Creating a relaxing outdoor space can be hard work. We have some tips to help you choose the best outdoor furniture so you can relax in style sooner rather than later.
In Australia we treasure our outdoor lifestyle, but furnishing an outdoor space so that it is spontaneously comfortable, clean and ready to enjoy can be a challenge. Don’t despair! There’s no need to let the pleasure of reclining on a terrace be marred by the need to first get the cushions out of storage. Technical developments in fabrics and materials mean there are now a lot of beautiful options for all weather outdoor furniture.
Two Design Lovers has a constantly changing selection of outdoor furniture on consignment. Take a look at our current listings here.
Read on for our tips on how to choose outdoor furniture that will stand the test of time.
Outdoor furniture cushions
All cushions that are left outside in the rain will get wet! Unless they are made of sheet plastic (which would be awfully sweaty to sit on on a hot day!) the water will penetrate the fabric and foam. That’s why it’s important to look for cushions made well and from the right materials so that they will dry off properly and resist mould as well as be comfortable.
Look for cushions made of reticulated foam as it is a kind of foam that has anti bacterial and anti fungal properties. The term ‘reticulated’ refers to the polyurethane’s cell structure created in the manufacturing process. The result is a fast dry foam that allows the movement of air and fluid through the material.
When reticulated foam gets wet, its structure allows the water to move through it rather than getting trapped. It’s important to allow wet cushions to drain properly and try to avoid water sitting in them for any length of time. Some high end makers, like Osier Belle, put a mesh panel on the underside of cushions so that water can more easily drain out rather than pooling inside the cushion cover.
Reticulated foam allows water to run through, as used by Osier Belle
Outdoor furniture fabric
Both sun and rain deteriorate fabrics when left outside. Thankfully, technical innovation has led to a huge range of fabrics now available that can withstand the elements. On top of technical innovation for durability, the focus has been on creating fabrics that have the look and feel of cotton, linen and other furnishing fabrics you would use indoors. This is great news for home decorators wanting to create outdoor rooms that have the comfort and style of a living room. Finish the look on an outdoor sofa or chair with scatter cushions in an array of gorgeous prints and patterns.
There are several manufacturers of high quality outdoor fabrics to look out for:
Sunbrella, a leading manufacturer of all weather material, estimates a life span on their fabric of around 10 years of outdoor use. Sunbrella fibres are saturated to the core with highly UV-stable pigments, making Sunbrella fabrics resistant to fading and the degrading effects of sunlight. They are also engineered to resist mould and mildew. If they are left exposed for prolonged periods to pooling water and mildew starts to build up not to worry because all Sunbrella fabrics can be safely bleached clean.
Sunbrella fabrics have the look and feel of indoor textiles
Sauleda from Spain is a fabric maker for both industrial and residential uses. Their high end designer fabrics for outdoor furniture at home incorporate the technical know how needed for demanding industrial uses. Sauleda has focused an important part of its research on the technical fabrics field including marine grade fabric applications. The range uses 100% solution-dyed fibres with fabrics made to withstand the harshest outdoor conditions. Agora is a range of Sauleda fabric and available in the Osier Belle range.
Mokum fabrics, by New Zealand company James Dunlop Textiles, have a stunning range of heavy duty upholstery fabrics designed for commercial and residential outdoor use. You might at first imagine such a durable fabric to be stiff and plasticy. But far from it! They have a soft cotton or linen like texture which makes them really comfortable to relax in on a hot day. Many of these synthetic fibre fabrics are machine washable and some are able to be ironed. These truly are indoor outdoor fabrics in both look and feel.
Mokum fabrics come in a beautiful range of colours and textures
The best materials for outdoor furniture
Choosing outdoor furniture really is an investment decision. There are a huge number of choices in materials but not all will stand the test of time. Outdoor furniture that might seem like a bargain could well turn out to be a complete waste of money (as well as a waste of materials and resources) when it falls apart or looks shabby after a short time. It’s also likely that cheap outdoor furniture is not really designed to stay outside year round. You get what you pay for!
When choosing outdoor furniture, you’ll need to think about how much maintenance you realistically have time for. Read labels and ask questions of sales staff. If they can’t vouch for the longevity of the product in all weather conditions it might be a good indicator that maintenance (like regular staining or moving it inside during inclement weather or seasons, or needing to wipe off after rain) will be required to keep the furniture in good nick for years to come.
Powder coated aluminium is a great choice for outdoor furniture as it is durable, lightweight and easy to move around. While it can be susceptible to rust around joints some manufacturers, like Fermob, apply an additional anti-corrosion coating to prevent rust forming. Also check for UV resistant paint finishes to help keep colours looking bright and saturated.
Aluminium and mesh deck chairs by Fermob
Wood can last well when left outdoors but to prevent water penetration which can lead to expansion and splitting it may be necessary to treat with a moisture prevention stain. Look for marine grade woods such as teak which is well known for its outdoor functionality. The great thing about teak is that you don’t have to stain or seal it at all because it produces its own natural oils that keep the wood in good condition. Untreated teak will turn grey over time which is a patina many people love. If you prefer the honey colour the teak turns when it is wet, it will need to be regularly sealed. But beware, sealing slows the wood’s natural oil production and leads to reliance on this manual oil application.
Teak is a great choice for lasting good looks
Synthetic Wicker & Rattan
Synthetic and natural wicker or rattan is often woven onto aluminium frames for sofas, armchairs, loungers and dining chairs. Natural rattan is a natural grass fibre but should not be left outside year round as it is susceptible to mould and mildew forming and will eventually rot and break down. Synthetic fibres which mimic natural wicker and rattan but are fade resistant and waterproof are a great choice for durable furniture that can be left outside year round. Some synthetic wicker will be more durable than others as there are quality variances.
The way the fibres are woven and connected is an important factor in how long the furniture remains in top condition. It can be pretty painful to sit on a chair that has a woven end that has popped out! Most manufacturers will save materials by gluing ends together when they are weaving the strings. Over time the glue fails and the ends separate. Unfortunately because of the tension in the weave it is often not possible to glue these ends back together.
Manufacturers like Osier Belle who focus on quality at all stages of manufacture will sacrifice a bit of material so that the joins overlap and are welded to the furniture frame. It’s these little details that make the difference between a piece of furniture lasting for many years or just a couple of seasons.
Osier Belle woven synthetic wicker dining chairs
The convenience of being able to use your outdoor living space at any given moment is a true luxury. When you wake up to a sunny morning and think it would be lovely to sip your tea outside, the last thing you want to do is drag the furniture out of storage and in fact you probably wouldn’t do it. The ability to spontaneously choose whether to sit indoors or outdoors is part of the pleasure of investing in quality outdoor furniture. There are so many choices in technically advanced fabrics and materials that there really is something to suit every budget. When it comes to outdoor furniture, investing in quality pieces will pay off in the long term as well as being a better choice for the environment.
Cover image: Jonathan Adler Makeover At The Parker Palm Springs, via domino.com
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