It’s the time we’ve been waiting for. Summer is the season to be outside, to let our homes extend gracefully out into our yards and onto porches, patios and decks.
This year, take advantage of this extra outdoor space by making it a place to dine, entertain and relax by sprucing it up with some beautiful
yet durable furniture.
Where to Shop
Sometimes buying outdoor furniture is a challenge, which many people solve with a trip to a major “big box” store. However, some basic knowledge of outdoor furniture will prove helpful before venturing out and making the investment. Although the prices at chain stores may seem reasonable, and the lure of instant gratification is strong, it may pay to do a little homework to ensure that you are getting the most value for your money.
Sandy McNair, owner of Lake Wicker and Patio, is an advocate of maintenance-free, long-lasting outdoor furniture. Such durable furniture may have a higher price tag, but the payoff is a longer-lasting product. “The point of having outdoor furniture is to enjoy it,” she says. And to enjoy it for many years to come. “The stuff at “big box” stores is mostly powder-coated steel, which will eventually rust,” she says, explaining that even though it has a great look and feel, it likely won’t last. “It may look beautiful on the outside, but it is the inside that causes the problem,” she says.
Ginnie Vaughan of National Pools of Roanoke also touts the benefits of purchasing good outdoor furniture. “Making that investment is very smart,” she says. “You pay for what you get, and when you decide to make that extra investment, you do get a longer life out of it. It does not peel, blister or rust. The chairs do not stretch or sag. You also get more options when you go for quality; there are different shapes, and more things to choose from.”
Weatherproof, maintenance-free outdoor furniture is a plus for homeowners who are busy enough taking care of their indoor belongings. Vaughan’s company also carries a selection of outdoor furniture, which is constructed of many different materials that will hold up to the weather. She offers this advice to homeowners considering investing in outdoor furniture: “Make sure you go with something that is specifically made for the outdoors, such as aluminum, teak, wrought iron, outdoor wicker or polyresin, some of which is actually made from recycled milk cartons.” She also points out that specialty outdoor furniture stores often carry lines that are guaranteed. “The brands that we carry here we’ve carried for a long time. We can get replacement parts, and the pieces come with warranties,” she says.
Specialty stores like this also typically carry the same lines of furniture for years, so additional pieces can be added to a collection over time. And don’t overlook your favorite furniture store; the great retailers in our area who help furnish your indoor space often carry quality outdoor furniture too. Options abound. Ready to start shopping?
Choosing the Right Pieces
Sometimes looking at the blank canvas of a patio or deck may leave you feeling overwhelmed with possibilities. Here too is where an outdoor furniture expert can come in handy. Vaughan evaluates her customers’ needs, and questions them about how they envision themselves using the space. “If you purchase your furniture from a specialty store, you will get help,” she says. “I ask customers what they want. Do they want a seating, dining or conversation area, or do they want a fire pit? There are lots of options depending on what they are trying to accomplish.” She also suggests that buyers should consider the amount of walking space needed in the area, and that bringing in photos or measurements of the area when shopping can help narrow down the choices.
McNair also urges customers to consider how they are planning to use the furniture. “I ask people first thing if they are planning on setting the furniture out to catch their breath on for a moment, or if they are really planning on using it,” she says. Treating the outdoor space as though it were indoors will also help with the quandary of finding a vision for the area. Dining sets and bars will suffice for meals, yet conversation areas with loveseats and chairs will allow for friends to linger over a cold drink. Mixing and matching pieces is the way to go for an eclectic look, or to outfit a space that may be difficult or oddly shaped.
Vaughan suggests that an outdoor dining area works well when it is coordinated and close to an indoor seating area, since the areas will perfectly complement each other when entertaining. Outdoor seating areas with cushioned furniture should be placed in covered areas so that fabric will not get wet as easily. Uncovered areas will benefit from an umbrella, which will offer shade and coolness in the heat of the day.
Bringing Indoors Out
Outdoor furniture has come a long way, and there is a great variety of pieces available. Lake Wicker and Patio offers deep-seated furniture, which is made to look like indoor furniture. “It is made with a rustproof, aluminum frame with polyresin woven around it. It looks like wicker but without the maintenance. It is tested to be sure that it resists mold, mildew and fading,” McNair explains. “Many people go for three-seater sofas and loveseats, and deep-seated sofas are just like a normal [indoor] sofa.”
McNair also finds that many homeowners like to match the décor between their indoor and outdoor spaces, especially if one flows into the other. “People want things to coordinate, and they want the color to flow from inside to the outside. They want it to look like it is all one room,” she says. Specialty stores often offer a wide range of custom fabrics for outdoor furniture, so coordinating your indoor and outdoor furniture can be a breeze. The quality outdoor fabrics available today offer durability while doing a great job of maintaining their color and resisting the growth of mold and mildew.
Care and Maintenance
As with any other possession, the better you take care of your patio furniture, the longer it will last. With the weather in Virginia ranging from stifling hot days to winters filled with snow and ice, it is best to take some precautions with your investment. A covered storage area (better yet, an indoor area) in which to store the furniture is ideal for the off-season, but covers are another available option. Vaughan suggests, “Breathable covers will keep rain and snow off, and they also keep out humidity. They will not lock in moisture so that the furniture will not mildew and mold.”
Quality patio furniture is made to be low maintenance, so its care is minimal—but there are a few steps to take to keep it looking its best. National Pools has several recommendations for caring for your pieces. “For the metal frame, we suggest brushing on a solution of soap and water. A mild soap and water solution will cut through grease for cushions and slings, but mold requires a bleach and water solution,” Vaughan advises. The brand “303” cleaning products are a favorite expert recommendation to protect fabrics against mildew, which is a major cause of damage to outdoor furniture. Teak furniture, which turns a silvery gray color as it ages, can be cleaned easily with a mild solution of detergent and bleach. Due to the density of teak, it naturally resists things like rot and warping, which makes it a great choice for the outdoors.
McNair attests, “Right now everyone wants outdoor living. People are putting more money into their outdoor spaces so that they can enjoy it more.” The warmer weather naturally draws people outdoors. Neighbors collect once again on porches and children make the yard their playground while parents converse on the deck. What better time than now to reassess your outdoor needs and find what works best for you?