With undeniably retro allure, these shady patio staples are surging back into the spotlight. The outdoor umbrella is trending.
“Stylish umbrellas are absolutely top-of-mind for our shoppers,” says Etsy trends expert Dayna Isom Johnson. “People want to be outside. There is a real effort to bring that sense of interior comforts to the outdoors now.” Johnson explains that Etsy saw a 324% increase in ‘outdoor umbrella’ searches on their site from July 20 to December 20, 2020. Etsy’s numbers are telling.
Yet it’s clear the fascination with artistic, photograph-worthy patio umbrellas has actually been rising for years.
From Asian pagoda–influenced designs with intense curves to candy stripes that scream vintage circus, patio umbrellas now are a far cry from the primary coloUrs prevalent in previous decades.
“There’s a big variety now in price points,” says Johnson, referring to newer companies such as Business & Pleasure Co., Basil Bangs, and Sunday Supply Co. that sprang up in competition to retailers like One Kings Lane and Perigold, and trade manufacturer Santa Barbara Designs, Etsy has also offered makers a way to monopolize on the trend without storefronts. “You can find an umbrella on our site at $40,” says Johnson, “but also some with hand-stitched macramé for $800.”
“A good umbrella really transports you with an instant moment and feeling of travel in your own backyard.”
That travel could be to the south of France, or it could be farther-flung. “I think umbrellas can absolutely take us to a ‘before’ time,” says architect Nicolò G. Bini of L.A.-based firm Line Architecture. “For example, being Italian, I can recall sitting under the Campari umbrellas with my grandfather at the beach.
“There’s that beautiful, nostalgic emotion to an umbrella.”
Nicolò G. Bini, of L.A.-based firm Line Architecture, went with a green-and-white-style stripe for the outdoor umbrella at Cara and Poppy Delevingne’s Los Angeles retreat, which gives a nod to timeless Southern California hotels.
“You can do custom umbrellas now, where the prints can match your veranda fabrics,” Bini says. “Santa Barbara Designs has been around for 40 years, doing amazing prints.” (The brand launched its Slim Aarons American Icon Collection this spring, named for one of America’s most iconic photographers, featuring the retro silhouettes, hues, and prints captured in his legendary photo series from the ’60s to mid-’80s.)
“We considered pom-poms and how feminine they can be but went simpler with One Kings Lane,” Bini says of the Delevingne pad. “The inside of that home vibes off of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and we wanted the outside to have that same vacation elegance.”
Hotels have always been a verdant landscape for gorgeous umbrellas, and they continue to provide inspiration today.
“I wanted to build my dream motel,” says designer and hotelier Lyon Porter, who opened The Dive Motel in Nashville in August 2019. His poolside umbrellas are a hot topic. They look vintage but are new, and I get asked every day where we got them,” he says of the Business & Pleasure Co. shades in orange-brown-and-yellow retro florals. They complete the 1960s summer vibe of his vintage motel poolscape.
Aesthetics aside, outdoor umbrellas are undoubtedly functional. “Design is meant to have function, absolutely. But, there is this idea lately that everything with a function can still be truly beautiful,” says AD100 designer Brigette Romanek.
“We are seeing refrigerators by Dolce & Gabbana and toilets in wild prints and bold colors. An outdoor umbrella plays right into that trend. For me, it’s another place to express a mood or a feeling, while complementing the rest of the interior design.”
Some companies have capitalized on more temporary activations with umbrellas, even curating daily beach experiences. Bliss Beach is co-owned by Brian Jones, a former safari guide in Kenya. At one of seven beach destinations in California, his team will come create a glamping moment in the sand for an afternoon, for a fee.
“We can set up two lounges in each location per day, and our Safari Room styling includes rugs, hardwood chairs, coolers, day beds, and floor pillows, with umbrellas sourced from Sunday Supply Co.,” he says. “We love the spotted print, but, also, they hold up over time. For us, they are going up and down every day, and we have to have that joint-and-wood quality.”
Umbrellas are really like the hood ornament of a car. It’s what’s getting photographed and recognized. People love the nostalgia of them. *Lead image @piabaroncini