How to choose the right outdoor furniture

When the sun is shining and you have an outdoor space, there is nothing better than spending long days lazing outside, soaking up the heat, and dining al fresco.

If you have the right outdoor furniture, sure. Because lounging outside can be as inviting as relaxing in a well-appointed living room – or as awkward as trying to get comfortable on a worn out sofa bed.

“An outdoor space is really an extension of your indoor space,” said Martyn Lawrence Bullard, an Los Angeles-based interior designer who created furniture for Harbor Outdoor. “So we plan to decorate it like a room. I really want it to be very inviting and very well thought out.

This means that collecting the furniture involves more than just randomly selecting pieces in a store or on a website. First, you need a plan, which requires figuring out how you’ll use the space and how you’ll conserve it over time.

For advice, we spoke with interior designers, landscapers and representatives of the furniture industry about exactly what you should consider before furnishing your outdoor space.

Before buying anything, it’s important to think about your larger vision for an outdoor space.

“I really think outdoor furniture has three different uses,” said Celerie Kemble, an interior designer based in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla., Who designed outdoor furniture for Lane Venture. “There is food outside; use your outdoor space as a living room; and lounging and swimming pool. And each has a different set of rules.

If you have a large outdoor space, it may be possible to accommodate all three functions: a dining area with a table and chairs; a relaxation area with sofas, lounge chairs and a coffee table; and a sunbathing area equipped with deckchairs.

If you don’t have much space – on an urban patio, for example – decide which activity you enjoy the most. If you love to cook and entertain, focus on transforming your outdoor space into a dining destination, complete with a dining table and chairs. If you prefer to relax with family or friends, forget about the dining table and create an outdoor living room with sofas.

When space is at a premium, Brook Klausing, founding partner of Brooklyn-based Brook Landscape, often recommends forgoing lounge chairs. People tend to romanticize them, he said, but they take up a lot of space and can be used less than other furniture.

“People say they want them, but then they pile in,” he said. “If you don’t have room, don’t worry.

If you absolutely must have one for sunbathing, do what Mr. Klausing has done in some of his projects: add hooks to a wall or fence that can keep the lounge chair out of the way when not. not used.

Manufacturers of outdoor furniture use a wide range of durable materials, most of which fall into two groups: those that are supposed to be impervious to the elements, retaining their original appearance for many years, and those that will weather or wear a patina. will acquire a patina over time. .

If you want your outdoor furniture to look brand new for years to come, good material choices include powder coated steel or aluminum, stainless steel, and UV resistant plastics. But even these materials can change when exposed to the elements over the long term; some discoloration, staining or corrosion is not uncommon.

“You can get a high quality, UV resistant plastic, and it can do well and look the same for many years,” said Noah Schwarz, Creative Director of Design Within Reach and Design Director of the Herman Miller Collection. . . “For powder coated metals, work with a supplier or buy from a brand that uses high quality powder coating, as they differ a lot in quality and longevity.”

Another approach is to buy wood pieces like teak, ipe, eucalyptus, and mahogany, which are durable but will develop an aged look over time. Or choose a metal like brass, which gradually gets patina.

“Teak is called the king of the woods because it contains just enough silicates and oil to be very, very durable on the outside,” said David Sutherland, founder of the outdoor furniture and furniture company. Perennials and Sutherland fabrics.

While it is possible to oil or seal teak periodically to keep it looking relatively new, Sutherland does not recommend it. “The problem with sealing or finishing is you always have to do it,” he said, as the finish continually fades and you become a servant of maintenance.

Instead, adopt the weathered look of wood. “Personally, I love it when it takes on that silvery color,” Mr. Sutherland said. “To keep the teak fresh and to get a nice finish, water the furniture once a week. It’s a bit like watering your plants.

If your teak develops a grime film, he noted, it is good to use detergents or high pressure wash it.

One of the most important decisions you will make when shopping for outdoor furniture is whether or not to have cushions, which add comfort but lead to maintenance issues as they tend to get dirty and messy. getting wet.

One option: avoid cushions altogether. “When we design urban spaces, we really don’t recommend a lot of cushions because of all the soot in the air,” which tends to build up on the cushions, Klausing said. “We try to select comfortable furniture without cushions, or with a mesh netting or something like that. “

This approach works well on raised decks, said Amber Freda, a New York-based landscaper, “On a roof or patio, a lot of people don’t want to worry about blowing cushions. (Ties, of course, can help.)

But not all designers are ready to do without it. “I like my outdoor furniture to be super comfy – it’s really the # 1 ingredient,” Bullard said. “I tend to use a lot of upholstery. We have so many amazing options today, with all of these amazing interior-exterior fabrics super soft and supple, and available in a million colors and patterns, so you can really add character to a space like never before.

To resist fading, look for solution-dyed acrylic fabrics, like those from Sunbrella and Perennials, in which the colors are an integral part of the yarn rather than being dyed or printed later in the process. “It doesn’t degrade in the sun like polyesters and nylons,” said Ann Sutherland, CEO of Perennials and Sutherland.

For cushions that won’t be soggy for days after a rainstorm, look for inserts that use quick-drying foam. “It’s generally referred to as reticulated or open-celled foam,” and allows water to pass through quickly, Mr. Schwarz said.

If you can’t decide if cushions are for you, he recommended a happy medium: choose comfortable furniture without cushions, but comes with thin cushions that can be added for extended relaxation.

A lot of outdoor furniture can be left out year round, especially if it’s heavy enough not to blow out in storms. But the cushions are another story.

To preserve the cushions for as long as possible – and to make sure they’ll be dry when you want to use them – some designers recommend removing them and storing them when not in use. Others recommend protecting outdoor furniture with slipcovers.

Both of these strategies, however, take a lot of work and can discourage you from using your outdoor space on days when you can’t bother putting on the cushions or uncovering the furniture.

Ms Sutherland recommended a more casual approach: leave furniture and cushions outside and uncovered for most of the year, but cover or store them when you won’t be using them for long periods – during the winter, for example, or when you are out of town.

Even that is too much of an effort for Ms Kemble, who prefers to leave her cushions outside all the time, regardless of her schedule or the weather. “I’m an inherently lazy person so I’m not going to spend my life chasing my cushions indoors and outdoors depending on the weather,” she said.

When her cushions get dirty, Mrs. Kemble sprinkles them, sometimes using washing up liquid on them. And even though they wear out faster than cushions that are put away when not in use, she said, “I’m ready to accept that over the next 10 years I will have to get my cushions back.”

If his chairs are sometimes wet, so be it. “I’m ready to have a wet butt,” she said, “rather than having big storage boxes and the challenge of staying two steps ahead of the weather.”

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