From pavers to lighting to kitchens to water features, landscape design projects can present contractors with the potential to wear many hats. As each element in an outdoor living area builds off of the rest, some contractors are choosing to expand their core services to truly complete areas for their clients.
The final component of any outdoor space, and the latest service addition for many companies, is outdoor furniture. With the right pieces, a contractor can better define a space and compliment their hardscaping and landscaping work.
“Furniture is something that allows a space to be used for how you want it to be used,” says Jessica Hommel, director of marketing at Designs by Sundown in Denver.
“That’s what makes it so important. If you want an area to be used for dining, you put a dining set there. If you want people to gather around your fire pit, you put all of your comfortable seating around your fire pit. Furniture is a way of guiding guests around your property. It used to be about pretty landscapes, but now it’s about making it a livable space.”
A DIVISION ALL ITS OWN.
For Designs by Sundown, outdoor furniture has proven to be such an important part of the business that within the last year it has created a whole division dedicated to it.
“We are pretty connected with some interior designers, and for a while, we were going through them and borrowing furniture for different trade show booths. Then we thought, ‘Why are we using a separate source when we could be that source?’” she says.
Because those interior designers were not specializing in outdoors, a referral-based partnership easily ensued.
Now, outdoor furniture designers from Designs By Sundown will attend furniture markets to choose the furniture lines they want to sell and see all the different ways the lines can be pieced together.
“There are lines that are about comfort and there are lines that are about style,” she says. “The lines that are sleek and trendy are not going to be your plush, comfortable pieces.
“You may have clients who don’t care about style, but they are all about the comfort and want that high-back chair with extra cushion. It’s realizing that clients are all over the board and you want to carry something for all of them, but you also want to carry a product that you believe in.”
“If you want people to gather around your fire pit, you put all of your comfortable seating around your fire pit.” Jessica Hommel, director of marketing at Designs By Sundown in Denver
One benefit of adding the furniture division for Designs by Sundown is the ability to offer their clients just one point of contact from construction, to furnishings, to follow-up maintenance. They can also offer customized pieces that both maximize the space and get away from the cookie-cutter sets clients might find in big box stores, Hommel says.
“It’s just another way to touch your client and give them an additional service,” she says. “We are able to get you a couch that fits the exact length of your fire pit. We are able to get that custom, designer feel where it truly flows all together. A big part of style is not having everything matchy-matchy, so we add different pieces from different lines or furniture sets to add a little bit of versatility.”
Designs By Sundown has also just begun working on outdoor luxury seating areas for commercial clients, which Hommel has been part of developing.
“We are working with a couple of high-end restaurants right now on some patio seating,” she says. “At the end of the day, the restaurant is also trying to serve an atmosphere and we are trying to match that experience. It’s the same as what kind of experience you’re trying to give a client at their home.”
JUST A SUGGESTION.
Other contractors find it more effective to leave those furniture decisions to the homeowner rather than take on additional work that they aren’t specialized in.
Outdoor Design Solutions near Des Moines, Iowa, lets the homeowner choose their own furniture, but often steers them in the right direction and incorporates their ideas when drafting design concepts, says Ryan Broich, landscape designer.
“I show clients examples and get a sense of their style, whether it be contemporary or rustic or modern,” Broich says.
“I find out how many people they plan on entertaining and think of how to accommodate different types of seating, whether they are looking for sectional sofas or small lounge chairs.”
In new construction or remodels, Outdoor Design Solutions often works with interior designers and have them collaborate with the homeowner on choosing furniture to carry their indoor design aesthetic to the outdoor space, Broich says.
Similarly, Gene Hrdina, owner of Designer Landscape in Columbia, Missouri, doesn’t see a benefit for his company to get in the middle of furniture decisions for his clients.
“When you get to a level where you have a nursery, a garden center, and you do installations, then if you have a storefront where you can carry some of the outdoor furniture, it makes more sense for that kind of entity to sell lawn furniture for clients,” Hrdina says.
“Since we personally don’t have a nursery or retail outlet because we are a design/build contractor, the homeowner always picks the patio furniture.”
While some companies find success focusing on their niche specialties, strategically branching out into other service areas may help a company grow. Over the past 10 years, as Designs By Sundown has added services, they have doubled their number of employees, Hommel says.
“Not every client will want all of it, but the more you offer, the more you grow,” she says.
Think about what services you can offer while still within your niche market.”