OUTDOOR LIVING: Desert Dessert

In the tropical jungle of woven wicker and rattan patio furnishings, Somers Furniture is a lot like the city it is made in — a bright beacon in the desert. Instead of the traditional earth tones and typical floral prints, you’ll find neon shades of lime green, sky blue and fuchsia among the modern patterned fabrics.

That’s not to say that you can’t have your patio furnishings in earth tones and tropical prints. As a custom manufacturer of outdoor furnishings, Somers can help you create the look of your dreams, said owner Debbi Somers.

The Las Vegas-based company manufactures middle-to-high-end contemporary furnishings that have a definite resort feel. The upholstered chaises, sectionals, couches and beds that are the main focus of the collection look as if they could be equally at home in your living room as on your patio around the pool.

Somers said it’s the fabrics she uses that make her furniture stand out from others. “It’s not what you normally see on outdoor furniture. The upholstery and pillows can now be made from fabrics you would think are only made for indoor use, but they are completely made for the outdoors and even have anti-fungal backings.”

To get the bright blasts of color, Somers uses rattan fabric instead of woven rattan. “It’s more durable and more flexible,” she added.

Somers has been building custom outdoor furnishings since 2003, much of it for the lounges and pools of the city’s hotel resorts. As a result, she has tailored her furniture to withstand the harsh conditions that come from being outdoors in the desert in the middle of summer, as well as abuse from constant and varied users.

“Our furniture is not normal outdoor furniture. Because I did pool lounges, I know what works and what doesn’t,” she said.

For example, her company’s first resort project was to create outdoor chaises for Treasure Island. “Two weeks after installation, we received a call to reinspect the furniture because suntan oil, ketchup, mustard and drinks from their guests had permanently stained the fabric.”

Although they had used a Sunbrella fabric, which is known for its ability to withstand fading, sun damage, mildew and certain stains, the specific fabric used on the project didn’t offer the stain resistant warranty.

“We ended up having to recover all of their furniture over in marine grade vinyl,” Somers said.

Lesson learned.

“The fabrics we chose in our furniture lines have been tested to withstand all outdoor climates and even stains caused by lotions, beverages and food. The vinyls are marine grade, which is exactly what you would find on boats and yachts. It doesn’t fade or crack and can withstand the chemicals in pools and spas.”

She also uses dense outdoor foam for support or down for a softer feel.

Somers began offering furniture for residential use earlier this year after the economic crisis dramatically slowed the tourism industry. It was one in a series of changes she made to her company over the years.

She started working with furniture when she was 21 with a company that specialized in renting furnishings for conventions. After a few years seeing how the company operated and knowing she could do better, she started Somers Furniture. It began with her purchasing furniture that was rented out and developed into a manufacturing company when she couldn’t find the furniture that her customers were asking for.

Since Sept. 11 and the economic recession, Somers has had to reinvent her business several times, each time making changes that seem more like strategic business operations.

The first changes she made were after Sept. 11 when tourism and business conventions began to decline. Knowing that people between the ages of 25 and 40 were still spending money and going to nightclubs, Somers began working with owners of nightclubs building their furniture. When pool lounges became popular, she was already poised to make outdoor furnishings for the trendy hot spots, including Bare at The Mirage, VooDoo at the Rio and Rehab at the Hard Rock Hotel.

After the recession hit and the club scene began to slow down, Somers decided to take her outdoor furnishings to the World Market Center and venture into the residential market.

“I made money my first day; I was slammed,” she said of her initial appearance at the furniture trade show in February. She believes part of her success is due to the unique look of her furnishings.

Even with her own touch on the pieces, Somers can still customize her outdoor furnishings to an interior designer’s specifications. They can select the fabric, piping around the edges and top stitching.

“Designers don’t want their work to look like anyone elses. They want everything to look like their own designs. It’s all based on what the designer is looking for for their clients.”

Somers said working with the interior designers and landscapers who offer her furniture to their clients is a new aspect of the business she is enjoying.

In addition to her foray into residential furnishings, Somers continues to manufacture and maintain furniture for area pool lounges and rent traditional furniture for conventions and special events.

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