How to choose outdoor furniture

One of summer's greatest pleasures is dining outdoors. Here is our low down on how to choose outdoor furniture that is built to last and fits the style of your garden or deck.

outdoor entertaining area with built in BBQ and wooden table and chairs
ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson, PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Mitre 10 and Freedom Furniture

One of summer’s greatest pleasures is dining outdoors. Here is our low down on how to choose outdoor furniture that is built to last and fits the style of your garden or deck.
The right outdoor furniture will ensure that you can make the most of those balmy summer evenings. So get ready to set the table and invite family and friends around for a barbecue.
Before you head out to choose an outdoor dining table and chairs, consider how many people you will want to entertain on a regular basis and measure the available space of your outdoor area. It’s a good idea to then take the furniture measurements home and check if they will fit in the space. Simply cut and tape old newspapers to size or use chalk to draw on your deck.
Once you know the size of table you want, analyse your outdoor space. Will you be placing your furniture on a hard surface or on grass? Does your area get a lot of sun? Or is your backyard a shady spot? You may want to consider investing in some accessories such as sun umbrellas, blankets, throws or even a small outdoor heater. If moss builds up in your area, make sure you get furniture that can be cleaned easily.
Some spaces may be too small to fit a full-sized dining furniture set. Armless chairs and bench seats conserve space – you can even build benches into your deck. A bar table and stools are another great option for making the most of a smaller area.
You can find patio furniture made out of wood, resin and plastic, aluminium, and iron. Wooden outdoor furniture is probably the most popular choice. It offers a stylish natural look, is long lasting and sturdy. Pine is a more affordable option, while teak is an extremely tough and more luxurious alternative. The quality of wood does vary, which is often indicated by a difference in price. Most shops, including Mitre10 and Freedom Furniture, offer a good selection.
Wood will fade in colour over time, but can be stained to retain a natural look. With a bit of maintenance it will last for many years. You can leave your furniture outside over winter and rest assured that it will not blow over easily in a strong wind. Simply apply mild soap and water in spring to clean it. You could also consider using a furniture cover to provide better protection from the elements and lengthen the lifespan of your gear.
Combined with wide seats and plush cushions, wicker brings the cosy and comfortable lounge look outdoors. It’s lightweight but typically doesn’t hold up to the elements as well as solid wood or metal. Resin wicker is a popular alternative. It’s weather resistant and stays cool to the touch during the hot Australian summer days. This type of furniture is usually less expensive than wood and can be found at many home improvement stores, furniture shops and some garden centres.
Plastic furniture is the most affordable option on the market and an ideal choice if you’re on a tight budget. There has been a recent explosion of funky colours and styles. The Viento and Bellini chairs, to name but a few, are current favourites available at JS Interiors. Many other models – plastic and wood – are available at the Design Warehouse. The sun will fade some plastic over time and make it brittle, so it’s a good idea to store this type of furniture in your garage or a shed. Plastic chairs are often stackable, which is a bonus.
Aluminium tables and chairs add a contemporary look to your outdoor space. Being corrosion-proof and lightweight makes them a fantastic low maintenance option that works well on hard or soft surfaces. Aluminium works well with or without cushions, and comes in different styles and colours. The fact that aluminium does not rust is the material’s biggest advantage.
Like any other outdoor furniture, aluminium furniture comes in a variety of qualities. Pay attention to the welding points to ensure that the pieces you select will stand the test of time. Most home improvement and furniture shops will carry a selection of aluminium products for you to choose from.
Not quite as common is wrought iron furniture. It’s virtually indestructible but rather heavy, so it may not work for all outdoor areas. However, it’s easy to clean with water and soap. Touch up any areas where the paint has chipped or cracked to avoid rust. Should any rust appear, this can be sanded down and repainted. The downside of iron is that is it harder to move than most other furniture. It’s also more affected by ambient temperatures: it will heat up in summer and be cool to the touch in winter. Cushions are definitely a good idea.
Trendy accessories can add a personal touch and wow-factor to your outdoor setting. Cushions and other soft furnishings as well as lanterns and tableware are the obvious choice. If you already have an outdoor dining set, these items are an easy and simple way of updating its look. Other fantastic additions for your deck are occasional chairs, stools, sun-loungers and ottomans.
For the cooler seasons, you’ll be able to add throws and blankets as well as heating devices. Outdoor gas fires, wood fireplaces, chimeneas and electric heaters all extend the use of your deck or garden well into the cooler seasons.

You might be interested in reading: Choosing the right outdoor lighting.

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This article by Stephanie Matheson featured in Issue 005 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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