Treat yourself to some new outdoor furniture
Looks can be deceiving, so don’t be tempted to buy the latest styles of outdoor furniture without checking on quality first. Paying attention to how furniture is made and finished, will probably result in a value-for-money purchase. Here are some useful tips.
When assessing furniture, rub your hand over surfaces to make sure they are smooth. Check that the joints are screwed not stapled and glued. In metal furniture, check the welds aren’t cracked and that any enamel or powder-coated paint surface is generously applied. In terms of durability outdoors, be guided by these generalisations: teak is better than pine, aluminium is better than steel, UV-treated polyester fabric is better than cotton canvas and a high-quality synthetic rattan or wicker does better outside than the real thing.
Outdoor furniture has to withstand the elements of wind, rain and sun exposure. Wet weather can wreak havoc and the summer sun can be just as brutal. Moisture can rot wood, corrode metal and make fabrics mouldy. Heat can split wood and the UV rays from sun can fade the colour of plastics. Choosing furniture that is relatively weatherproof, is dependent on knowing a thing or two about which materials are superior.
The look and feel of natural timber furniture is very appealing, especially in the myriad of smart outdoor options available. Over time, however, heat and moisture will make wood fade, split, rot, and warp, or be prone to insect infestation. Choose furniture made from dense, moisture-resistant hardwoods, such as teak, jarrah and eucalyptus. All wooden furniture, however, should last many seasons if maintained well with an application of timber oil a few times per year. Choose furniture that has been fastened together, preferably with brass or stainless steel screws.
These days, injection-moulded plastic furniture often comes in playful designs, and many high-end designers experiment with plastic to create statement pieces in the shape of sunbeds and outdoor dining settings. Plastic chairs are often stackable, making them easy to store away. This material is lightweight, reasonably sturdy, easy to clean, recyclable and is frequently inexpensive (except for the designer originals). It won’t rust, need painting or rot, although it will degrade over time. If you want a colourful outdoor setting, then plastic is the thing, but do check that the plastic polymer has UV-stabilizing pigments, because these ensure bright colours won’t readily fade. New plastic-based composite styles are being developed, too. Mixing wood pulp with glue and plastics, these newcomers are low-maintenance but feature some of the organic characteristics of natural materials.
Natural wicker or woven furniture conjures up the romantic idyll of high tea on the terrace or cocktails by the pool. There are lots of interesting natural fibres – essentially vines, grasses or twigs – but the main ones are rattan, reed, willow and bamboo. The downside to furniture made from these organic materials, however, is that you have to protect it; ie cover it or lug it inside, or it will fall apart from water and sun damage. Fortunately we are in the midst of a high-tech revolution in outdoor furniture that has seen stylish synthetic wicker leading the way. These all-weather wickers are woven from extruded synthetic strands that can be dyed any colour, and there are some amazing colour combinations coming out of the best European design offices. They are usually woven on to light, rustproof aluminium frames.
Metal As Anything
Outdoor furniture made from metal can be an excellent choice. Aluminium is a contemporary material that suits cutting edge design. It is lightweight, doesn’t rust and is long-lasting. Just make sure the furniture has a UV-resistant powder-coated finish as this will prevent oxidation, which is characterized by chalky streaks. Aluminium also comes in some fun designs, too, but if your preference is for something more befitting a French manor house or Italian villa, wrought iron or wire garden furniture is best. It must be enameled or painted to protect against rust. Iron is heavy so a paved or decked area is preferred to lawn. A very reliable choice for an outdoor table is engineered or natural stone on a stainless steel frame. It is quite an investment, but your money will be well spent. It will generally withstand anything the weather throws at it.
When choosing outdoor dining furniture always make sure to sit on all the chairs and sofas you are considering. This seems obvious, but try before you buy. Check that seats are roomy enough and at a good height-to-table ratio. Then turn your attention to the fabrics and seat cushions used. There are a number of high-tech fabrics suitable for outdoors, including solution-dyed acrylic fabric, which resists UV rays, moisture, mildew and stains. Spun polyesters dry quickly but are less resilient to fading. Textilene is a PVC-coated polyester fabric that often used as the sling seat on aluminium furniture frames. Not surprisingly it is UV-treated and weatherproof. Cotton canvas has a soft handle but colours fade from the sun and the natural fibre attracts mould if there is moisture in the air. Although it’s recommended to store loose cushions indoors, ensure cushions from outdoor settings have polyester fillers for fast drying and zippers for removal of covers if stained.
Lastly, an outdoor area should be furnished more or less like an indoor room if you want to get maximum benefit from relaxing and dining outside. This means a few special accessories will make the experience more pleasurable. Look to adding bench seats that double as storage, an umbrella or awning for shade (lighter colours are less likely to fade) and an outdoor rug woven in recycled plastic. To complete the look, add the wow factor with a statement piece, such as a brightly coloured hammock tied between two trees, a sculptural fire pit, a hanging egg chair or a cane peacock chair, Seventies-style.