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Luxury in the pool: waterproof furniture


The push to bring all the comforts of indoor living outside has reached a watery new frontier.

Now that we have turned our patios into living rooms complete with carpets and lamps, upgraded our loungers into plush outdoor beds, created al fresco dining pavilions with kitchens and chandeliers and even built working showers and bathtubs into our landscapes, it was inevitable that there would be yet another space in need of furnishing. The swimming pool.

This is not about inflatable floats, but real furniture sitting permanently in the pool. No need to leave the water for a snack. No more sizzling deckside, then diving in to cool down. This new and growing niche in the outdoor living market is making it easy to stay wet for hours.

Now you can buy chairs, end tables, picnic tables, small swim-up bars, stools and even umbrellas that can stay in the pool. That means you can picnic in the pool with friends and family, shaded by an umbrella, while your feet dangle in the water.

Aaron Fogleman, operations manager and buyer for Sonoma Backyard in Rohnert Park, said in-pool furniture is one of the newest things in outdoor furnishings. The trend is fueled in part by the growing popularity of so-called beach-entry pools. Eliminating the top step, the beach entry starts shallow and then slopes into deeper water.

These shallow entry pools enable people to sit and relax in just a few inches of water rather than standing or hanging onto the edge. And it's so much more comfortable to sit or recline on something.

These durable furnishings are made out of a marine grade, high-density polyethylene material.

"They're making this furniture out of the same thing they've been making boat and marine things for years," said Fogleman. "It's 100 percent made in the U.S. And it's 100 percent post-consumer waste (recycled plastic bottles and containers), so it's really green."

Most contemporary outdoor furnishing is a coated metal. Even plastic Adirondack chairs have a coated or painted metal frame. Leave that material in the water and over time it will start peeling or corroding.

This marine-grade material is not subject to fading, staining, mildew, cracking, peeling or warping, Fogleman added, and comes with a 20-year warranty. So you could leave it in the pool year-round.

Sonoma Backyard features furnishings from Seaside Casual, which makes everything from a $299 Adirondack Chair in a rainbow of colors to tables that start at $1,300, as well as a swim-up bar for $1,800.

Pool builders can create holes in the bottom of the pool for setting up umbrella poles, creating easy shade in the pool.

The options for in-pool furnishings have grown in the last couple of years. Entrepreneur Nicole Vandiver introduced her height-adjustable Pool Stools in 2011, and since then, they have been been featured in everything from the Frontgate Catalog to The Sharper Image, Brookstone and Amazon.

The stools, which start at $139 for a plain white stool up to $199 for one equipped with LED lights that glow with a huge menu of colors, are also made of a durable, waterproof resin and can withstand salt or chlorine water. Weights screwed into the base keep the stools anchored to the bottom.

The market is flooded with cool floating chairs that are far more sophisticated than the vinyl blow-up rafts of yore. But Vandiver, whose ENVY Pool Products is based in St. Louis, Mo., said floating chairs still suffer from one flaw, beyond the danger of deflation.

"To me, it's work. You can't sit and have a conversation without floating away," she lamented. In-pool furniture, she added, also allows the party to remain in the pool. Even the old and infirm can sit in the water and be a part of the action, instead of being relegated to the sides.

"It creates a better social experience," she said.

Christopher Anderson recently developed the Ledgelounger. A high-end residental pool builder in Houston, he saw clients dragging regular patio furniture to the shallow end. But not only is regular outdoor furniture not made to be submerged, it's dangerous.

"Any metal in the pool or around it has to be grounded," he said. That inspired him to design a comfortably curvaceous lounge chair ($699) in 12 colors that can sit safely in the sun shelf as the beach entry is also called. It's proven so popular, he's developing a handy side table for drinks, sunglasses and a book.

"The beauty of it is that you're lying out with part of your body in the water. You can splash yourself to cool off," he said. "That is extremely nice."

To reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.