When the summer rolls around, do you drag out the same old battered beach bag, caked with sand from summers past? How about that flimsy beach chair with the cracked, mildewed cushions? Your pool float has a superhero on it (and, um, your kids are in college)? Isn't it time to update your backyard beach gear?
Rachel Florio, a celebrity trend expert, has found some trendy items with bold bright colors and graphic prints that are not only chic, they're fun — and they won't empty your wallet.
Beach Bags: Mad Imports is a socially responsible company that sells handmade art and accessories from Madagascar and Kenya. The Fortaleza tote is made from hand-wrapped raffia disks. The Ile St Marie tote is made from colorful crocheted raffia and woven seagrass with a carved wood handle and button/loop closure. (madimports.org)
Hats: Everyone knows the importance of keeping the sun off their head — but did you know that there is clothing available that that can also effectively keep the sun off your arms and legs? The fabric used in Cabana Life (www.cabanalife.com) products is the equivalent of wearing SPF 40-50. They make adorable clothes for kids and some great items for women, including their floppy sun hat (it's reversible, $38).
Cover-up: Tired of beach cover-ups that look like shrunken bathrobes? Anthropologie has several tunics in its summer collection that are fresh and modern looking but won't cost you your vacation money. The light, gauzy Aqua Ode tunic (www.anthropologie.com $58) incorporates brights and prints (the trend of the moment) with sleeves that offer a little more coverage. It also pairs well with a pair of leggings or jeans.
Beach Towels: The Towel Down beach towel (www.beachstore.com, product ID: 33105, $42.95)is one of those great combo products that save time and space. It's a wind-resistant beach towel that folds up into a backpack or totebag, with room to stash your stuff. And once it's open, it has pockets that you can fill with sand to weigh it down, create a "pillow," or hide your belongings. Velco tabs let you link your towel to your friends'. When open, it measures 40 inches by 70 inches.
Beach Chair: Gone are the days of the metal frame folding chair with webbing that scarred the back of your legs. The Comfort-Lite beach lounger (www.beachstore.com, product ID 10150, $109) weighs just 7 pounds, but looks (and feels) like a lounge chair you'd have in your backyard. It comes with a carry strap (and a matching pillow) so that your walk from the parking lot will be a snap.
On the other end of the scale, when the spare Beach Pod Padded Beach Chair (www.beachstore.com, product ID 28140, $24.95) folds flat, it looks like a giant Frisbee. The back adjusts to several positions and it's perfect for kids and teens.
Umbrellas: If you're up for a splurge, consider the beautiful, brightly colored Tidal Stripe beach umbrella from Anthropologie (anthropologie.com, $348); a shade alternative would be the Cush 'n' Shade portable sunshade and cushion (www.beachstore.com, 85400, $34.95) is odd-looking, but you have to wonder why someone never thought of it before. You lie your head on the cushion and the shade covers your head (it's 16 inches away, so no worries if you're claustrophobic).
Pool float: You've never seen anything like this before: the Pillowback Floating Settee from Frontgate (www.frontgate.com, $99) is like a sofa for your pool. It's got a high back and loose pillows and it comes with a rechargeable pump for quick click-and-turn inflation or deflation.
Other resources for towels, flip-flops, sunglasses and other beachy items: www.target.com, www.oldnavy.com.