Useful Tips in Shopping for Outdoor Furniture
View more related buyers guides
Published by TOP4 Team
With the right outdoor furniture in place, you're living, dining, and relaxation space doubles. Here’s how to buy wise for outside.
Choosing outdoor furniture was once a simple matter, with limited options and few style criteria. Square dining table or round? Timber, plastic or wrought iron? Nowadays, there’s a whole range of design proposals on the table to choose from.
This is partly due to the fact that our interior spaces have opened up to connect easily with outdoor areas, so that exterior spaces function more like extra living rooms. As a result, outdoor areas are being furnished to a higher level of comfort and quality finishes.
Along with outdoor dining settings, there are weatherproof options covering all sorts of designs, from comfortable lounge settings and coffee tables to stools and daybeds. The key to making a smart purchase is to assess the pros and cons of each style; consider the materials used and look for lasting quality.
Shapes and styles
The desire to dine is reflected at retail level. People want to be able to sit outside to eat, to leave the heat of the house in the middle of summer.
You can buy a complete dining suite or mix-and-match table and chairs. Streamlined tables and benches look contemporary and maximise seating space in smaller areas.
Cushioned, armchair-style chairs offer extra comfort for long, lazy lunches. Of course, many open-plan indoor living spaces now include a dining area with easy access to the outside, so a separate outdoor dining area may not be needed. This means you can splurge on outdoor lounge furniture instead.
Weatherproof lounge furniture allows you to entertain casually and chill out in comfort. In addition to traditional lounge styles, there’s a growing range of seating options, from hanging chairs and funky stools to benches with handy storage.
Materials and finishes
Timber is favoured for many outdoor pieces. Popular varieties include cypress, ironbark and jarrah, stained to a rich, deep hue or left to weather naturally.
Outdoor tables also come in steel or aluminium. Of the two, aluminium is lighter and more resistant to rust. Steel frames are generally used for entry-level settings, but the bulk would be aluminium, powder-coated frames.
What has really revolutionised outdoor furnishings is a new breed of weatherproof materials, from synthetic wickers and plastic-based composites to high-tech fabrics. These bring softness to outdoor furniture, while resisting damage from rain, sun and win.
Long-wearing synthetic choices include textilene (a UV-treated, PVC-coated polyster fabric, resistant to mildew and stable in hot or cold weather), and olefin, a colourfast, lightweight but strong fibre that weathers the elements and resists damage from chemicals and perspiration.
Bear in mind that not all high-tech outdoor materials are created equal. Look for the product warranty to get an idea of its quality.
These guarantees will vary from zero to 10 years. The pieces may look similar in the showroom, but once outside, if they don’t have the UV stabilisers, you’ll find that they will deteriorate quickly.
Having sorted out styles and materials, the final decision will be colour. The most popular options for today’s outdoor areas are sophisticated neutral tones. You can go with charcoal, browns and creams, then you can introduce accent pieces, like the great yellows, greens and reds, depending on the season.
Some outdoor furniture requires practically no maintenance. Other types, such as timber pieces, need a little work to keep them looking good. If you opt to stain timber, be prepared to re-stain it every four months to keep it in good condition.
Remember that any piece of furniture left outside will gather dirt and dust, and will benefit from regular light cleaning. For new high-tech quality fibres of good quality, all they require is the occasional hose-down and wash with warm, soapy water.
For more home decor tips, visit our Buyer’s Guide.