventory, but we actively encourage feedback from dealers in regard to what parts, accessories, and even full fire and hearth units they would like to see us include in our catalog.

HearthPhoto_6Showcasing a stove or patio garden pit is a lot like showcasing a new car. People often have a few essential accessories and maintenance products in mind before they even enter your fire pit dealership in the first place. Make sure then, to stock the accessories that your customers want in order to secure bigger sales and ultimately better loyalty in the process.

YouTube Videos


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 282 other followers