CREATING BEAUTIFUL OUTDOOR SPACES LOCALLY AND SUSTAINABLY

by CAROLINA RAMIREZ HERRERA

BEACH DAYS, GRILLING AND outdoor entertaining are all staples of the South Florida lifestyle. In these instances, outdoor seating can make the difference between those that are memorable and those that aren’t. With warm temperatures year-round, it’s important to treat your outdoor spaces just as you would the inside, and KB Patio is all about helping you create the perfect outdoor environment in a responsible and sustainable manner.

As the owner of KB Patio, Kathryn Benavides’ track to exterior design hasn’t exactly been linear. She originally attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, then Wharton School of Business. She first owned a legal and litigation company in Philadelphia, which later moved her to Princeton, New Jersey. Fast-forward years later, when her move to Naples embarked her on a new career track. Mixing her knowledge of business, marketing, sales and design, she has been helping South Florida’s snowbirds and residents with an eclectic selection of outdoor furniture. “Notoriously a Midwest retirement and vacation destination, we are seeing more people from New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine. We’ve always had a strong concentration of Canadians and Germans, and because we are strong on contemporary and European designs, our second location near downtown Naples is attracting more Europeans,” says Benavides.

Benavides has taken a strong stance on supporting local brick-and-mortar stores for numerous reasons, not just from an economic perspective, but also from a sustainability and eco-responsibility perspective. “As more and more people shift to online shopping, this adversely affects retail outdoor specialty stores, like KB Patio, as more customers come into the showroom to look, then order online. As an unapologetic research-aholic on this topic, however, it became bigger than just about me,” Benavides says. “First, we are more than just consumers, we are citizens. Second, consumers who consider themselves supporters of sustainability and the environment, unfortunately are not connecting the dots to the enormous environmental damage that brands like Amazon create. While highly convenient to the shopper, more and more fast deliveries—combined with prodigious amounts of returns and lack of consolidated purchases—create more vehicles, more traffic and more emissions. And while I’m not saying the outdoor furniture industry is an angel here, when we use freight, we take pains to consolidate our shipments, not only to be cost-conscious and price competitive, but to have less of an impact on the environment.”

Aside from being an advocate for reducing one’s carbon footprint, KB Patio offers more than just furniture. The company offer accessories, rugs, fire tables and umbrellas, to name a few. KB Patio is also one of the largest dealers in Florida for Ledge Loungers, the in-water chaise loungers that became popular at luxury hotels.

For clients taking on the design work themselves, the KP Patio team offers complimentary outdoor design consultation. “Recently, I received an email from a potential client asking if we could assist them with their outdoor area. One of my staff went out—with no guarantee of an order—and it turned into a pretty sizeable order and a very satisfied customer, who we hope will recommend us,” says Benavides. “When competing with large-scale retailers, hands-on customer service is a factor that cannot be replicated online, especially when you need to touch and feel the product, as well as understand the warranty issues.”

For the often-asked question of why outdoor furniture is so expensive, Benavides has the perfect response: “I actually like customers asking that because it lets us explain that not only does outdoor furniture have to be just as beautiful—on-trend design and style-wise—and as comfortable as indoor furniture, but it must also be durable, able to withstand all the spilled chocolate, red wine, dirt, mud and overall abuse, and take the wind, humidity and salt air. After all, we Southwest Floridians do live in a swamp. So, I half-jokingly ask them, ‘Can you put your outside furniture inside? Yes. Can you put your indoor furniture outside? No.’ So, my question is, ‘Why is indoor furniture so expensive?’”

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Carolina Ramirez Herrera is an art- and design-obsessed travel and lifestyle writer, who often contributes to blogs, city guides and lifestyle publications, sharing a page from her little Black Book of personal travels. Based in Miami but usually on a plane, follow her on @ Lacarolinda.