It might seem premature, but early spring (aka: Right now!) is the prime time to start placing orders for outdoor furniture. Often, bigger outdoor pieces can have a longer shipping lead time, so in order to have ample time to design your outdoor space or conversation set in time to actually use it when warm weather rolls around.
Shopping for outdoor furniture is a different game than shopping for indoor furniture–you end up needing less, but it also ends up being more important for it to be from the same set or collection, and you’ll have a whole different set of wear and tear considerations than you do with indoor picks. To help you navigate the journey to finding the best outdoor furniture items for your lifestyle, aesthetic, budget, and climate.
Photo via Design Love Fest
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Shop for Your Climate
One of the first things to do when you start your outdoor furniture search is to think critically about the climate you live in. What is the cycle of the seasons like? Do you experience extremes, or more mild and gradual shifts? Are you doing to need to have storage plans for the winter or will you feel comfortable leaving your outdoor furniture outside year-round? What kinds of potential natural disasters (flooding or hurricanes in the South, blizzards in New England, tornadoes in the Midwest, etc.) might you need to have a storage plan for? The answers to all of these questions will factor in as you make your selections.
Once you’ve taken climate factors into consideration, who can decide if you want heavy outdoor furniture that will stay put in place regardless even when winds pick up, or would you prefer lighter wicker or rattan furniture that you can easily bring in when the weather turns stormy? If you live in a warm area, you may be planning to leave your outdoor furniture outside year-round; if you live in a place where the seasons are more defined, you’ll probably need to plan to store at least some of it during the winter.
On a less grand scale, different climates have different sets of everyday maintenance factors, especially when it comes to off-season considerations. For example, in the Northeast, buyers will have a different set of considerations than arid climates like California, Arizona, and Texas; while buyers in places like Florida and Carolinas have another set. That said, most climates will come with leaf-fall, bird droppings, and the potential for unexpected precipitation or extreme high and low temperatures, so prepare for those factors to be a piece of the puzzle as you work to maintain your outdoor furnishings.
Photography via Jane at Home
Photography via South Shore Decorating Blog
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Bring Your Interior Style Outdoors
You’re going to be happiest with your outdoor furniture if it reflects your personal style and acts as a complement to the style you’ve cultivated with your interior design. Try to tie in the style of your interior space with the outdoor by adding decorative elements in the same theme.
You can tie in the visual themes through planters, garden stools, patterned or colored outdoor cushions, umbrellas, and lanterns. These details add to overall look of your garden, and they free you up to choose simpler silhouettes if want, since the embellishments act as your eye-catching style element.
Additionally, it helps to look at the big picture of your plant choices and your home’s style. If you generally gravitate towards Industrial-style decor, outdoor furniture in darker colors and crafted with metal frames and visible hardware is going to make more sense than coastal wicker and rattan.
Photo credit: Kat Alves
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Space Planning is Key
As with designing and shopping for any space, planning for the specific dimensions and spacial landmarks (things you have to work around because the option isn’t there to move them–a pool, fire pit, large tree, or garden, for example) is so essential. With outdoor furniture, you’ll beed to plan for lounging (of course), as well as dining. You’ll also need to factor in different needs based on whether you’re working with a patio, a deck or porch, a covered space (a gazebo, palapa, or lanai), or an indoor-outdoor living space.
Do you want a bar as well as a dining table? Will you be incorporating a grill, herb garden, or outdoor storage options into your space? The answers to these space planning questions will be a major guiding force as you buy outdoor furniture. There are also safety issues to keep in mind if you’re planning around a pool, waterfront, fire pit, or grill (especially if you know that children will be using the space). Also: Bringing patio umbrellas into the mix is always a smart choice when it comes to sun protection.
Essentially, even thought it might not seem like a project with as many technical design questions, it actually can make a huge difference to work with an interior designer on crafting your outdoor space. Not only can an interior designer hep you with choosing items that are sure to last and endure in the outdoor setting, but they’ll also help you maximize the space and create a flow that makes sense and ends up highlighting the natural beauty of the outdoors rather than just plopping furniture down because there’s room for it.
Design by Thom Filicia
Photo via Kathy Kuo Home
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Know Your Furniture Types & Performance Materials
Before you make any outdoor furniture purchases, familiarize yourself with the different types and styles available. There’s so much more out there than plastic lawn chairs that stack on top of each other! Make sure you bring in a mix of seating styles–chaise lounge, outdoor dining chairs, benches, patio dining set, Adirondack chairs, and outdoor stools and ottomans.
Because your outdoor furniture is going to be exposed to the elements, choosing furniture and accessories crafted from durable performance materials is key. If you do your research on what the best materials are, and opt for performance fabrics when it comes to cushions, outdoor rugs, and parasols, you’re making an investment in items that will last much longer, and therefore saving yourself money in the long run that you won’t need to end up spending on replacements.
Make sure you’re looking at pieces made from outdoor friendly materials like teak, all-weather wicker, rattan, and metals that are designed to be rust resistant. What makes teak a superior wood for outdoor furniture is the fact that it is not only durable and able to hold up against the elements, but it also weathers really beautifully, and will develop a lovely silver patina as it ages. We love Palecek for wicker and rattan and Summer Classics for teak pieces.
If you plan on having cushioned outdoor patio furniture or bistro sets, always make sure they’re made of performance, flow-through fabrics so your seats aren’t drenched for days and are resistant to fading and the elements. We recommend Sunbrella outdoor upholstery for seating or patio conversation sets. Sunbrella fabrics are designed to be mildew and mold resistant, and crafted so that moisture will flow through very quickly in order to dry quickly.
In terms of metals cast aluminum, wrought aluminum, stainless steal, and wrought iron are going to the best options for patio furniture that will hold up against rust and also offer a classic look that is easy to mix and match. You can’t go wrong with an aluminum frame, and you’ll also want to invest in furniture covers if you plan to store your pieces in the winter.
Photo via Style at Home
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