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Give your backyard a status update with playful furniture, a wood-burning cooker or colourful accents.

It's been a long winter. As spring peeks around the corner, beckoning with hints of green and gentle breezes, Canadian thoughts turn longingly to their patios. Patios with decadent daybeds for lazy lounging and flaming fire pits for friend-filled evenings. The sizzle of a steak on the grill and the tang of a perfectly chilled margarita. It's almost enough to make you forget winter ever happened. Almost.

So this may be just the moment to consider sprucing things up a bit out back. Time to chuck the dented aluminum chairs, the torn umbrella, the rusted-out barbecue and to let yourself dream of elegance.

Backyards are the new in thing, according to Pamela Davidson, sales and marketing director for ARD Outdoor, a Canadian manufacturing company that specializes in outdoor furniture for the global hospitality industry, as well as for residential clients.

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"Backyards are the new status symbol," she declares. "Outdoor kitchens, spas, pizza ovens — in the furniture industry, worldwide, the outdoor category is the only one that is growing in double digits."


Berkeley-Round-DaybedThe spa-like feel is gathering steam outdoors with items such as the Berkeley Round Day Bed from ARD Outdoor, above. (Credit: SUPPLIED)

Spa touches

What's new this season? The spa-like feel is gathering steam, says Ms. Schwartzentruber, with daybeds avidly sought-after. "We've got some pretty incredible ones," she says, citing a canopied model that resembles a yacht in full sail. She also predicts the Strips double-size daybed will be a hit, with its stylized trapezoid shade done in rattan.

Shaded furniture — including full sectional sofas with coffee tables — is popular for patios for obvious reasons. Who needs a sunburn?

This year, Ms. Schwartzentruber sees a trend towards more natural tones, with rattan styles moving away from the dyed greys and black, and aiming to look like the real thing.

"I'm also seeing a lot more mixing of wood with weaves or with metals — just that very organic feel," she muses. "It's more and more popular now to see a beautiful teak coffee table paired with a woven resin set. You can mix-and-match pieces, just as you would your indoor furniture — aluminum with a wood, or with a weave. I think people are embracing that idea more and more."

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The resort look

This season, ARD offers its clients the same outdoor lines it markets to hotels and cruise ships. "We find our customers want to re-create that resort look at home," explains Ms. Davidson.

Hence the sleek luxurious sectionals in a variety of styles and materials; cantilever umbrellas that block the sun at every conceivable angle; custom-sewed cushions in your choice of quick-dry, fade-resistant Sunbrella fabrics; elegant and unique outdoor lighting solutions, including ones that you can float in your pool.

For cool spring nights, concrete fire pits are an open invitation for friends and family to gather around, cocktails or marshmallow skewers in hand. "We're not in the patio business, we're in the outdoor living business," says Ms. Davidson. "We want people to just use our furniture as a background for memories."

Jill Schwartzentruber, owner and manager of Casualife Outdoor Living, which has showrooms in Mississauga and Markham, Ont., seconds that approach. "People are really making their home their oasis," she says. "They're viewing patios as an extension of their home."

Pendleton towelsRaise your BBQ game with Casualife's OFYR wood-burning cooker, above left, or add earthy colours with Pendleton towels from Casualife, above right. Below, ARD Outdoor offers sleek streamlined sectionals. (Credit: SUPPLIED)

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Accent colours

To highlight the change of season, Ms. Schwartzentruber zeros in on accent pieces: funky side tables, little stools, and lighting "for lots of ambience." Stylish planters with faux greenery can herald the flowering of your actual garden and throws are ideal for entertaining. She recommends Sunbrella throws because they're mould- and mildew-resistant, colourfast and "beautiful to the touch."

The season's accent colours are rich, earthy blues and greens, brighter blue hues and blush tones. Spotlight them in throw cushions and wraps, against a background of neutrals, suggests Ms. Schwartzentruber.

And what's the outdoors without good food? Wood-burning cookers are hot in more ways than one, offering warmth, grill racks and a stylish focus to your patio décor. Casualife's wood-burning grill and kitchen is a unique new way to cook your food, says Ms. Schwartzentruber, as well as being a conversation piece and a place for people to congregate. Add a glass of wine, and spring has sprung!


This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's and Mail's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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