For the 58th spring in a row, the Indiana State Fairgrounds has hosted a show displaying ideas for “finer outdoor living.” It's a convocation of landscapers, As Seen on TV bizarre gadget booths, Direct TV solicitations, and food. But, the roughly 55 per cent of the show that constitutes landscaping and “ideas” is worth the price of admission. Outside, there are few flowers but to walk inside the expo hall for this show is to dream in HGTV and summer; water features, flowers, and fully-grown trees. Admission's a bit overpriced, to be honest, but for daydreaming about the outdoor spaces and/or experiencing home decor porn, well, it's fairly effective.
And, all things being equal, it's a great way to gauge “what's trending” for spring and summer in home ideas, at least in the Heartland. Here are the takeaway trends for spring and summer living 2016, as gleaned from the Flower and Patio Show.
1.) Texture and Shape: Texture is key this year. Cypresses, filberts, whipcords, and all manner of interesting, drapey plants are popular, especially when placed among or in front of broad-leafed varieties (our lady of the Hosta, for example). Throw pillows for lawn furniture are nubby-covered or burlap (antiqued, faux flour and hop sacks seem to be the new chalk paint), as are placemats and floor coverings; flower pots, statuary and rocks are covered in Spanish moss and textured lichen and water features tend to be incorporating chunky, rough-surfaced things. Circles, curves, and arcs were widely seen at the show: if the early 21st century seemed to be a world built on lines and grids, this season seems to be softening into clean circles and orbs and emoticon-smiles. Fountains, firepits, paving stones, contoured wine bars built-in to outdoor pavilions with smokers: curved, rounded, circular.
2.) Uplighting. Uplighting continues to be critical, ornamentally speaking. If you have a tree or a grass or a rock-climbing wall or a vertical substance of any kind, set a canister light pointed up nearby. Just do it. The decorators are probably right about this one. (Bonus points to the decorator who used a green light bulb in his, illuminating a peace lily/elephant ear/tropical pampas arrangement. A green light bulb makes the leaves seem…greener. Go figure. I'm guessing you're going to want to use this tip judiciously lest your yard become circus/miniature-golf-y.)
3.) Tablescapes are back. What better to show off your built-in indoor-outdoor cabinetry/wine bar/20-foot long seating area than a tablescape? Combine citrus with flowers, some lanterns*, succulents*, LED flameless candles, burlap/linen placemats, glass anything (preferably antique juice/milk carafes*) and line the center of your bar, end table, porch swing, anything. Tablescape, people. Ambiance is built in layers and one of those layers is apparently a tablescape. And uplight the perimeter. Otherwise you're a heathen.
4.) Lanterns: metal, wood, glass; combine rusted with non-rusted; wood with iron. The bigger, the better here: baby-food-jar size will not do. Think small-dog sized lanterns. Or bigger if you can afford them. Hang them from the pergola, set them on the walkway. Place them artfully on burlap anything. Fill them with succulents, flameless candles, and miniature fairy lights. The more the better. Lanterns, lanterns everywhere.
5.) Flowering quince. Don't ask me why. Sure, it's pretty. And this year at the Flower Show, it was everywhere, presumably because of its neutral/green/white flowers: all the pointy-magnificence of magnolias without the actual tree. Perfect for filling in the below-knee level of flora (a difficult height to fill in, if one is honest, that stupid 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 foot height). Just get some. Don't ask questions. Uplight whatever you plant behind it.
6.) Succulents! If Buzzfeed DIY projects had not already convinced you that you needed washi tape, pallets, mason jars, and succulents, well, succulents aren't going anywhere. You can put them in glass anything (lanterns are an excellent choice, for starters); you can place them amongst your ivy and your periwinkle. You can incorporate them into your tablescape. You can hang them on your wall, put them in your window, grow them in a burlap screen. Succulents are hardy, little, and…everywhere.
7.) Antique milk bottles are the new mason jar. You heard it here first.
8.) Anything can be turned into a deck and a wine bar. Antique truck? Sure.
9.) Water features continue to be essential in exterior home design: reflecting pools, ponds, falls, and fountains. Better yet, combine them with fire. Fire features also continue: especially if you have the rocks or glass chips as your base. No logs. Use a propane line or the sterno-style gels. Wood is passé, unless you're grilling, smoking, roasting, or s'moring. For your decorative fire and or fire/water features, it's best if you choose stones or glass or water (or all three, uplit, and surrounded with quince and succulents).
10.) Color: your options this year include either candied citrus hues or neutral. There were a couple examples of monochromatic schemes demonstrated for this year's show, but for the most part, you're either a purist or a colorist: you're burlap and pickled wood (and succulents) or you're candy-bright and Icee-gummy bear-colors (with succulents). Both color schemes must include burlap (or linen), uplighting, fire and water, and metal.
And if you can get an LED flat-screen TV hung in your outdoor living space, well, that's good too. Wine bottle trees seem to be démodé.
These are the trend takeaways from the Indiana Flower and Patio Show. You've got until March 20th to get yourself there and find your own decorative cheat sheet. (Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, Indiana.)