Living extends beyond the threshold, as gardens and patios become the latest hotspot for alfresco entertaining.

The financial crisis may have sounded the death knell for careless consumption, but service sectors are enjoying buoyant times. It is reported that landscape gardening and domestic service agencies have seen the demand for gardeners rise up to 25%, as homeowners exploit the spatial potential of their homes and enjoy the unique pleasures of outdoor entertaining. According to Freedonia Group’s 2007 report (hyperlink, demand for outdoor furniture and grills continues to grow. The US market alone for these products, currently worth around $6.2 billion, is forecast to continue at a steady four percent annual growth through 2011.

From sweeping lawns to urban terraces, even the most modest patio can become a convivial social space, or your own private refuge, with the aid of carefully chosen pieces made from weather-retardant fabrics that mirror indoor furnishing. Ample proportions and low-level frames bring a homey and relaxed feel to seating. Urban Collection’s Bendybay and the Lylo waterbed take sun lounging literally, in the generous dimensions and interior-style upholstery that bear a strong likeness to a cozy sofa - a far cry from the spare and stiff frames of traditional loungers. It’s not only the lounge that is breaking beyond its traditional confines, as even the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom have established their own extramural zones. Gandia Blasco’s Tipi is the ideal retreat for an afternoon siesta.

As spending rises, so does expectation; consumers seek out durable pieces of furniture that are as suitably stylish as the rest of the home. Italian manufacturer B&B Italia recently reintroduced outdoor furniture to its collection after a lengthy hiatus. Patricia Urquiola’s Crinoline and Canasta series and Jean-Marie Massaud’s Springtime exemplify our desire for high design, both indoors and out, following Richard Schultz’s original 1966 collection which has entered the realm of modern classics. Jasper Morrison’s 1986 Thinking Man’s Chair, produced by Cappellini, sits as comfortably in a museum as it does by a pool. However, designers are not only taking inspiration from the indoors, Deesawat’s Boston Leaf benches and Compagnie du Commerce Equitable’s Nénuphar reflect forms from nature in harmony with their environment. As Denis Castaing of Paris-based outdoor design store Sabz noted at this year’s Maison et Objet, “This is the start of a movement, it’s absolutely not just a trend.” Just as long as the sun keeps shining.

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