When the sun is shining and there is space outside, there is little better than spending long, lazy days outside, soaking up the heat and dining al fresco.
That is, if you have the right garden furniture. Because lounging outside can be as inviting as leaning back in a well-equipped living room – or as awkward as trying to make yourself comfortable on a worn-out sofa bed.
“An outside area really is an extension of your interior space,” says Martyn Lawrence Bullard, a Los Angeles-based interior designer who designed furniture for Harbor Outdoor. “So let’s think of it as a room to decorate. I really want it to feel very inviting and very well thought out. “
This means that collecting the furniture means more than just randomly choosing the furniture in a store or on a website. First of all, you need a plan – which involves figuring out how you will use the space and how to maintain it over time.
For advice, we spoke to interior designers, landscape architects and representatives of the furniture industry about what exactly you should pay attention to when furnishing your outdoor area.
Make a plan
Before buying anything, it is important to think about your bigger vision for an outdoor space.
“I really believe that outdoor furniture has three different uses,” says Celerie Kemble, an interior designer from New York and Palm Beach, Florida who designed outdoor furniture for Lane Venture. “There is food outside; Use your outdoor area as a living room; and lounge and pool. And everyone has different rules. “
If you have a large outside area, you may be able to accommodate all three functions – a dining area with a table and chairs; a meeting place with sofas, lounge chairs, and a coffee table; and a sunbathing area with chaise longues.
When you don’t have that much space – on a city terrace, for example – it’s up to you to decide which activity you enjoy the most. If you enjoy cooking and entertaining, your focus should be on turning your outside space into a place for meals with a dining table and chairs. If you prefer to relax with family and friends, forget about the dining table and create an outdoor living room with sofas.
When space is tight, Brook Klausing, the founding partner of Brook Landscape company, recommends avoiding chaise longues. People tend to romanticize them, he said, but they take up a lot of space and are less usable than other furniture.
“People say they want them, but then they get cooped up,” he said. “If you don’t have space, don’t bother.”
If you absolutely must have one for sunbathing, do what Mr. Klausing has done in some of his projects: put hooks on a wall or fence that can keep the chaise longue out of the way when not in use.
Know your materials
The manufacturers of outdoor furniture use a wide range of durable materials, most of which are divided into two groups: those that are supposed to be impervious to the elements and keep their original appearance for many years, and those that weather or weather over time develop a patina.
If you want your garden furniture to look brand new for years, powder-coated steel or aluminum, stainless steel and UV-resistant plastics are good material choices. But even these materials can change in the long term if they are exposed to the elements; Fading, staining or corrosion are not uncommon.
“You get a high-quality, UV-resistant plastic that can be worn well for several years and looks the same,” says 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 a high-quality powder coating as they differ greatly in quality and durability.”
Another approach is to buy pieces made from woods like teak, ipe, eucalyptus, and mahogany that are durable but develop a weathered look over time. Or choose a metal like brass that will gradually develop a patina.
“Teak is called the king of woods because it contains just enough silicate and oil to be very, very durable outdoors,” said David Sutherland, founder of outdoor furniture and fabric company Perennials and Sutherland.
While it is possible to regularly oil or seal teak to make it look relatively new, Mr. Sutherland does not recommend doing so. “The problem with sealing or finishing is that you have to do it all the time,” he said as the paintwork wears away and you become a servant of maintenance.
Instead, embrace the weathered look of the wood. “Personally, I like it when it gets that silver color,” said Mr. Sutherland. “So that teak looks fresh and weathered nicely, pour the furniture once a week. It’s like watering your plants. “
If your teak develops a film of dirt, it is okay to use detergent or machine wash it.
Look at pillows
One of the most important decisions you need to make when buying patio furniture is whether or not you will have pillows that add comfort but pose maintenance issues as they tend to get dirty and wet.
One possibility: avoid pillows altogether. “When designing urban spaces, we really don’t advise against using many pillows because of the soot in the air,” which accumulates on the pillows, says Klausing. “We try to choose furniture that is comfortable without pillows or that is equipped with mesh or something similar.”
This approach works well on raised patios, says Amber Freda, a New York-based landscape architect: “On a rooftop or patio, a lot of people don’t want to worry about pillows blowing around.”
But not all designers want to do without it. “I love that my patio furniture is super comfy – that’s really the number one ingredient,” said Mr. Bullard. “I tend to use a lot of padding. Today we have so many incredible possibilities with all these amazing interior and exterior fabrics that are very soft and supple and available in millions of colors and patterns, so that you can give a room character like never before. “
To resist fading, look for fabrics made from solution-dyed acrylic, like those from Sunbrella and Perennials, where 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, managing director of Perennials and Sutherland.
For pillows that won’t get wet for days after a rain shower, look for inserts made with quick-drying foam. “It’s usually called a reticulated or open-cell foam,” and it lets water pass through quickly, Mr. Schwarz said.
If you can’t decide whether pillows are right for you, he recommends a middle ground: choose furniture that is comfortable without pillows but has thin cushions that can be added for longer lounging.
What about memory?
A lot of patio furniture can be left standing all year round, especially if it’s heavy enough not to blow around in a storm. But pillows are a different story.
To preserve pillows for as long as possible – and to make sure they’re dry when you’re ready to use them – some designers recommend removing them and storing them when they’re not in use. Others recommend protecting garden furniture with covers.
However, both strategies are labor intensive and can deter you from using your outside space on days when you can’t bother laying out the pillows or uncovering the furniture.
Ms. Sutherland recommended a more relaxed approach: leave the furniture and pillows open and uncovered for most of the year, but cover or store them when you will not be using them for a long time – for example in winter, winter, or when you are out of town are.
That too is too much effort for Mrs. Kemble, who prefers to leave her pillows outside at all times, regardless of the schedule or the weather. “I’m a naturally lazy person, so I won’t spend my life hunting my pillows indoors and outdoors depending on the weather,” she said.
When her pillows get dirty, Ms. Kemble hoses them and sometimes uses them with dish soap. And although they wear out faster than pillows that are stored when not in use, she said, “I am ready to accept that I will have to find my pillows in the next 10 years”.
If their stools are occasionally damp, so be it. “I’m ready to get some wet buttocks,” she said, “instead of having large storage boxes and taking on the challenge of staying two steps ahead of the weather.”
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