Finding the right furniture for your outdoor areas will be a summer breeze with our savvy six-point guide
1 In the know
First up, be absolutely sure of exactly what you’re buying before you hit the stores. We all know how easy it is to go out looking for a sofa and end up coming home with a table you just couldn’t resist. Unless you’ve got a massive garden, this makes no sense (and is a tad impractical). Is the furniture for family outdoor living, barbecues, big parties and dinners or all of the above? Tables take up a lot of room and unless you’re a fan of eating alfresco, an outdoor sofa might suit your purpose better. Or bean bags might be preferable if you have kids.
2 Measure up
Second on the list is making sure it will all fit, which requires measuring your deck, terrace or whatever outdoor space you use most before the shopping starts.
3 Shopping list
Comfort should be a key factor when deciding on outdoor furniture materials. Don’t underestimate flexibility either. Lightweight materials such as polyethylene or aluminium make it easier to move furniture around the garden to follow the sun, or fold up for storage in winter.
Although there are plenty of bargains out there, investing in quality materials makes sense in the long run. Rather than opt for a pine table for instance, you might be better off choosing a weather-resistant timber such as teak or cedar.
4 Test drive
With increased product choice comes the need to shop around when buying outdoor furniture, particularly as there are often considerable variations in prices for the same brands. Read your mags, go on-line and ask friends. Above all test outdoor chairs and benches for comfort and stability. You could even ask to take a piece home to try out before you commit to an expensive purchase.
5 Space savers
In small gardens, consider bench or built-in seating rather than lots of chairs that can create a cluttered look. Seats can be built around trees, into the angle of walls, within a recess in a wall, onto the sides of outdoor fireplaces and on the top edge of raised beds, retaining walls or water features. Integral timber seats are a good way to frame the edge of timber decking or you can make the steps to the deck wide enough so they double as seating. Alternatively, use folding chairs and tables that can be stowed away in winter or when not in use.
6 Care plan
Looking after your outdoor furniture will add years to its life even with easy-care materials such as aluminium, teak and all-weather wicker. Less weather resistant are plastic, resin, natural wicker and painted timber. Protect furniture either by storing inside or covering it. Steel and wrought iron need to be weatherproofed or painted regularly so they don’t rust. Timber furniture will need to be oiled or coated with a preservative and rattan, wicker and natural grasses may also need to be weatherproofed occasionally. A good clean with mild soap and water in spring is a good idea for all outdoor furniture.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Chris Warnes, John Paul Urizar/bauersyndication.com.au.