People often tend to overlook the living potential of their outdoor spaces and focus on sprucing up the interiors only. However, with a little bit of planning and some great outdoor furniture that brings comfort, functionality, and purpose, the outdoor areas can be given a personalized touch to spend some much-needed quality time. You can have a sunshine-drenched space where you can retreat with a book for hours or set up the lawns for entertaining and a few barbeque parties on balmy summer evenings. Once you do so, you can be sure that your outdoors will become one of the most used areas within your property for years.
Here is a buyer’s guide to the right furniture for your outdoors. This will be listed out in two parts – points to keep in mind when deciding on the right furniture and the types of furniture that you might consider.
How to decide on the right furniture
- Decide your purpose – This should be the foundation for your quest for outdoor furniture as what you buy will depend on how you want your outdoor to function. Is your aim to have an oversized dining table with chairs that will be right for barbeques and parties? Or is your style more towards sunken lounges with colorful cushions around a blazing fire pit to spend some private and quiet time with family? Maybe you want to be alone with a book or a hobby? The point here is that you should make a list of all the things that you want to do outdoors and then buy furniture that fits around your purpose. At this planning stage, you should also take floor measurements so that you can buy furniture that will not clutter up space and make moving around difficult.
- Easy care furniture – Your outdoor area will be an extension of your living space inside, but that does not mean that it should become a part of your weekly cleaning routine. Choose furniture that can stand up to anything that the weather might throw at it – from hot to cold, from rain to sleet and snow. The focus should be to enjoy the outdoor space freely anytime you want instead of it becoming a part of dreaded cleaning chore. For materials choose from all weather cane, rattan, teak, cedar, wicker chairs and tables, and rust-resistant metals. Upholstery should be chosen with care. Opt for special outdoor fabrics that do not absorb damp and moisture and will not become spotted due to the formation of mold. Colors and patterns should not fade in direct sunlight. Ideally, they should be machine washable.
- Colour scheme – It can be a bit overwhelming to choose a color scheme for your garden. You can either want to play it safe or make it as a reflection of your style. In the first instance, you can stick to neutral base color palette for the major pieces of furniture and then match it with splashes of brightly colored upholstery in various patterns and designs.
There are some alternatives if you want to add the exclusive touch. For a garden area with a modern look in pastel colors, go for light colored furniture and liven up things with blasts of brightly colored cushions. With the base color of furniture settled, you can spice up the place differently with colorful decorative pillows every time you have guests over. You can also have a bold look in a two-tone set such as white and dark green.
- Make the furniture work for you – Outdoor spaces are always limited, and you cannot plan for unlimited numbers of furniture pieces to meet various needs. The best way then to maximize your existing space is to choose furniture that doubles up in many ways. For example, instead of having individual chairs, have benches that can be tucked away below the table. Ottomans are good for seating as well as additional storage space for a small garden or party necessities. Small side tables are handy as they can be quickly moved around and double up for food and drinks at outdoor parties. Choose furniture that will work for you and optimize the available space.
- Natural or synthetic – This is a tough decision to take. So far as the aesthetics are concerned, natural rattan furniture looks better, but the synthetic wicker furniture is more sturdy and durable. For locations with extreme weather conditions and a lot of rainfall and snow, synthetic wicker furniture will be the winner by a mile. But things can get tricky when you have to choose between hand-woven synthetic wicker and resin which is made to look as if it is hand-woven. In the first case, hand-woven garden furniture looks more natural and has a springy feel to it. Imperfections and minor inconsistencies in the weaving pattern give it a certain charm. But hand-woven wicker strands tend to snap over time. Good quality wicker lasts about three to five years while the mass produced ones only a season or two. Synthetic wicker-look furniture is made from a solid piece of resin in a mold where the pattern is ingrained. The differences in looks between the hand-woven and molded variety are negligible, but the latter is ten times more durable. Consider all these aspects before making a choice.
- The price factor – This is very critical and a very grey area too. Two factors need to be considered here. Decide the amount that you can afford for outdoor furniture and weigh it against the amount of time you will spend or enjoy in your garden. If you plan to use the furniture only when it is warm and sunny outside, your focus should be on something that will cost less than $300 but sturdy enough to last for about four to five seasons. Alternatively, when you have a conservatory or an outdoor living area, you can splurge more since you can always take the furniture indoors during the winter. However, a hanging chair in a small alcove in your garden will be a more permanent fixture, and you should get the best without thinking of the price.
Before buying, always compare prices between a couple of brick and mortar shops and online stores. Furniture ordered from your smartphone will be cheaper as those stores do not have any fixed establishment expenses. Further, online stores are governed by the distant selling laws where any item not up to the mark is replaced, no questions asked. They will even pick up the piece from your house if you want to return it for any reason.
- Quality is critical – Generally, people tend to look for the best quality of furniture when buying the indoor variety and not for outdoor furniture. This is a natural psyche as the furniture stays in various weather elements all the time. On the flip side, this is a strong reason never to compromise on the quality of outdoor furniture and treat it at par with indoor furniture. The cheap stuff usually does not stretch more than a season or two, and it is money poorly spent if you choose to buy it.
These are some of the aspects that you should look into before deciding on the outdoor furniture.
Types of furniture to choose from
- Wood furniture – There is nothing that has a more timeless appeal than timbre furniture. It makes a great base and can easily be adapted to various styles, from the traditional to the contemporary just by changing the accessories. You have to be careful when selecting the timbre and ensure that it is of a variety that does not fade, split, warp or rot as the furniture will be lying outdoors in all climatic conditions. Buy furniture that is made of dense, moisture resistant hardwood such as teak or kwila. Examine the furniture carefully before buying. Inspect the joints which should be put together with brass or stainless steel screws and not glued, stapled or nailed together.
- Plastic furniture – Plastic furniture will lighten the mood of your outdoor area. They are available in a wide range of shapes and playful colors that can match any external decor. But it is critical to invest in high-quality material like marine-grade polymer which is durable and can withstand the weight of the heaviest of your friends or relatives. Further, choose furniture that has UV-stabilised pigments which will not fade from prolonged exposure to the sun. Remember that black and dark blue are most durable while the reds and the yellows lose their original hue and shine quickly.
- Metal furniture – Metal furniture is lightweight and can be quickly rearranged if needed. It is also available in many designs like elegant wrought-iron settings to sleek benches. Most importantly, metal furniture can stand up to very harsh weather conditions all year round. Aluminum is a metal that is highly recommended for outdoor furniture as it is lightweight, rust-resistant and very durable. Steel furniture is also a good choice but ensures that you buy marine-grade316 stainless steel if you are located in a coastal area as this type of steel has superior oxidation and corrosion resistant properties. In other areas, 304-grade steel will be suitable. For painted furniture, insist on a powder-coated finish that is UV resistant.
- Material world – Furniture made from fabric is often the most comfortable of all and has a relaxed and lovely look. But you have to make sure that the fabric is the outdoor weather-proof type and is solution-dyed acrylic. Another economical alternative is polyester that has been treated with a UV protective coating. Other natural materials such as silk, wool, cotton or linen are not suitable for the outdoors. Cushions should not be the ordinary types used indoors; they should be filled with weatherproof foam or polyester which dries out quickly and thus prevents the formation of molds and mildew. Use removable slipcovers that can be washed and replaced if damaged.
- Wicker furniture is elegant with low maintenance and is just right for a quiet lazy chat or an afternoon game of cards. Natural wicker is lacquered and painted to make it moisture resistant and suitable for outdoor use, but it does not last as long as synthetic wicker. This man-made wicker furniture is available in various colors, shapes, and styles. Check the frame below which should be made either of aluminum or stainless steel or any other low-grade metal.
It is necessary here to know the difference between rattan and wicker outdoor furniture as most people get confused and use these two terms interchangeably. In specific terms, rattan is the material that is used in making the furniture while wicker is the weaving construction method. Rattan is the natural fiber that is harvested from the palm family in Southeast Asia. Currently, a modern synthetic substitute of rattan is used in furniture making. This is known as polyethylene rattan. It is more resistant to light, water, and ultraviolet radiation.
If you are using wicker furniture, you have to maintain it more regularly than other types of furniture, but luckily it is a hassle-free and easy process. First, use a soft brush to remove all dirt and dust and then wipe the rattan with a damp cloth using a mild detergent. Rinse the furniture with a bucket of water or hose. Avoid any chemical cleaners as the rattan will become brittle. When not in use, rattan furniture should be covered and stored away from direct sunlight. If not, synthetic rattan will start to break in as little as two years.
- Mosaic patio dining sets – For the classic look in outdoor furniture, decorative tabletop patterns in terracotta, marble and hand-laid tiles of slate are in vogue today. These natural materials are delicate but incredibly beautiful to look at and are available in a wide range of intricate designs and colors. Frames of these pieces are made of steel, aluminum or rust-resistant powder-coated iron.
These are some of the guidelines that you can follow before investing in quality outdoor furniture of your choice.